GodzillaThursday 15 May 2014
Director: Gareth Edwards
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, Juliette Binoche, David Strathairn
Duration: 123 minutes
Notoriously picky about Western appearances since his last multiplex outing in 1998 - Puff Daddy mauling Led Zeppelin's Kashmir will do that to a beast - Godzilla has been coaxed backed to Hollywood by an Englishman with some good form. Gareth Edwards directed the cheap-as-chips-and-just-as-tasty Monsters, so if ever fate was going to point an index finger at a director to rehabilitate a 350-foot legend, it was him. They make a decent team.
Kicking off with a very cool credits sequence, Godzilla then offers us one of the best and most-tension-filled prologues of the year as engineer Joe Brody (Cranston - there's a lot in that character's surname) tries to figure out very strange goings on at the Japanese nuclear power plant where he works.
Fast-forward 15 years to the present day and Joe has disappeared down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories while son Ford (Taylor-Johnson) has taken a remarkably relaxed attitude to daddy issues and the events of the past by becoming a bomb disposal expert with the US Navy. Both are thrown together once again when Joe's penchant for poking around where he shouldn't lands him in more trouble - but will even his own boy believe that the events of 1999 are set to happen again?
At various times recalling a burning building, a sunken ship, a Great White shark, a big UFO and events on a planet called LV-426, Godzilla will give older viewers a fair whack of a nostalgia high, while there'll be plenty of younger ones that will remember this as a formative trip to the pictures. The effects are excellent, the destruction epic and the pacing is of the stuff-your-face-with-as-much-as-you-can variety with the clenched jaws and red phones of disaster flicks thrown in.
Where Godzilla gets a bit stuck is the human co-stars. Despite the well-assembled cast, there's not as much heartstring-pulling here as there needed to be - JJ Abrams' Super 8, and indeed, Edwards' own Monsters did a much better job of making you emotionally invest in the people on screen. A major plot decision early on deprives Godzilla of more drama and tension, leaving you to wonder if anyone piped up with the same concerns when the film existed solely on the page. Olsen also deserved much more of a look-in, and to be in the thick of the action. As the big guy would no doubt say if he could only talk instead of roar, you've got to play to your strengths.
Still, Edwards has done enough here to warrant his place in the Rolodex of blockbuster directors. Whether high brow or high concept, the ultimate test for any movie is the same: is it worth watching again? This is another addition to your Christmas TV sit-downs.