Saturday, 28 June 2014

Godzilla

2014, 12, Directed by Gareth Edwards
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe  


When Gareth Edwards strolled onto the scene in 2010 with DIY indie masterpiece Monsters, ears were pricked as to what this new-found talent (previously a BBC cameraman) was to do next. In a superhero-gone-serious age of moodier landscapes where gritty realism is embraced over light-hearted entertainment, it comes as no surprise that the Warner Brother sharks circled the Edward's fresh blood as the man to reinvent the Godzilla franchise, locked away turgidly in a mammoth vault thanks to Roland Emmerich’s failure to do so back in ’98.


Whereas that attempt simply threw 'Zilla' into the mix of things in New York City, this attempt – in 3D IMAX, no less – fleshes out the origins akin to the Japanese Toho originals back in the 50s. Embracing the ancestry of their fear of crafting films explicitly to do with Hiroshima, by the time Godzilla – the baby of such fears – makes his appearance on screen (you’ll be waiting a while…), disappointment will most certainly not be the overriding feeling.

Beginning with a taut opener in which we see the destruction of a nuclear plant in Janjira, Japan, American plant supervisor Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) lives years in a reclusive manner attempting to uncover the real cause of the explosion, long since attributed to an earthquake. Assisted by his hesitant son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a US Navy bomb disposal officer living in San Francisco with wife Elizabeth Olsen and son, the two find themselves in the mixer of an awakening of a winged MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) – a creature which wreaks devastation upon the world, always conveniently in the places where our protagonist roams.


The visuals may be magnificent, the sound design thrillingly overwhelming and the intentions admirable, yet after a brilliantly-edited opening half an hour, you can sense the pressure getting to Edwards, the cinematography of the film appealing more than the actual events playing out on-screen (big up Seamus McGarvey). The monolithic one-note characters can be forgiven (Sally Hawkins as an exposition-spewing scientist whose name you’ll struggle to recall; Olsen criminally wasted as the doting wife rescuing the injured in a hospital whilst the apocalypse occurs around her) – after all, something has to give in a two-hour long film with a scope such as this. Much like Man of Steel’s disastrous final act, it’s in Godzilla’s substitution of emotion in favour of destruction - with every shot comprising of a city crumbling, building by building, and unknown masses of people meeting unseen grisly ends. Such problems lead to a desensitisation against what happens next, thus removing most of the tension and almost all of the engagement.

All Godzilla manages to amount to is an entertaining but criminally unchallenging way to spend a few hours – a squandered opportunity from a filmmaker whose early masterpiece could now be cited as sheer beginner’s luck.

3/5

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