Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche, Aaron-Taylor Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins.
Look, I want to start this review with a straight up vomit inducing and highly embarrassing admission, but I feel like I won’t be in this boat alone, so here goes…
I actually loved the 1998 Roland Emmerich attempt to adapt Godzilla for the American audience. I adored it! I was obsessed! I had the toys, watched the cartoon series and would revel in every opportunity to watch the movie again and again and again at home on VHS or when it was on TV (which back in those days was pretty much fortnightly).
Before you judge me, hear me out. I recently saw this nineties-tastic garbage dump of a film again and I must admit, I don’t know what I was thinking. It was like enjoying the best meal of your life only to spend the rest of your evening violently vomiting to the point of losing consciousness.
Time (and nostalgia) makes fools of us all, and having just seen my childhood love of movies left devastated in a trail of destruction, I was a little hesitant knowing I was going in to see another attempt to bring Godzilla back to the western audience, but let me tell you, it was one hell of a palate cleanser!
The plot follows US soldier Ford (Aaron-Taylor Johnson) who heads to Japan to bail his physicist father Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) out of prison after he is arrested for trespassing at the now off limits site of a nuclear power plant where fifteen years earlier a devastating incident resulted in the death of dozens of workers, including Ford’s mother (Juliette Binoche). They return to the site only for them to uncover some shady government operations within that soon lead to disaster on a global scale.
The movie get’s off to a pretty gripping start with a title sequence showing us all manner of weapons tests in the pacific, graphs and pictures of evolutionary theory and historical depictions of sea monsters.
From here the movie takes somewhat of a cruisey ride, the build up to a couple of other monsters which the military has called MUTO’s (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Objects) a lot of back story about government cover-ups and some character building which didn’t feel totally necessary. But it isn’t long before we see the titular Godzilla, at least in satisfying enough glimpses, and he’s on the hunt.
This is where some of my issues with the film begin though, in parts the visual effects are almost unacceptable for 2014, especially the uncreative, lackluster designs of the MUTO’s which look part crab part Xenomorph queen. In parts, Godzilla looks as though he is comprised of footage lifted directly from a PS4 game adaptation of a much more visually pleasing film, and getting lost in this smash ’em up monster movie is a story about family, generational relationships and romantic relationships that could have easily been left on the cutting room floor and the film could have been equally (if not more so) entertaining.
The film does redeem itself with the major face-off between Godzilla and the two MUTO’s in downtown San Francisco where panic and mass destruction make for a pretty epic showdown. You go to see monsters fight and you pretty much get what you pay for.
It’s not at all surprising that the film is left wide open for a sequel. The film may not be perfect, but you can tell that director Gareth Edwards has an understanding of the franchise and really loved making this film, and for me, I love when I can really tell that a director genuinely had a good time making whatever film they were making.
That creative passion translates and you can really see it on show here, so much so that I would love to see how much a sequel could improve upon this installment.
Godzilla is in cinemas everywhere now.