May 15, 2014 at 8:31 am

Tom Long

Review: Dull characters, teases keep 'Godzilla' from really roaring

Dull characters and too much teasing keep 'Godzilla' from really roaring

Some critics have called the new take on Godzilla fat or 'couch potato Godzilla.' (Warner Bros. Pictures)

“Godzilla” could use a whole lot more Godzilla.

It could also use a bit of personality. Lighten up, people, it’s only gargantuan monsters destroying cities; that sort of thing happens every day in movie theaters.

It must be said that as far as destruction derbies go, “Godzilla” delivers big time. Buildings crumble, giant feet come down on fleeing people, streets flood, more buildings crumble. Honolulu, Las Vegas, San Francisco and points in between, all get properly and spectacularly mashed.

But that mashing is pretty much all this version of “Godzilla” offers: It’s the same old tumbling skyscrapers, except in 3-D and with modern special effects. As a result, a lot of the time this “Godzilla” movie looks like any Godzilla movie, just more slick.

Also this time around, Godzilla, when he finally shows his face, is the hero. But he’s not exactly huggable.

In this telling, the Big G is some ancient creature who lives deep beneath the sea, staying close to the earth’s core radiation. One day a couple of distant cousins of his begin coming to life and start marching across land and sea so they can meet up and breed more giant monsters.

For some reason, Godzilla decides to rise up and spoil their party. So it’s good giant lizard versus bad giant alien-looking things. You can almost hear construction workers dreaming of the overtime to come.

But wait — humans must figure into this, right? Yes, but nobody all that exciting. Aaron Taylor-Johnson (“Kick-Ass”) serves as our basic tour guide. He plays Ford Brody, a naval officer who flies to Japan to bail out his crackpot-but-he’s-not scientist dad (Bryan Cranston), a guy who’s still investigating a disaster that killed his wife (Juliette Binoche) 15 years earlier.

When the source of that disaster turns out to be Monster #1, and Monster #1 flies away after wreaking some havoc in Japan, Brody teams up with a couple of scientists (Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins), who provide Godzilla’s back story and begin tracking the monsters to Hawaii.

Godzilla, by the way, still hasn’t shown his face, and he won’t for a while yet. A bit of tail, some huge feet, his scaly back, but you wait a long time for any full-frontal G time.

After Hawaii is shredded, Brody flies to California, where his wife (Elizabeth Olsen, pretty much trapped in reaction shots) and boy (Carson Bolde) are waiting nervously in San Francisco. Turns out they have good reason to be nervous.

The bottom line is Brody is pretty much a bore, but it isn’t Taylor-Johnson’s fault: Everybody in this movie is a bore, or at least something of a blank. The script by Max Borenstein, from a story by David Callaham, doesn’t give anybody time to be endearing or sarcastic or human in any way. Great popcorn movies leave room for fun; this film doesn’t.

Director Gareth Edwards made the intriguing and low-budget “Monsters” four years ago. Now he’s done so much less with so much more. Yes, if you like watching cities get clobbered, or thrill to the sight of giant monsters punching each other out, the final quarter of this film may serve you well.

But this “Godzilla” has no soul, human or otherwise. And all movies need soul.

'Godzilla'

GRADE: C

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence

Running time: 123 minutes

tlong@detroitnews.com
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