US | 2014 | Directed by Gareth Edwards
Logline: A giant lizard battles two giant malevolent insect creatures and wreaks havoc on San Francisco whilst the people of San Fran try to stay out of the way.
It’s the sixtieth anniversary of Toho’s Gojira, the Japanese daikaiju symbol of the WII destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The “gorilla-whale” re-boot is a monstrous 350-ft lizard-like behemoth that rises from the depths of the pacific to equalize Nature’s off-set and do battle with two hideous industrial beasts, part bat, part moth, machine-like demons fueled by an insatiable thirst for radioactive material. These creatures are nicknamed MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms).
Edwards keeps reasonably faithful to the spirit of Japan’s original series of “daikaiju eiga” (monster movies). The Godzilla design is bang-on, even down to the keloid scarring, with a bear-like snout and a komodo-like body. This is one monster movie that carries serious weight. This is easily the biggest spectacle movie of the year (I think the next Transformers flick will be eating Godzilla’s dust). And I take my hat off to Gareth Edwards’ 700-strong team of CGI artists; the execution (pun intended) of San Francisco’s collateral damage has to be seen - and heard - to be believed. If Godzilla doesn’t win Oscars next year for visual effects and sound design I’ll eat my crocodile boots.
There’s a sensational cast on display (yes, display, because they play second fiddle to the mayhem), with Bryan Cranston, David Strathairn, Juliette Binoche, Elisabeth Olsen, and Ken Watanabe heading the field. Aaron Taylor-Johnson, from Kick-Ass, does a solid job in the lead. The screenplay was never going to win any awards, but hey, this is Godzilla, GODZILLA. It's extraordinary how Edwards has gone from Monsters to Godzilla.
My biggest gripe, and perhaps it is this issue that prevents the movie from being the “four-and-a-half star” movie that I had hoped it might be, is that while Edwards deliberately creates an atmosphere very similar to Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, teasing the audience without exposing his Ace until quite some way into the movie, he upstages his main act with one of those damn MUTOs by having the beastoid cause considerable menace and damage before we even get to see Godzilla in all his magnificent terrifying glory.
Speaking of Spielberg, Edwards’ has delivered a movie very similar in tone and style to the Hollywood wunderkind, even down to the insistent score. There are also some James Cameron-esque action moments too (not surprisingly, Cameron was at one time going to direct a Godzilla re-boot). All in all, Godzilla probably suffers under the sheer weight of its own hype. Let’s face it, any self-respecting science-fiction/horror lover has been squirming in their seats ever since those awesome teaser trailers first came out, and for the most part Godzilla doesn’t disappoint, but whether I’ll watch it again in a hurry, I’m not sure. And therein, perhaps, lies the scaly rub.