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King of the Monsters

The first thing you need to know about Gareth Edwards' 2014 version of Godzilla is that it features a fairly small amount of the titular character. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, just... unexpected. Another aspect of the film that was unforeseen (at least by me) is that not all of the big names in the cast are in the movie very much. Perhaps the most notable observation of all, however, is that, despite the surprising turns taken with the characters and lack of huge screen time for the main monster, I found the film to be fairly predictable.

Godzilla opens in a flashback to 1999 (has that really been 15 years ago?), and Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) is an engineer living in Japan along with his wife (Juliette Binoche) and young son. Disaster soon strikes the nuclear power plant where Brody works and, well, I'll just say that the timeline skips forward to present day, where son Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is all grown-up and coming-off 14 months of active duty in the U.S. military. Joe is still haunted by the events of 15 years ago, and son Ford travels to Japan to be with him.

I won't continue on with more plot synopsis. At this point, I will simply say that if you're looking for a big, harrowing summer flick with monsters and humans duking it out, then Godzilla will satisfy you. On that level, it satisfied me. On another level, I felt slightly underwhelmed. It's not that Godzilla is a bad movie -- it isn't. I guess I've just seen this type of thing enough times that it comes across more like a coloring book where you dutifully fill-in the various aspects with the standard crayons.

You've got the requisite family-your-supposed-to-care about (Ford Brody and his wife and kid). Every character in these movies has a family, but we're supposed to only care about the family of the protagonist. Then there's the child-in-peril, this time a native Hawaiian boy who could stand in for Short Round from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. He is helped by Ford at one point. And, of course, they even threw in the dog-in-peril for good measure. It's always worth a chuckle to see a dog break its leash and run from disaster. I guess.

I saw Godzilla in 3D IMAX. The sound was great but, in case you weren't aware, putting something in 3D automatically dims the picture a little. Be prepared for this, as much of the film is already dark. Most of the scenes with monsters (the two MUTOS and Godzilla) take place at night, sometimes shrouded in fog, often times during rain. In his review of the 1998 Godzilla movie, the late film critic Roger Ebert notes that much of that film takes place at night and in the rain, likely to better obscure any detrimental elements of the special effects. So it goes in 2014.

Various outlets have likened this new Godzilla movie to 1975's classic Jaws, in which the titular monster doesn't really appear all that much. It worked okay for me, but if you're wanting more Godzilla than, say, Mothra (whom the MUTOs seem based upon), then you'll be disappointed. Overall, though, I felt like the movie delivered what it was supposed to. There were people, cities and dogs in peril, monsters fighting, and stuff got blowed-up real good. That's pretty much what these movies are about.


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