Since Gojira in 1954, there have been many Godzilla films. Ranging from the dramatic and terrifying allegory of nuclear destruction, showcased in the original, to the out and out goofiness; with such installments as Godzilla vs Hedorah, where silliness sat right alongside an ecological message, or with the likes of Godzilla vs Gigan, where the world was in peril from not just environment problems but alien invaders as well. Godzilla would zigzag between world destroyer to world savior, often within the same movie. He is a most complicated beastie. It’s been ten years since the big G had his last outing but now once again buildings quake at his approach and crowds flee in terror. So how does this latest incarnation stack up against the decades of previous incarnations, you ask? Well it’s…okay.
This is another reboot of the series, which is nothing new to Godzilla as he’s been rebooted more times than any other character in cinema, and this outing starts with the standard mystery about “strange goings on” with the usual conspiracy theories and cover-ups. The film begins with the focus on nuclear power plant physicist Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston in thankless role) who loses his wife during a disaster at his plant. He’s sure that it wasn’t an accident but that some-thing is responsible.
Jump a head fifteen years and Brody is trying to convince his now grown son that he’s not crazy. Of course he’s not crazy and sure enough the shit hits the fan and a monsters starts rampaging across the land. Thing is it’s not Godzilla but something the military are calling a M.U.T.O. and according to scientist Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) Godzilla is the only thing that can stop it.
The director is Gareth Edwards, who made the excellent film Monsters which dealt with how people would handle living in a world of giant monsters, this focus was because he didn’t have the budget for huge monster destruction scenes and it worked, but now he’s been given keys to the candy store and is able to give us a much as he wants, and he does provide a lot more destruction. Sadly much of it is fairly hollow as we have no characters to care for.
The main failure this film has is in its “hero” Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who is so bland and ineffectual that one longs for something large to squash him, but sadly his only real trait is his ability to not die. And he “not dies” quite a bit. It seems to me his sole purpose in the film was to be almost killed by something, over and over again. He hardly has any impact on the story, but then again not many of the human players do, they try to figure out what’s going on, scramble around for a bit, attempt to stop the monsters, and then fail.
The original Gojira dealt with the tragedy and horror such an attack would have on people, it also gave us leads that were complex and conflicted. Not so in this film. Ken Watanabe’s character tosses out a few platitudes every now and then but they ring pretty hollow.
This is basically a disaster film that just so happens to have Godzilla in it. We get scenes of awesome destruction while two dimensional stock characters react to them. As I am a sucker for disaster movies I wasn’t to put out by this but some people wanting more monster action may be disappointed. The last act does provide a fantastic showdown between the monsters and should keep any kaijū fan happy.
• Godzilla seems to have a stealth mode as he often appears suddenly without any advance warning.
• Not sure what the point of rooftop snipers are in a fight against giant monsters.
• The M.U.T.O. do resemble the Cloverfield monster to a great degree.
• Lesson to be learned by all Godzilla films; don’t work at a power plant.