Movie Review: Godzilla / Cert: 12A / Director: Gareth Edwards / Screenplay: Max Borenstein / Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins
With Monsters’ Gareth Edwards tasked with rinsing the bad taste of 1998’s Godzilla out of audiences’ mouths, there was a lot of hope and anticipation surrounding this latest outing for Big G. Throw in the likes of Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen, not to mention Bryan Cranston, hot off Breaking Bad, and things looked very promising. The latest telling of this monstrous tale looks to both reintroduce and reinvigorate the legendary titular beast for a new generation. Does it achieve that? The simple answer is yes and no; beyond that, things get murky.
So, the film begins with Joe Brody (Cranston). Back in the late ‘90s, Brody is working with a nuclear plant in Japan. What starts off as just another day sees a massive “natural disaster” occur, causing Brody’s wife to perish. Fast forward to the present day, where we find Brody seemingly a crazy old man with notions of a huge cover-up for the event that took the life of his wife. On the other side of the globe, we’re introduced to Brody’s now very adult son, Ford (Taylor-Johnston); a serviceman who is married to Elle (Olsen) and who is the father of young Sam (Carson Bolde). When Ford is called over to Japan as a result of his father once more losing the plot, it soon becomes apparent that maybe his dad isn’t quite as crazy as presumed. It soon becomes apparent that there are much bigger things afoot.
For fans of the King of the Monsters, aka Godzilla, don’t be expecting the big guy right out of the blocks. Whilst it’s revealed that Joe Brody’s notion of something big being out there is actually true, we first get introduced to the mammoth Muto; an insect-like creature who can fly. Just as this Muto is destroying Japan and Hawaii, another Muto rises to attack the USA. And then, only then, do we get to see Godzilla in action. In Edwards’ film, Godzilla himself is deemed a God amongst these monsters by certain scientists, most notably Ken Watanabe’s Dr. Serizawa. With the two Mutos running rough-shot across the globe, including tearing down the Eiffel Tower, Godzilla appears to be mankind’s only hope against this energy-attracted pair.
When it was announced that Godzilla was to get another reboot, many fans couldn’t escape the memory of Roland Emmerich’s Matthew Broderick-starring abomination. Bar a half-decent soundtrack, that film was a stinker of royal proportions. Upon the first footage coming out of this new Godzilla, things looked a little more positive. And so it’s just a massive shame that this film feels flat and like a massively missed opportunity to do something great.
In terms of pluses, Godzilla’s money maker is its title character. Godzilla himself looks absolutely stunning. It also adds a big sense of intrigue to the monster to have him held from clear view for so much of the film’s running time. On the other side of things, we get to see plenty of the two Mutos throughout, with them both looking menacingly magnificent as they tear through landmarks. As alluded to, the film does offer a slow pace at certain points. Whilst this helps in building anticipation for seeing Big G in action, the film is hindered by a sub-standard plot involving Taylor-Johnson’s Ford and family. This is where the real problem with Godzilla lies: the monsters = great, the actors = bland, uninspired, wooden and formulaic. It makes you appreciate how good the story of the two Kick-Ass films must have been in order to make Taylor-Johnson remotely interesting, for here his performance comes across as merely a bad audition tape. Whilst looking in fantastic shape, it appears that every hour he’s spent in the gym has only served to diminish any acting prowess or charisma that he may have previously had.
All in all, Godzilla is great as a spectacle, and its monsters can’t help but impress, but the human element is weak, flaccid, uninspired and completely devoid of any emotional attachment to its audience. Elizabeth Olsen tries, but she’s restricted in her screen time. Added to that, a score that is about as subtle as a kick to the nether regions doesn’t help matters. Still, there’s enough plus points surrounding the film’s scale, scope and all out destruction to make it a decent blockbuster, even if it can’t help but feel like a wasted opportunity.