Director: Gareth Edwards
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn
Written by: Max Borenstein and (Story) Dave Callaham
Running Time: 123 mins
Release date: 15th May 2014
Way back in 1998, Roland Emmerich’s revision of the Japanese monster movie classic, Godzilla, was the first and (since then) only movie I have ever walked out of. I have to admit, in the first hour of Gareth Edward’s remake, my legs were tingling with an urge to follow suit. Luckily enough they (and me) decided to stay for a second hour that delivers big, blockbuster bonkers-ness.
Japan and a nuclear power station is in trouble. Suffering from tremors, the core is breached and the plant goes into melt down. Years later and former scientist in the plant, Joe Brody, is convinced that there was something unusual going on. His son, Ford, an explosives expert for the Army, comes to his aid and soon the pair find out the truth of what caused the plant to be destroyed, a truth that can only be stopped by one thing, Godzilla.
Gareth Edwards must be a very nervous man right now. After blowing everyone away a few years ago with his excellent debut, the extremely low-budget, Monsters, here is has a multi-million dollar movie based around a character that has already been ruined by another director. Can he manage to pull the rabbit out the hat. Well, yes and no. The main problem lies in the first hour.
Edwards and screenwriter Max Borenstein obviously need to set things up in order for the second half, which is more spectacle, to work. In doing so, we get lots and lots of explanation, delivered by incredibly one-dimensional characters. All the while, in the back of our heads, we are saying “Where’s Godzilla?” Let’s face it, it’s the giant lizard’s name on the title. Yet we have to wait a whole hour just to get a slight glimpse. Edwards is a master of teasing (we didn’t see the aliens in his previous film till the very end), yet this is a different audience he is playing to and patience is something most don’t have.
One the monster is on-screen, we all seem to relax and sit back, watching the carnage begin and there is a lot of carnage. Here is when Edwards seems to be at his most comfortable. There are loads of very tense, exciting moments and reactions shots that seem to come out of the Steven Spielberg school of directing but when he plays out a set piece, it is breath-taking. A sequence involving planes falling from the sky is beautifully handled as is the moment we see a first glimpse of the stomping monster as flairs light up his enormous bulk.
I am trying hard not to give too much away because one of the joys about this film is that Edwards hasn’t tried to give us another destroy the city films like Emmerich’s was, instead he has been very faithful to the original movies and if you are a fan of the Japanese B-flicks of the 50s, you are going to be in for a real treat.
Part of the disappointment is that Edwards has surrounded himself with quality actors and yet they aren’t given anything interesting to do except explain what is going on. Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who leads the film, is fine but unremarkable as a macho soldier, while the hugely talented Elizabeth Olsen is reduced to crying and running away. Hopefully the pair of leads will be given more to do in their next outing together, The Avengers: Age Of Ultron.
Ken Watanabe, another fine actor, looks grumpy throughout while the excellent Sally Hawkins speaks with a clipped English accent and that’s as far as her character goes. Only Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston gets to throw in a little emotional punch in his all-too-brief appearance.
Godzilla is one of those films I have really been looking forward to, having been a huge fan of Monsters and yet I have to say, I was disappointed, mainly by the baggy and slow pacing of the first hour. Admittedly the second half lives up to the hype but with stronger characters, a tighter act one and a lot less exposition, this would have been a near perfect Summer blockbuster. Instead, it’s fine and nothing else. What’s more, I get the feeling that tomorrow I would have forgotten a lot about it too. Still, at least I stayed till the end.