UK Release Date: 16th May 2014
Runtime: 123 minutes
Director: Gareth Edwards
Writer: Max Borenstein
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins
Synopsis: The enormous, irradiated Japanese beast returns from the deep as destruction ravages the Pacific coast of America.
For many film fans, the wounds of Roland Emmerich’s 1999 Godzilla film are still achingly fresh. It was inevitable that the big Japanese lizard would get his Hollywood reboot eventually and Monsters director Gareth Edwards has stepped up to the plate. Fortunately, the result is the very definition of a solid popcorn movie.
Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) loses his wife in a questionable reactor incident in Japan. His son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who lives in San Francisco with his wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and child, refuses to believe that there was more to the accident than meets the eye. But when an enormous creature emerges from the remnants of the reactor, he is forced to admit that his father has been right all along.
At its heart, Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla is a film about a big lizard running around a city and breaking stuff. However, there’s also some interesting commentary about the battle between man and nature. In a symbolic early scene, an enormous cockroach is shown crawling over a tiny model of a tank and Ken Watanabe’s scientist regularly reminds his colleagues that it is nature that is in control of the world, not man.
| "The arrogance of man is thinking nature is in their control and not the other way around."
Edwards subscribes to a rather traditional monster movie idea – holding off the big reveal until the right time. As a result, the ace cards in the director’s pack are held close to his chest until the third act, which thrives in some of the most visually stunning action spectacle of the year so far. There’s an argument that he drops in one or two cock-teases too many, but it just serves to make the final blow-out more exciting.
Unfortunately, Godzilla does fall down in terms of its human cast. The three central performances are all solid, but the characters are so thinly written that their story never attains emotional depth of any kind. By now, the military man and medical wife setup is so hackneyed amongst disaster movies that it fails to connect with the audience at all.
At times, it seems that Godzilla tries to fill its emotional gap with Alexandre Desplat’s score. Whilst the sound design of the creature noises is excellent, the score is jarring in its attempts to manipulate the audience. In the absence of character, an intrusive score does nothing for the film.
| "Your courage will never be more needed than it is today."
Godzilla is on far surer ground when the inevitably chaotic third act clicks into motion. Edwards directs these scenes with great skill, and although the spectacle isn’t quite as satisfying as in Pacific Rim, it is thoroughly entertaining, aided by some stunning visual effects work.
Godzilla has its flaws, but it does a fine job as an American outing for the iconic central character. And it’s certainly better than the Roland Emmerich one.
Pop or Poop?
It’s not clever, but it’s certainly big. Godzilla is a spectacular summer movie in every way, with stunning spectacle and just about everything you could possibly want from a movie about a really big lizard.
The human characters are entirely devoid of personality, but this doesn’t prevent the film being a great few hours at the cinema.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.