Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Godzilla (2014): Review

Godzilla is a 2014 Kaiju action movie. The film is directed by Gareth Edwards (Monsters) and stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass), Elizabeth Olsen (Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene) and Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad). The film is a reboot of the long running Japanese franchise and the 2nd Western adaptation to date.

The film is initially set in Japan in 1999 and focuses on scientist Joe Brody (Cranston) and his family as they bear witness to a nuclear power plant disaster. Fast forward to the present day and Joe has become a reclusive conspiracy theorist whereas his son Ford (Taylor-Johnson) has grown up and started his own family with wife Elle (Olsen). Joe has become obsessed with uncovering the cause behind the disaster and, dragging Ford along, inadvertently unleash the M.U.T.Os (massive unidentified terrestrial organisms) upon the world. Fellow scientist Dr Serizawa (Ken Watanbe) reveals that the only way to stop the monsters may be to awaken another monster and Ford becomes caught up in a kaiju showdown as he tries to get home to San Francisco and reunite with his family.

It's important to note that Godzilla is not your typical action packed monster movie and whereas some unimaginative critics may try and reduce the movie to a "Nolanised" reboot of the franchise, I would say it is an "Edwardised" film. That may seem like an odd thing to say of a directors 2nd feature film but those familiar with Monsters will recognise the understated yet fantastically visual style on display as well as the tremendous pacing. Edwards had stated that he wished to return to a more classic style of monster movie where suspense and slow burn tension are favoured over excessive action sequences and over-exposure of the creatures themselves, and in this he succeeds 100%. But the great thing about Godzilla is that it also features some of the most jaw dropping special effects and spectacular action set pieces ever seen, meaning you can very much have your cake and eat it.

That being said, the film certainly isn't perfect and I feel some of claims made during the massive marketing campaign didn't necessarily ring true. Firstly, the claim of the film being more character driven so you would care more when their world fell apart around them; apart from Cranston's excellent (if somewhat limited) performance the rest of the cast turn in adequate performances at best, being limited by a very routine script, this meant I could never fully invest. Secondly, the claims that Godzilla would be returned to a morally ambiguous, anti hero character as seen in the 1954 version; I really never felt that Godzilla was anything but the hero, here to save mankind from the clearly villainous M.U.T.Os, bearing little resemblance to the terrifying Gojira character as seen in the original.

Overall, my criticisms did very little to take away from what was an enormously enjoyable experience that reduced me to a giddy child again. I feel many critics have been unfairly harsh on the film and ultimately a film with a 60 year, 28 film legacy is going to be far more scrutinised than your average summer blockbuster. Those who criticise the film for not having enough of the titular character have sadly missed the point and are possibly not that familiar with some of the Japanese films that understood sometimes less IS more. Gareth Edwards has done something remarkable and brave in this day and age in his crafting of an intelligent yet breathtaking reboot much in the vein of Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) or the Dark Knight trilogy (05-12) and with a sequel already underway, it looks like the king is back!

***** 5 stars

What did you think of Godzilla? Is it being treated unfairly?

1 comment:

  1. Good review Ashley. The visual effects are spectacular, and the sound design is sufficient to shake the seats in the theater. It's an experience like nothing else. Definitely in IMAX, too.