King of the monsters?
Director: Gareth Edwards
Running time: 128 mins
Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe
If Monsters proved that Gareth Edwards can produce a great movie on a shoestring budget then Godzilla shows that if you give a director too much money he’ll feel the need to spend ALL of it. Meaning Godzilla is almost great apart from the long grind you have to go through to get to the good stuff. A bit like a first date but with a hideous monster. So exactly like a first date then.
The convoluted story sees Bryan Cranston shouting incessantly about a vague threat to the world. He blames this for his wife’s death and devotes his life to finding out what’s going on. His grown up son get’s roped into it and we spend the next hour with Cranston shouting some more until we discover that monsters did it all. Yep, all of that theorizing, crying, father son bonding, all to reach the conclusion that your wife got smushed by an enormous prehistoric beast.
Bear in mind that Godzilla hasn’t made an appearance yet and it’s his movie. There’s more talking among the army and then the big guy shows up. And he’s beautiful. This Godzilla is both a modern update and a faithful version of the original Japanese King of the Monsters. This isn’t that awful 1998 monstrocity that hit our screens previously. This Godzilla looks like a 21st century version of the man in the giant rubber suit from such classics as Mothra vs Godzilla and Godzilla vs King Ghidorah. He’s the best thing in the film.
Gareth Edwards does an amazing job of shooting the action that takes place sporadically throughout the movie. The set pieces are exciting to watch, from Godzilla daintly smashing his way through the Golden Gate Bridge, to the battle to transport a train full of missiles across the country, and finally to the massive smackdown at the end. A lot of scenes are also incredibly beautiful, the red flares slowly falling to reveal the title character, the pure adrenalin rush of the HALO jump, the planes falling out of the sky after an EMP attack. Edwards has a good eye for finding beauty in the strangest of places, something he demonstrated well with his first film Monsters.
Then we have the cast. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is extremely likable as the main human hero Ford Brody, Screenkicker favourite Elizabeth Olsen is wasted as his worried wife, Ken Watanabe stares into the distance with a look of terror, and did I mention Bryan Cranston shouts a lot? However it’s Godzilla everyone came to see and he outclasses all of the other actors by the end.
Climaxing with a huge showdown in San Francisco, Edwards pulls out all the stops to give the audience what they want – carnage. My only problem here is that San Fran isn’t a very exciting city to see being destroyed. Apart from the Golden Gate there aren’t many recognizable landmarks. Godzilla doesn’t even try to use a couple of trams as roller skates (I should write movies). Compared to the epic Hong-Kong battle in Pacific Rim, this fight looks a tad dull. I would have liked big G to cause destruction in Tokyo for old times sake but it looks like the producers wanted to appeal to an American audience.
What are we left with? Godzilla is an incredibly dull film for the first hour or so. The plot is needlessly complicated when it should be a simple battle of the monsters. Most of the excellent cast get nothing to do except explain the story, while most of the characters appear to be idiots – how do you lose track of a 30 foot high monster so easily, it’s not the Predator. But once you get over the initial grinding boredom, it all comes alive, stuff happens, and you begin to realise what you love about the film – you love Godzilla. Try not to fall asleep before the good half kicks off (I’m looking at you SP!).
Watching Godzilla is a bit like watching an Italian football match. Fuck all happens for ages but the occasional burst of excellence and inspiration can get your heart pumping. Gareth Edwards proves he can handle a massive blockbuster like this so I’m excited for what he does next. Get a better screenplay, cut out the dull stuff, and bring back Godzilla for a proper, extended appearance. Oh, and could we maybe have Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster too? I need to get out more