Susan Granger's review of 'Godzilla'

Our film critic, Susan Granger, reviews the recently released "Godzilla."
Our film critic, Susan Granger, reviews the recently released "Godzilla."Contributed Photo/Contributed

In 1954, Ishiro Honda and his Japanese collaborators created the iconic sci-fi creature called "Gojira" as a warning against nuclear proliferation after the horrific bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In 1956, American distributors added footage of Raymond Burr and the dubbed-into-English version was released as "Godzilla, King of the Monsters." In the intervening years, the legendary reptile has spawned more than 28 different reinterpretations.

In this version, in 1999, crypto-zoologists (Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins) find puzzling chrysalis-shaped pods attached to an enormous skeleton, and one pod already has hatched. Meanwhile, in Japan, Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston), an earnest American scientist, loses his wife, Sandra (Juliette Binoche), when the Janjira nuclear plant where they worked suffered a seismic reaction.

Skeptical of the "natural disaster" cover-up by the Tokyo government, Joe has been obsessively searching for an explanation for the past 15 years, despite an urging to move on from his semi-estranged son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a military explosives expert who has a distraught wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and son (Carson Bolde) in San Francisco. But there are signs of history repeating itself when mysterious monsters appear.

Working from a globe-trotting screenplay credited to Max Borenstein with a cautionary environmental story by David Callaham, British-born director Gareth Edwards (low-budgeted "Monsters") concentrates on the formulaic characters, slowly building tension while suggesting that U.S. nuclear testing in the Pacific Ocean (1946-1962) somehow nourished an amphibious behemoth. Now, it's Filipino mining that reawakens "Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms" (MUTOs), and only a sentient, prehistoric beast like Godzilla can save humanity.

Appearing 492-feet tall, this completely CGI Godzilla is awesome and surprisingly lifelike since the filmmakers recruited Andy Serkis ("Lord of the Rings," "King Kong") as their motion-capture actor to suggest facial expressions for the animated creature's emotional reactions. In previous Godzilla movies, close-ups always relied on the traditional man-in-a-monster costume.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Godzilla," best viewed with 3-D enhancement of the epic battles, stomps in with a slick, spectacular 7 -- memorable for its mythic monster visual effects.