The Standard’s resident film reviewer casts his eye over monster film Godzilla.
Breakout indie director Gareth Edwards deserves immense credit for doing something different with Godzilla lore – even if the finale undoes some of his good work.
He brings the experience of low-budget 2010 movie Monsters – which famously (in film circles at least) barely featured any actual ‘monsters’ – by trying to build likeable human characters among a menacing backdrop.
And that menace isn’t necessarily the title character itself – it just seems that way from clever marketing misdirection – as two MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) are unleashed after feeding on nuclear power, leading to Godzilla being the anti-hero with the ability to restore balance against these forces of nature.
The human characters come in the form of husband and wife team of Ford (Kick Ass’ Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) – both (as a side note) will be playing brother and sister superheroes Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in Avengers: Age of Ultron – who are dealing with catastrophes in Tokyo and San Francisco respectively.
Ford has gone to see his nutty Dad Joe (Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston) in Japan, who is still trying to prove that the destruction of the nuclear power station under his control fifteen years earlier – which caused the death of his wife (Juliette Binoche) – wasn’t caused by an earthquake, but actually something else – and he’s soon proved right.
As the military – headed by David Strathairn’s (The Bourne Ultimatum) Admiral Stenz – and experts – including Ken Watanabe’s (Inception) Dr Serizawa – combine forces to combat this new alien menace, another giant monster, who has been sleeping quietly for more than half a century awakens due to all this nuclear activity – and it might just be humanity’s only hope.
Director Edwards stays loyal to the original film’s Japanese roots and nuclear-orientated storyline with an truly intriguing first hour – with a noteworthy (if slightly over-acted) performance from Cranston being the meat in the sandwich – building up into what could have been one of the most surprising blockbusters in quite some time.
But sadly the main leads – despite being part of some impressive action set-pieces – don’t quite hit the spot, with Taylor-Johnson (who is also, luck would have it, a nuclear bomb expert) being a little too dull as a leading man, and Olsen being a woefully underused stereotype.
The last hour then turns into a monster-mash as the ingenuity unravels with an ending that is as bloated as chunky Godzilla’s over-sized belly (he definitely looks like he super-sized his Big Mac meal) – and the movie just kind of fizzles out as we get to the pay-off.
But this effort ultimately does more rights than wrongs as Edwards comes close to turning what could have been predictable big-budget summer fare into a high-concept blockbuster with brains – more akin to the likes of Spielberg.
For that he deserves a lot of plaudits – and makes this well worth a watch for being a little different – and compared to the last 1998 Godzilla effort looks like an Oscar-winner.