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‘Godzilla’ fickle and frustrating

I love a good Godzilla movie. There will always be a special place in my heart for the likes of “King Kong vs. Godzilla” and “Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla.” There is a common thread among the Japanese Godzilla movies of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s that makes them equal parts timeless and cheesy – they feature Godzilla wrecking stuff, be it Tokyo or other monsters. The No. 1 problem with the 2014 film “Godzilla” is that it barely features its namesake monster.

James Gerstner works at Fort Hays State University Foundation.

James Gerstner works at Fort Hays State University Foundation.

There is merit in playing up the “big reveal” moment in film. For example, the moment we first see the T-Rex in “Jurassic Park,” or the moment when we first see the Death Star in “Star Wars.” Those moments are important; they are meant to advance the story and enhance the experience. That said, it’s overindulgent, poor filmmaking to build an entire film around “reveal” moments.

“Godzilla” is absolutely rife with reveals, fake reveals and frustrating cutaways from fake reveals. This “carrot-on-a-stick” filmmaking is not art – it’s the cinematic version of misleading TV commercials.

The plot of “Godzilla” is as disjointed as it is frustrating. Monster movies need a little grounding to make the mayhem and destruction mean something; however, it can be overdone. “Godzilla” sports a talented cast whose efforts are wasted. The human element doesn’t illicit a better frame of reference for the monsters at hand — it doesn’t make the danger feel more real. It’s dead weight intended to make the climb to the final battle more tense, but it instead it just slows the process down and makes it more painful.

Godzilla himself is a computer-generated marvel. The design is far superior to the 1998 attempt by Roland Emmerich. When there is monster fighting it looks good, even if it does lack the punch that a monster of Godzilla’s size and lineage deserves.

This was a very frustrating experience for me. I had very high hopes for a new take on the Godzilla franchise. Instead of making a fun experience about watching monsters thrash each other or a human drama set amidst an apocalyptic background, director Gareth Edwards instead made an entire film that could be edited into amazing trailers and previews.

3 of 6 stars

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