'Godzilla': Big guy's back to stomp more cities
Did Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg teach their starry-eyed aspirants how to flee, heads turned back over shoulders, mouths agape in terror and awe, as an imaginary behemoth big-footed down the avenue crushing buses, cars, and hot dog carts?
In the new Godzilla, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson are among the noble thespians who get to work on this technique, running and screaming as if the world were collapsing around them.
And it is, thanks to a 350-foot-tall pile of dinosauric scales and dentition - a portly descendant of the Toho Company's "Giant Monster," first seen in 1954's Gojira. More than 30 Japanese and Hollywood iterations have followed. Why not another?
After two hours of "seismic anomalies" and jet fighters falling from the sky, of nuclear power stations crumbling into Earth's quaking maw, and Oscar-caliber actors (Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn) crumbling into dialogue about "ancient alpha animals" and nature's balance, the real question is why?
Directed by visual effects veteran Gareth Edwards, Godzilla is a narrative muddle that begins with shaky black-and-white newsreels of Bikini Atoll mushroom clouds, and then hops across the decades to 1999 Philippines (a giant mine has collapsed, the Geiger counters are going wild) before heading for Japan. There, Cranston's Joe Brody and his wife, Sandra (Binoche), are scientists at a nuclear plant, happily raising a little boy, Ford, even as they live in fear that the Breaking Bad star's wig is going to fly off at any moment.
Cut to the present, and young Ford (CJ Adams) is now older Ford (Kick-Ass' Taylor-Johnson), a crackerjack explosives ordnance officer with the U.S. Navy. His skills will come in handy.
As for the titular star, we don't really meet him until almost midway into the movie, and he is so gigantic that even an Imax screen can't contain him. He will be joined by two "MUTOs" - Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms - and a fine mess you've gotten us in this time, Ollie.
These monsters were spawned from radioactive pods. Their provenance is of interest if you follow the top-secret government conspiracy theory hinted at by the redacted opening credit sequence.
Godzilla is not without its popcorn-gorging thrills. Several major metropolises (Tokyo, Honolulu, San Francisco, Las Vegas) get smashed like toys in the hands of a virulent brat (like what Alec Baldwin dreams of doing to a couple of New York cops), and Edwards' expertise in the visual effects field manifests itself in the seamlessness of the computer-generated imagery, if not in its extraordinariness.
But as the veteran Japanese actor Ken Watanabe cautions while the monsters rampage, "The arrogance of man is thinking nature is in our control, and not the other way around."
The arrogance of Hollywood, on the other hand, is thinking Godzilla is in their control, and not the other way around.