REVIEW: GODZILLA / CERT: 12A / DIRECTOR: GARETH EDWARDS / SCREENPLAY: MAX BORENSTEIN, DAVE CALLAHAM / STARRING: AARON TAYLOR-JOHNSON, ELIZABETH OLSEN, BRYAN CRANSTON, KEN WATANABE, SALLY HAWKINS, JULIETTE BINOCHE, DAVID STRATHAIRN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
After making his well received 2010 debut Monsters guerrilla style, with a tiny crew and budget, a mostly improvised script, using real locations and whoever happened to be standing around as extras and doing all of the special effects work himself on his bedroom computer, director Gareth Edwards was handed the keys to the kingdom by Warner Bros, Legendary and Toho (home of the original Godzilla) and has he ever delivered!
Godzilla pulls off the enviable trick of reintroducing and reinventing the classic king of the monsters while essentially keeping him the same. The look and sound of Godzilla, his ties to nuclear weapons and habit of defending humanity (sometimes), are all present and correct but subtly shifted in unexpected but not unpleasant ways. For the first reel or two, however, he hardly shows up in his own movie, as the film focuses instead on the Brody family; father Joe (Cranston) tries to discover what really happened at his Japanese nuclear power plant in 1999, after a government cover-up hides the truth behind a horrible accident, dragging his navy explosives expert son, Ford (Taylor-Johnson), and his family into trouble with him, before Godzilla fully rises and all hell breaks loose.
It's understandable that Ford needs to be in the military so that he has a reason to be in many of the action scenes, enabling the film to have some human interest to counterpoint the giant monster(s?) on screen, but it can at times make it feel as if he's the unluckiest person alive. Other characters do wander in and out of the plot but the action is all kept decidedly grounded with no scenes of the president or UN debating the crisis, just soldiers and scientists.
Some might find the human angle a little wearying, as Edwards stages a few fake-outs where the movie cuts from the action to instead follow the human leads. However, fans will probably savour the tension building for the inevitable climax and Edwards does deliver striking visuals, action, and humour throughout. Needless to say, the effects look great and the film is littered with enjoyable surprises and homages to Godzilla's past, none more so than the rousing finale of the film.
If you can get on board with the statement by Ken Watanabe's almost perpetually shocked and staring Dr Serizawa, that "Nature has an order, there's a power to restore balance, he is that balance" then you should be able to enjoy the film for what it is; a clever reinvention of Big G for the modern age that lovingly keeps the elements that made him popular in the first place.
Expected Rating: 6 out of 10