Rugger Review: Godzilla
Summary: After a disaster at the nuclear power plant he manages, Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) spends the next fifteen years chasing down the existence of the monster he believes to be responsible. What he discovers though, could destroy the world.
It’s not often that Hollywood hands a $160million dollar budget to a director with only one low budget film under his belt. But Gareth Edwards’ Monsters (2011) wasn’t your ordinary debut.
Edwards wrote, produced and directed his debut, and then completed the special effects on his laptop. His depiction of a devastated country and clear focus on characters shone through enough for Legendary Pictures to hand him the reigns on their Godzilla re-imagining.
After the underwhelming attempt to modernise Godzilla in 1998 with Matthew Broderick and Jean Reno (shudders), Toho’s famous creation deserved a new story worthy of its stature.
Amongst all the sequels and spin offs throughout the years, we finally have a Godzilla film to stand alongside the 1954 original. Pity it took sixty years.
A great opening credit sequence, detailing the history of the famous monster, leads us to the first of many Jurassic Park (1993) references, as a helicopter swoops over a jungle to an enormous crater from which something has escaped.
That something, defined as a ‘MUTO’ in the film, heads for the closest radioactive source, a power plant in Japan, home of Bryan Cranston’s Joe Brody and his family.
The unseen MUTO causes mass devastation at the plant and the death of a significant character which was signposted in every trailer.
We then fast forward fifteen years to find Brody’s son Ford (Aaron Taylor Johnson), just back from a tour of duty in the navy, whisked off to Japan to help his imprisoned father.
It’s here that the film really gathers pace, with Joe and Ford trespassing into the quarantine zone of their old home so that Joe can look for evidence of what destroyed his power plant.
They discover the giant MUTO is still there (looking like a cross between a giant spider and a cockroach), and watch in horror as it escapes and heads for the US coast. But it’s not the only thing heading that direction.
The scientists who were experimenting on the MUTO, played by Ken Watanbe and Sally Hawkins, are aware of another creature lurking in the Pacific, one they believe might be the answer to stopping what they have unleashed.
Edwards has constantly talked up the idea that his film would look at what the world would do if this really happened. As it turns out, all those nuclear tests in the 1950′s where actually an attempt to kill Godzilla.
However, Edwards’ desire to strive for reality might be what stops Godzilla from being the adventurous romp it should have been. The tone is grim to say the least, and the decision to witness the events through the eyes of the human cast is ultimately its downfall.
There is no greater crime in Hollywood than giving an all-star cast a poor script. Casting the quality of Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen and then giving them nothing to work with is the biggest fault here.
Rather than go down the simple route of just having monsters fighting each other, Edwards has grounded the story as he did with his debut, but given absolutely no character development. To call these characters one dimensional would be an understatement.
The benchmark here is Jaws (1975) and the aforementioned Jurassic Park as Edwards teases the reveal of Godzilla throughout the film, making us wait at least an hour before showing him in all his glory. Unfortunately, that leaves us with dull, uninspired characters to fill the time, which makes Godzilla dare I say, boring at times.
Thankfully, Edwards absolutely nails the final hour. Once the MUTO reaches San Francisco and all hell breaks loose, we finally get what we want to see; giant monsters duke it out. The CGI is flawless and Godzilla himself certainly looks the part, it’s just a pity that it takes so long for the fun to start.
Final Verdict: Edwards’ Godzilla should leave you more or less satisfied. The trailers have been the downfall here, building up an unwarranted level of excitement that the film itself fails to capitalise on, but does more than enough to rid our memories of Godzilla 98. It’s just a shame that it’s not as fun as it should be.
Star Rating: 3/5
* Review by Stephen Connolly