Movie review: Godzilla (2014)

With the current summer blockbuster slate being super-powered into submission by every known superhero under the sun, there’s little room for anything else. Muscling in on the action this year however is the return of Godzilla and he’s ready to throw his substantial wait about. Or he would do if you saw that much of him.

Some folk just don’t know went to let something go. Take Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston); in 1999 he, along with his wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche), were working in a nuclear facility in the Tokyo. Disaster struck, by what was deemed unusual seismic activity, which totalled the facility and wiped out the majority of its staff.

Fifteen years later and Joe is still investigating what exactly happened. Unfortunately the area is still under quarantine and he is arrested for poking his nose in where it doesn’t belong. His son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) gets the call back in the US, and has to catch a plane to bail his old man out.

Although pleased to see him, Joe is adamant that something is very fishy regarding the plant. So much so that he sneaks back into the quarantined zone, but this time with Ford in tow.

Deep inside the zone and Joe’s hunch is confirmed; testing the air proves that it’s not contaminated in the slightest, so what’s going on exactly?

Further investigation reveals that the nuclear plant appears to be up and operational once more, but if that’s the case, why the secrecy? It appears they’re about to find out after being discovered by security. When they arrive at the plant however, it’s amidst a hive of activity. All attention is focused on a huge chrysalis that appears to be glowing. Suddenly it erupts and from within it a large winged beast breaks free and flies off.

The beast soon begins to leave a trail of death and destruction in its wake, with Ford and the rest of the army seemingly helpless to stop it. And as they soon discover, it’s not the only beast on the block.

As monster icons go, Godzilla has to be one of the biggest. He’s starred in over thirty films since making his big screen debut in 1954, with the majority of them being made in Japan, a country that has a fond affinity for the creature. Roland Emmerich had a stab at a big budget US version in 1998, that also starred Matthew Broderick and Jean Reno, but it was widely panned by critics.

Dusting off the franchise is relative newbie Brit Gareth Edwards; he does have form where beasties are concerned however, as his directorial debut was 2010’s Monsters.That said, he clearly finds the size of the film, as well as its star, a real struggle.

Edwards clearly has affection and respect for his leading monster, as his film is awash with grey; unfortunately this dowdiness has seeped into the rest of the film. The film has a good balance, or so you would think, of being half a disaster flick and half a monster flick, but sadly it fails on both counts.

Far too much emphasis is place in a story and narrative, all at the expense of the star of the film. So much so that as far as Godzilla is concerned, if you add up all his screen time, it probably doesn’t come anywhere near to exceeding the fifteen minute mark. And for a film that is two hours in length, that is a woefully short amount of screen time. After all, imagine seeing a Tom Cruise film and have him appear for only fifteen minutes of it. OK that’s probably fifteen minutes too much if you’re not a fan of Cruise, but then serves you right for watching it in the first place. But when your title character pretty much makes a cameo in his own film, then you know that something’s wrong.

It’s fair to say that Edwards gets the scale right, just everything else wrong.

Taylor-Johnson does OK, although his career as an explosive ordinance disposal technician is simply laughable. He proves himself as leading man material, albeit at the expense of seeing less Godzilla, which is a crying shame.

And one of the real travesties however is that when Godzilla does finally turn up, he cuts an impressive swagger. He has a real weight about him and an awesome presence. So much so that he would make a great character for a film one day.

There are signs here that another Godzilla film is certainly welcome, if only to topple some superheroes with (now there’s a cross-over worth watching), but this one isn’t it. Edwards seems to have been so swept up in the legend, he lost sight of his iconic character, which is ironic considering the size of him.

There was an opportunity for Godzilla to stomp all over the competition, but Edwards blew it. His version overall is more minger than monster, and that’s the real disaster.

3 booms

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