Few monsters have made as many trips to the big screen as Godzilla (né Gojira), and viewers love to see the super-sized irradiated sea lizard stomp cities and battle other giant beasties. Gareth Edwards delivers that in his new Godzilla ... but be prepared to endure a lot of filler.
There's a muddled backstory about mining disasters and a nuclear-plant meltdown in Japan before we get to the present day, in which we pretend to care about the barely sketched-in characters: a bland Navy guy (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), his wife (Elizabeth Olsen), his nuclear-engineer dad (Bryan Cranston) and a Japanese researcher hep to the unexplained (Ken Watanabe).
Old G takes his time showing up, arriving after his opponents: huge praying-mantis-like creatures known as MUTOs (an acronym for "WTF is that?"). They feast on radiation, popping nuclear missiles like Tic Tacs. Frankly, these bugs sound useful — one is gobbling up nuclear waste in Nevada — but they're the bad guys.
The big brawl goes down in San Francisco, where Godzilla has easy on-off access from the Pacific. It also takes place during a power outage, which makes everything dark and murky. This is a good-looking monster, though; too bad the special-effects work doesn't look as impressive for all the fake buildings he's smashing.
Hitting screens just a few years after the first nuclear bombs inflicted unprecedented devastation on Japan, 1954's Gojira offered unmistakable and sobering commentary about that event — and more broadly, about the morality of humans tampering with nature's deepest secrets. While Edwards' film nods toward the Fukushima disaster and loads up on Sept. 11 imagery (pierced skyscrapers collapsing), it's too incoherent to make any larger point. (It doesn't help that this is a global crisis which seemingly affects fewer than 10 people.) Godzilla seems to be on mankind's side, though who knows why? Suffice it to say, Godzilla is back, and if enough of you go see his new movie, he'll surely return again.