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Godzilla (2014) (3D Blu-ray Review)

12 Sep, 2014 By: John Latchem

Street 9/16/14
Sci-Fi Thriller
Box Office $200.68 million
$28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $44.95 3D Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence.
Stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn, Bryan Cranston.

Word of mouth about the 2014 Godzilla remake certainly did little to raise many expectations about the film. Thus, it was a rather pleasant surprise when it turned out to be an entertaining home entertainment experience.

The thrust of the film involves scientists discovering gigantic parasitic creatures called MUTOs (massive unidentified terrestrial organisms). They are the natural enemy of the ancient, long-dormant predator instantly recognizable as Godzilla, awakened by the nuclear age in the 1950s. These creatures are, of course, also known as kaiju, a Japanese term for massive creatures hundreds of feet tall whose primary function is to attack each other and lay waste to helpless cities as the military fecklessly attempts to mount a defense.

Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla is much closer in tone to the original Japanese films upon which it’s based, and a heck of a lot more engaging than the forgettable 1998 remake that illogically sent the creature to New York and let the military cause most of the destruction.

Edwards takes his time building up to the introduction of this new Godzilla, who doesn’t appear in full until an hour into the film. In the meantime, several characters attempt to unlock the clues that herald his arrival, most notably Bryan Cranston as a nuclear engineer who lost his wife when a MUTO caused a power plant meltdown.

Cranston drives the plot forward in the first act, and you better believe he’s every bit as charismatic as he is on “Breaking Bad” (which is undoubtedly why he’s able to carry the audience’s attention, especially viewers specifically checking in to see his first role after Walter White).

The biggest problem this new version has is veering away from Cranston’s character way too soon and leaving Aaron Taylor-Johnson as his son, a military anti-bomb expert, as the primary driving force of the plot in the middle act.

Fortunately, it all leads to what the audience really wants to see: a gigantic final battle between Godzilla and the MUTOs that decimates San Francisco.

There are various subplots involving human characters trying to figure out what to do with the creatures, and these are interesting enough to bide the time, but the net effect of all the planning and scheming is essentially summarized in one line by a Godzilla-expert scientist played by Ken Watanabe: “Let them fight.”

The film might suffer a bit in comparison to the recent Pacific Rim, especially among those who saw that film first and might find the revelation of Godzilla’s origins and bit ponderous as a result (not to mention it offers about half the action). It also keeps tongue-in-cheek references to the earlier films to a minimum, dropping in occasional nods but never jeopardizing its status as a standalone film that can be enjoyed in its own right.

The film contains several spectacular visuals, and the awe-inspiring special effects look especially awesome in 3D, an unexpected mark in the plus column for the efficacy of post-converted 3D effects.

There’s not much in the way of Blu-ray extras aside from about 40 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes and about 10 minutes of fake news clips meant to expound upon the film’s fictional mythology.

Also fun is the chance to see Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen as an on-screen married couple, a few months before they share the space again as superpowered siblings in next year’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron (after having a cameo in Captain America: The Winter Soldier).

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