The thing about the latest mutation of Godzilla is that it’s a creature-feature B-movie. This is no surprise to anyone on earth who’s ever seen one of the now 32 entries in the giant-green-irradiated-reptile franchise, but this Hollywood reboot, for some un-godzilla-y reason, doesn’t want to admit it’s a creature-feature B-movie. So it’s got serious actors (Juliette Binoche, Bryan Cranston, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn) seriously trying to make their running-down-a-corridor or obsession-with-a-contaminated-site or gape-mouthed-stares-at-a-monster very dramatic and believable. It’s got one Japanese actor (Ken Watanabe) giving many long, shocked stares and revealing the name of “Godzilla!” to us, presumably to keep the franchise from losing its Japanese flavour entirely. And it’s got a father—Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), the son of Cranston’s character—who keeps trying to get back to his lovely wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and little son but just so happens to keep running into Godzilla and his two massive moth-like adversaries, whether he’s in Japan or Honolulu or Nevada or San Francisco.
Director Gareth Edwards (hired because of the wonders he worked with a $500 000 budget for his debut Monsters) likes to cut from this tiny human or that wee doggy to a mega-monster rising out of the deep or a smouldering cityscape after it’s been laid waste. (This flick is very, very good with smouldering.) And some of his destruction vistas are, in and of themselves, impressive. But there’s no humanness to latch onto here; the giant creatures overwhelm the puny, emoting flesh-bags, who remain uninteresting and undeveloped anyway—they’re like pins set up to be either knocked down, or left teetering, by the behemoth bowling balls that are “MUTOs” (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms). (And Godzilla, at least, is an impressive beastie on-screen here, a prehistoric dragon surrounded by ash, smoke and much smouldering.)
Despite its (unintentional or not) riffing off recent actual disasters (Fukushima, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami) and some impressive long shots of its titular titan, Godzilla doesn’t do anything with nuclear paranoia, the scientific and military complexes, or those teeny things called human emotions. Sure, this brawling, sprawling, smouldering big-budget beast, RAWR!ing away, busts actual city blocks, but—YAWN—it’s just another summer blockbuster. (Shrug.)