Godzilla – the Best For Film review
It’s difficult to explain why Godzilla has turned into such a pop icon.
He was conceived by Toho Film in 1954 as ‘Gojira’ a colossal beast awoken by man’s ignorant use of nuclear weapons and rampaging through Tokyo as nature’s wrathful vengeance. We should have been terrified, instead we were fascinated. Today, Godzilla is one of Japan’s most recognisable and beloved icons.
He has returned to our screens (or more accurately, mostly gone direct to DVD) a total of 28 times in the last 60 years, swinging from the persona of city-crushing behemoth to the world’s saviour in some fantastically ludicrous story-lines. His popularity has never waned so there was little surprise, in the wake of such blockbusters as the Transformers franchise and Pacific Rim, that a reboot/reimagining/revamp was in the works. The only real question on any fan’s mind was would it be any good.
We begin in 1999, when two scientists, Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) discover the remains of a massive beast that is housing two egg-shaped pods beneath a quarry in the Philippines. Upon their inspection it is revealed that one of the pods has recently hatched and an unknown entity has found its way to the sea.
Cut to Tokyo, Japan, where Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) is conducting his own investigation into the sudden surge of seismic activity taking place around his nuclear plant in Janjira. His wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche) takes a team down to the core to look for any ensuing damage only to be caught in a breach that results in its complete collapse. 15 years later the tragedy has been relegated to the after-effects of an earthquake, an explanation that Joe cannot accept.
His continued search for the truth leads him to be arrested for trespassing which brings his son, Lieutenant Ford Brody of the U.S. Navy (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), back to Japan and away from his wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and son in San Francisco. Despite his belief that his father is chasing conspiracies, Ford follows him back to their old home in Janjira where they stumble across a secret facility that is playing host to a giant chrysalis that unleashes a (you guessed it!) gigantic winged beast.
This event is immediately followed by the remaining pod releasing its own mammoth spawn and the realization that another creature, a.k.a. Godzilla, has now awoken in order to hunt down those that may threaten his position as alpha predator.
The rest of the movie focuses on the homo-sapiens drawing up various plans to destroy these creatures while the creatures actually destroy everything in their path.
Let’s be perfectly clear: Godzilla is a feature for all of 15 minutes in his latest movie. Director Gareth Edwards harkens back to such cinematic greats as Spielberg’s Jaws, claiming ‘you don’t play your best card first’. And he’s right. Great monster movies are all about the mystery, the shadowy figures turning into quick glimpses that add to a scintillating build-up before the final pivotal reveal.
Edwards’ experience with the ultra-low-budget Monsters in 2010 proves invaluable here with his use of some truly interesting camera angles and point-of-views. There are many scenes where he encapsulates both the fierce size of these creatures as well as real peril they put our human world in. But after an hour and a half of playing peek-a-boo with a bunch of floating spikes, all you want is the guy in front to sit the hell down so you can put your front row seats to good use and catch every thrilling second of the impending monster mega-death match. What you don’t want is another cut-away (no matter how innovative or original) right when the action looks like it’s about to kick off.
The name of the movie is Godzilla, so just do us a favour and give us Godzilla for cripes sake!
Despite this horrendous lack of screen time, Edwards and his crew do deliver on a rather impressive new form to go with the Godzilla name. That first full reveal is nothing short of awesome, from the striking capture of his mind-boggling mass as it stands against the skyline of San Francisco to the micro-expressions that give a level of detail to his face that make him look, straight up, bad-ass.
Edwards also attempts to hold true to the efforts of the original by insisting on a severely serious take on things. As such his cast is made up of a who’s who of highly acclaimed dramatic actors and leaves all humour, tongue-in-cheek or otherwise, at the door. Bryan Cranston, Juliet Binoche, Elizabeth Olson, Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins do what they can in the time they are given, but their characters have such little time on screen that any impact they could have made ends up being of no consequence. Aaron Taylor-Johnson struggles along as our eyes and ears but seems just as confused as us by the multitude of plot holes that seem to have passed the screenwriters by. The inconsistencies and unresolved plot lines go beyond ignoring and this distraction furthers Godzilla’s descent into a frustrating experience.
Godzilla isn’t a bad movie. The performances are solid, the story shows some real promise and the special effects are outstanding. This has all the makings of being an outstanding monster movie, it just never quite finds it feet long enough to get anywhere near great. There are only two moments of pure ‘kaiju’-loving joy to be found in Godzilla and those are two moments too late.