Films such as Man of Steel give us wide scale destruction on such a regular basis it would be easy to be bored by the idea of a monster rampaging through American cities. But the return of Godzilla to our screens is presented in such a way that not only didn’t have me yawning, but actively cheering the King of Monsters.
I’d been excited about this film for a while, but could not put that down to a love for the previous films in the long running series, as I’d never seen one! Toho, the creators of Godzilla, don’t count Roland Emmerich’s ‘Zilla’ as a full entry so I won’t either (it also has Matthew ‘I want to punch him in the face’ Broderick in it so no thanks). In preparation for the 2014 version, I went back 60 years and watched the original King of Monsters.
The most striking aspect was just how much the two films share. Mainly a sense of awe for the creatures and human relationships that are at times overly dramatic. Edwards clearly understands what made the original successful. It may not have been just previous Godzilla films he pulled from though, as several times his old-school approach reminded me of one of my all time favourite films. From the straining of electric wires under enormous pressure to the human reactions of terror and amazement, I was reminded of Jurassic Park. A lofty comparison granted, but I found myself reacting to Godzilla and his enemies the same way I did the T.Rex. I forgot they weren’t real.
Of course the technology on display is impressive, but it’s the character that the creatures are imbued with that makes a connection. Everything from sighs and shrugs to nuzzling makes them more than just CGI monsters.
You might hear of people complaining that “there isn’t enough Godzilla”. These people are wrong. Like the T.Rex, his presence is always felt, and being used sparingly only emphasises the wow factor when he is on-screen. I could barely contain my excitement and a woop of joy as the action kicked off and the Godzilla handed out a beat down.
Mixing the snout and facial features of a dog with the build of Dragonzord, Godzilla’s sheer mass and scale is announced expertly as he stomps across the front of an airport. His bellow, a nice update of the original roar, is a proclamation that Earth is his town, and he won’t stand for anyone else messing with it. There is a strong theme of man vs nature, and Godzilla is the ultimate embodiment of this. He can’t be stopped or controlled, yet man is full of enough hubris think it can.
By now the monster is generally out of the bag, and most will know that Godzilla comes up against another type of creature. The MUTO’s are fresh, interesting, and a strong counterpoint in design terms to our anti-hero. They aren’t completely devoid of emotion either though, and this further added to my enjoyment of the battles.
With the title character dealt with it’s the human characters that could drag the film down. Cranton’s prophetic scientist is one note, but it’s a well performed note. Olsen and Binoche are wasted in barely fleshed out, short roles. Watanabe is worth it just for his announcement that “We call him Godzilla”. Lots of love for the fact they don’t try to be cool and not use his name. I can’t quite place it, but there is something about Taylor-Johnson that doesn’t sit well with me. He’s got the build and the looks. But he doesn’t have much presence. But you know what? None of that bothered me. I wanted them to survive and cared enough about them all, so job done on that front.
The humans do get slightly sidelined in the final third, but by this point Edwards has earned the right to go all out, and I was primed to see Godzilla do this thing. It doesn’t disappoint. Sure there is large scale destruction, but rarely have I been so invested in the battle that causes it.
With only one feature film to his credit, Edwards was quite a risk. He more than proves himself capable though, feeding us the amount of monster mayhem we need, not what we may think we want. He obviously had a good team too, as both the editing and sound are very well done. At two hours long it is pretty much perfect for keeping you engaged and leaving you wanting more. There is scope to grow in the sequel (which has already been announced). For the sound alone you should make the effort to see this film in a cinema, preferably the loudest one you can find! The foreboding soundtrack and creature sounds had me wincing at their power.
Godzilla is not a perfect film, but thin characterisations and a few plot conveniences were far from my mind when he was on screen. I left the cinema energised and enthused. Not just for a sequel, but also to go back and check out the rest of series.