Dir: Gareth Edwards
Star: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche
This is certainly not perfect, suffering from a different flavour of the same problem often seen in both the Japanese movies and the much-loathed American remake: the human element. Here, the focus is Lieutenant Ford Brody, a bomb technician, whose father (Bryan Cranston, not in the film for nearly as much as you’d think) was involved in an incident fifteen years previously, which led to a large section of land in Japan being quarantined after the destruction of a nuclear reactor. Now, it appears, “something” is coming out of the area, and making for San Francisco. It’s not Godzilla, but he is not far behind, and the military comes up with a shaky plan to lure the monsters off-shore and nuke them. However, an unfortunate series of events leads to the nuke ending up in downtown SF, so Brody is parachuted into the middle of the monstrous battle, to try and disable the bomb, or failing that get it off-shore.
What Edwards gets spot-on is Godzilla: his first appearance, in the light of flares set off from a roof-top gave me chills, and there’s a regal majesty present here which is awesome, truly putting the “God” in “Godzilla.” He never seems hurried: unlike the 1998 version, this one doesn’t need to run anywhere. When you’ve been alive for millions of years, there’s no rush. I also liked the way the human race and our cities were more or less irrelevant, as far as the monsters were concerned, and much of the footage was seen in the way we would experience it, through windows or on television. And, most importantly of all, the battles were simply epic. Much as I loved the old, rubber-suited wrestling bouts, these simply took it to another level.
As noted, the human side is flat and uninteresting with Kickass Brody never giving us any reason to care for the fate of humanity. They would have been a great deal better off swapping him and his father around. Brody Sr. has a more significant direct investment in proceedings, and Cranston also kicks Taylor-Johnson’s arse when it comes to basic acting, as we see in a heart-rending sequence early on, when the former has to make a very difficult decision. But complaining about the acting in a Godzilla film, is like complaining about cinematography in gonzo porn: it’s missing the entire point of the endeavour. This surpasses, with ease, the likes of both Pacific Rim and Cloverfield and sets the bar going forward. Now, what about a version of Mothra?