2014 marks another year filled with reboots and sequels, many unwanted and frankly unnecessary but Godzilla’s return to the big screen has been met with only intrigue and excitement. The trailers have teased and the hype has quickly became monumental but would this new imagining of the classic fable rid all memory of Roland Emmerich’s nineties interpretation, which is widely regarded as a misfire? The director this time is the relatively inexperienced Gareth Edwards, who gained widespread recognition after his low-budget hit Monsters. With the big budget he now has at his disposal, he has assembled an all star ensemble including Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen and Bryan Cranston who all ultimately play second fiddle to the stunning CGI on show and the Godzilla himself, of course.
Respectful to the origins of the story, Gareth Edwards chooses to build around his characters and story first, and really makes us wait for the monster reveal. The plot revolves around the Brody family, headed by former nuclear plant worker Joe who has a conspiracy theory linked with what appeared to be a natural disaster at his place of work fifteen years previously. His son Ford, an explosives expert, hesitantly decides to take notice of his father’s claims, flying to Japan to meet him, and they become embroiled in a fight for survival whilst doting wife Elle is left in San Francisco keeping up with the developments via breaking news bulletins.
The human element of the film slow burns into insignificance, falling to the waste side as it is belittled by the colossal beasts around it. When a Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism, or a MUTO as it’s referred to, becomes free to roam in big city, the real spectacle begins. The pterodactyl-like creature is visually impressive and once we see a boss fight collision in the brilliantly choreographed final act, it is an aesthetic feast as well as a marvel in sound design. See this in on the largest screen possible and it’ll be worth it for the roar-off alone! Sentiment shines through in the eponymous monster, almost humanising Godzilla and really fleshing out his character despite the unfortunately concise screen time he is given. This signifies a tip of the hat in homage to the historical background of the pop culture icon.
As far as the acting goes, the big name cast unsurprisingly struggle to leave a lasting impact in the shadows of the giants. Cranston is solid enough, as is Elizabeth Olsen with what material they have to work with. Taylor-Johnson has bulked up but where muscle has been added, fun and emotion have passed to make way to create a rather emotionless hero and I struggled to connect with his personal circumstances. Members of the supporting cast feel even more meaningless, with David Strathairn and Sally Hawkins criminally underused. Ken Watanabe serves the purpose to deliver the scientist’s ‘we call him Godzilla’ line that fan-boys will be waiting for but does very little else other than perfecting a horrified expression in reaction to the carnage that ensues before him.
As an action piece, Godzilla is a remarkable technical achievement, and is as thrilling and entertaining as you would expect from a modern adaptation. It sadly falls down a few plotholes and lacks a powerhouse performance to lift the human aspect. Despite this, Gareth Edwards has furthered his reputation as a filmmaker and given the project a sense of intelligence as well as having the sensational set-pieces. The legend has a new lease of life, and with a sequel in the pipeline, this could be the start of an exciting new series of monster movies.