Radioactive: "Godzilla" Scores 90% on Rotten Tomatoes, I Disagree


I went to a screening of the newly rebooted “Godzilla” in 3D in Regal’s RPX theater yesterday. I saw Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” in the same souped-up setting and really enjoyed the technical enhancements.

Ditto for Gareth Edward’s $160M remake. The 3D image is bright and clear. When you’re watching mass destruction, it’s good to go as big as you can for maximum immersion.

Although I like the experience, I don’t like the film much. If you’ve seen the trailers for Roland Emmerich’s 1998 critical dud and domestic box office disappointment, then you’ve pretty much seen this movie.

It’s the Godzilla movie that fans probably wanted then. Gone are the silly, sitcom-esque acting, humor, and tone. In their place is Bryan Cranston. He sets the film off on the right note. The little touches of lightness are actually funny this time. The newly designed Godzilla is faithful to the Japanese versions, except done with Hollywood’s state-of-art effects (instead of a menacing dinosaur). Overall, Hollywood’s second stab at the iconic Japanese monster is more respectful of its origins and has a few nice surprises that’ll bring smiles to fans’ faces. The brighter color palette will probably attract more kids too.

So what’s the problem? Well, it’s all so very predictable. Certain scenes are done in such a cliche manner that I know the outcome from the get-go. Like the trailers for Emmerich’s film, it also just teases and teases: a smashed building here, a glimpse of Godzilla’s back plates there, and so forth.

When the monster finally appears and starts stomping on buildings and stuff, all I can think of is Transformers and the recent superhero films because they all do mass destruction in the same way but are more exciting. The action in the new “Godzilla” can’t even compare to Emmerich’s sixteen year-old wannabe blockbuster.

Like Matthew Broderick before him, Aaron Taylor-Johnson doesn’t quite have enough charisma to carry a film of “Godzilla’s” scale. I know the star of the film is Godzilla, but before it makes its appearance, Taylor-Johnson -- although good in the more tender scenes -- just doesn’t have enough star power to carry the film.

Finally, there’s the issue of Guillermo Del Toro’s “Pacific Rim.” It’s already the Godzilla movie done right: it’s cool; it’s awesome; it’s badass; and there are giant robots too.

Because of the aforementioned issues, I’m surprised to see “Godzilla” currently scoring a Fresh 90% on Rotten Tomatoes -- and after forty reviews! Of course, it’s still early, but that’s a great start. Review embargoes were lifted over the weekend for onliners, but not for print. The latter can’t debut their write-ups until Wednesday, two days before the film opens. It’s a smart strategy from Warner Bros. because online critics tend to be younger and more enthusiastic toward genre films.

I suspect that as older print critics post up their reviews online in a couple of days, the score will drop. A few weeks ago, Marc Webb’s “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” dropped from high-70s to mid-50s. We’ll see what happens to “Godzilla.”

The monster flick is expected to do $75M this weekend, according to On Facebook, it already has over one million likes, which is high for a film that’s not already part of a franchise.

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