Verdict: 4 / 5
“The arrogance of man is that we think we control nature. But truly, it’s the other way around.” This poignant line summarizes the feel of the whole movie. The ancient beast that roamed the earth lay dormant, but has now come alive, and we are all in deep trouble.
Guest review by John-Mark Massey
Godzilla is mostly about little humans shooting little pieces of metal at skyscraper-sized, impervious creatures, which, naturally, are un-phased or only slightly irritated. There are loads of scenes with jets, bombs, rocket launchers, tanks, war-ships and general panic which delight the action-movie-goers and those expecting masses of military might. The mandatory injection of a personal element to invoke an emotional attachment to the human characters means forcing you to go through the first 30 minutes monster-free, but it is done very well and builds intrigue. The humans actually feature very little in the defeat of the very angry “dinosaur”. Their storyline is vague, disjointed and often not doing much except wasting time between the scenes of Godzilla roaring and knocking buildings over. Thankfully there is a glorious crescendo of immense destruction and powerful bass powered booms. It is something you definitely want to see in a cinema with loads of volume.
There are two kinds of people who will see this film: Those sudo-Japenese among you, and those sudo-Americans, and your expectations, going into the cinema, will be a two-way split accordingly. The Americanized Godzilla feature-film of the 90’s shows Godzilla as the Manhattan destroyer of worlds, but the true Japanese version comes through much more clearly in this remake, this is apparent when the first monster’s face that appears is very distinctly NOT Godzilla’s. This immediately adds to the intrigue and interest, and flips the story to be about the savior Godzilla as apposed to the NYC’s “Killa Zilla”, throwing the unsuspecting viewer into rooting for the unexpected hero. This simply boosts the awesome show of lizard-power and makes one really enthusiastic about the bone crushing wrestling match between the two giants. It also heaves the fight scenes into overdrive, not to mention reinforcing the notion that humans don’t have any say whatsoever.
Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) plays the part of an experimental biologist at a rebuilt nuclear facility, that in the 90’s is rocked by a huge “earthquake”. But the earthquake is not what it seems, it’s really the movement of a creature who consumes nuclear energy. Years later the creature comes to maturity, under the (retrospectively short-sighted) care and study of Serizawa’s secret organization “Monarch“, and escapes to wreck the city. The part of the scatter-brained obsessive mad genius is Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston), who’s wife dies by the first earthquake. He leads his US military trained son, Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), into the heart of the nuclear wasteland to investigate the phenomenon that is now reappearing as the creature awakens once again. This throws them immediately into the thick of it and Ford is pushed into the role of the primary (human) protagonist. Japan’s military responds with force but, because this is Hollywood, the American cruisers haul in take over.
The general plot is quite predictable, so it is the many sub-plots that need to keep you guessing. Ford, a bomb technician, travels the country to get home to his wife and kid, and along the way aids mankind in it’s defensive attempts at lobbing bombs at the various creatures that come out of the ground and air. The finale is preceded by the cinematographically immaculate paratrooper scene that you see in the official trailer, and is quite a precursor to the scale and immensity of the monsters and the fragility and bravery of a few men.
Dr Sarazoa, played by the quintessential Japanese Hollywood actor of this century Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai) brings class and integrity to the cast, but unless you have seen him and heard his accent before you will have no idea what he is saying. The father, played by Bryan Cranston (Lead actor in TV’s Breaking Bad) along with the other individuals that you get to know, have strong connections and bring out the themes of forgiveness, redemption and persevering teamwork fairly well. Despite the mostly unknown crew, the acting is quite believable and the script backs them all up, with very little cheesiness. In fact having no real big names and relatively small dialogue for the cast means that the focus is on the performance of the extremely believable C-G Monsters. The creatures’ modeling, sounds and physics is accurate and to scale. The director (newbie Gareth Edwards) does a good job in revealing the grand scale of destruction through the eyes of people. This is done with tons of point-of-view shots but also well-timed swooping panoramas. Contrasts between still, quite moments of little geckos and Japanese tranquil décor against immensely loud crashes of American fighting fury, throws the viewer backward and forward on a roller coaster of collisions. Unfortunately, the 3D content is not quite engaging; there is nothing more than the average three-dimensional real world depth of field.
This is a great film for a night out, die-hard fans or regular action lovers. There is plenty of space at the end of the film for a few sequels, but none that will equal the big monster trilogies of the past that have more story to them. Unfortunately, with this type of film and storyline the only draw-card for viewers is epic grand scale wrestling, destruction of property and glorious one-way gunships battles. The production team has pulled this off impeccably well. It is very enjoyable, action-packed and extremely well put together. The stars and Oscar winners are the technical team, editors and sound mixers.