Director Gareth Edwards first gained critical notice for his 2010 low budget take on the kaiju mythos with the excellent Monsters. That effort afforded the filmmaker a chance to redeem America in the eyes of Godzilla fans. While Edwards' film proved superior to 1998 Roland Emmerich-helmed abortion, the tedious Godzilla sputters and spurts into mediocrity.
In 1999, engineer Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston at his scene-chewing best) uncovers an unsettling pattern of tremors that threaten the Japanese Janjira nuclear plant. Brody and his wife Sandy (Juliette Binoche, whose talents are completed wasted here), a nuclear regulations consultant, conduct some tests at the facility when tremors hit, destroying the plant.
Fifteen years later, the apparently now-unhinged Brody uncovers a vast conspiracy and cover-up. Rather than pursue this fascinating subplot, the story follows a stereotypical monster plot, complete with the requisite leaps of logic.
Edwards assembled a stellar cast. Unfortunately, the Max Borenstein script (from a story by Dave Callaham) offers little of interest for Ken Watanabe, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, and David Strathairn to do.
Ultimately the tale eschews originality and steers too closely to many of the original Toho classics. Similar to those films, the moments between the monster appearances feel interminable. After the first 20 minutes, the shallowness of the characters and the tedium of their existence pales beneath the epic nature of the fighting creatures.
The unique ideas that present themselves are from z grade science fiction. A runaway bomb with only one person capable of defusing it, an inexplicable understanding of the monster motivations, oftentimes ridiculous military strategy (let's lure the 30-foot monsters to a major urban area), etc further erode the movie's credibility.
Though the well choreographed and beautiful kaiju sequences are expertly managed, the instances are too few and too short. When Godzilla finally makes his appearance, he engages one of the two MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) for about two minutes then Edwards oddly decides to pan away to the people on the street and in buildings. Parts of the rest of the battle play out in the background on TV screens behind talking heads with the outcome only revealed later as exposition.
The star himself has never looked so good. The digitally rendered Godzilla reeks of power with the trademark roar and refined radioactive breath. The first use of his fiery weapon is one of the film's highlights. Sadly, Godzilla fails to deliver much terror. That trait is reserved for the MUTOs.
After a promising 20 minutes, Edwards' Godzilla offers a disappointing and boring 100 minutes, punctuated only occasionally by some exciting monster combat.