“Godzilla’, the ultimate and most famous monster movie. A colossal lizard like creature smashing buildings, fighting and destroying anything in it’s path.
Following the previous questionable reboot in 1998, this second modern attempt arrives courtesy of director Gareth Edwards of small budget but excellent “Monsters” fame.
Following an interesting redacted credits scroll, we are into an excellent extended origination and scene setting sequence. We get to meet “Joe and Sandra Brody” (Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche) parents of young “Ford Brody”, who both work at a nuclear plant in Japan. That is until a tragic event sets the story in motion.
Fast forward fifteen years, Ford now a strapping US Navy lieutenant (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) with a hospital medic wife “Elle” (Elizabeth Olsen) and young child “Sam”. “Ford” keeps in loose contact with his father, whilst ignoring his theories as to why previous events transpired as they did.
When crazy dad gets arrested again for trespassing, Ford takes a trip to Japan to spring him out of jail. Sleeping in Dad’s apartment, complete with wall to wall newspaper cuttings and conspiracy theories, does nothing to allay his fears that dad has finally lost the plot.
Eventually, he decides to accompany his father to the abandoned and strictly off limits, nuclear power plant site. What they eventually witness there, moves the film into a classic chase and destroy monster film, with the usual arsenal of military weaponry deployed with wild abandon.
Most people know the general gist of a Godzilla type movie, so has this been done well and does it sit easily with a modern audience?
It is obvious director Edwards has been studying Spielberg films, there are many scenes reminiscent of the first “Jurassic Park”, with an effective ominous slow burn and only later a full monster reveal. There are excellent sequences, notably the railway crossing and HALO parachute jump with flares ,albeit for no apparent plot reason. Small directorial touches are very effective, Godzilla disappearing into a cloud of dust, “Ford” using a gas mask for his viewpoint, Chinese lanterns bobbing crimson red against the monsters tail.
Of course, with any Godzilla film everyone wants to know how effective the monsters are and here they do not disappoint. The effects are state of the art, whether monsters are gliding underwater, lifting battleships in their wake or full on monster vs monster battles in plain daylight. Technically this is as good as it gets in 2014, cities are destroyed and a tsunami’s impact shown in full detail.
Whether we need such images, bearing in mind our recent association with real television coverage of such events, served up as entertainment is debatable. With a world wide take approaching $400 million to date, most movie goers clearly have no such qualms.
As with any such film, characterisations and the actors ability to make a mark plays second fiddle to the action. Cranston and Binoche do well with their allocated time. Taylor-Johnson is a very bland lead and Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins are cast in the thankless scientist roles. Whilst both make every effort, they are reduced to spouting nonsensical technobabble and baseless conclusions with as much conviction as hey can muster.
The melodrama provided by the Ford’s family at home is handled in the usual Hollywood style, with no real perceived danger, however dire the situation. David Strathairn is a one note US general who gets to throw the usual military might at the problem. Interestingly, if you remove all characters from the equation the events and conclusion are unaffected, rendering the human characters almost superfluous to the plot.
There is no question an audience can engage more with Godzilla fighting radiation sucking Muto’s (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) than robots fighting each other. You do actually care who wins, despite some fans complaining Godzilla has a middle age paunch. We even noted the audience clapping at the end at this screening, a positive sign indeed. The film-makers have clearly attempted to get the story back to it’s roots, with Godzilla restoring natural balance in humankind’s favour, largely succeeding whilst pleasing a modern, cynical and spectacle jaded audience.
Following the films commercial success a sequel is already planned, whether this is a good thing depends on whether you work as an accountant for Legendary and Warner Bro’s studios or rather care about original stories being brought to the screen.
A traditional monster movie made in similar style to a 90’s blockbuster film but with state of the art effects and assured Spielberg like direction.
Ultimately, whether you like the movie, depends whether you enjoying watching monsters beating seven bells out of each other, whilst destroying familiar landmark cities in the process.
If the above floats your boat, there is much blockbuster popcorn excitement to enjoy.