Twitter Plot Summary: Godzilla faces off against some other mutant creatures that feed off nuclear energy.
Five Point Summary:
1. Bryan Cranston’s emotional turmoil.
3. Las Vegas gets the short end of the stick.
4. Finally – Gojira!
5. Something about a nuke.
It has been 16 years since Roland Emmerich’s disastrous attempt at making a Hollywood version of Godzilla, so it’s about time that the King of the Monsters received the remake treatment. In this post-Batman Begins world the tone defaults to gritty and super serious, and couldn’t be further away from the Emmerich version if it tried. Seemingly taking some of its thematic inspiration from the recent nuclear disaster in Japan, this new interpretation of Godzilla emulates the tone of the original by being a disaster movie that just happens to have giant monsters as the cause.
Let’s get the positive points out of the way first. The first half of the film spends a lot of time building up the mystery around Godzilla, none more so than the opening credits which show the nuclear tests that took place in the 1950s, which apparently were intended to try killing the giant beast that had inadvertently been released. The concept of nuclear waste as both a weapon and a food source is dotted throughout the story, and this is what leads Bryan Cranston’s Joe Brody to investigate the strange radiation readings that emerged from the destruction of his power plant and also caused a personal tragedy. Choosing to bill Godzilla as a disaster movie rather than a creature feature is a big thumbs up, the concept of Godzilla as a force of nature laced throughout the script.
On that note, the special effects are spectacular. You get a real feeling for the scale of Godzilla and the M.U.T.O’s he faces as they crash around San Francisco and the west coast of the United States. People have complained about “Fatzilla”, yet he’s not actually that big when you consider his height – he’s proportionate, not fat. Gareth Edwards, meanwhile, has created a film that is oozing with atmosphere and foreboding. The colour palette may be drab, but it has a certain flair and style that other similar features lack.
There are however a number of issues that end up holding Godzilla (the film) back. Ken Watanabe’s scientist has wild theories about Godzilla’s purpose, yet they’re provided without explanation and accepted by a military that are more often than not “shoot first, ask questions later” types. Bryan Cranston is underused, although he is a strong presence and makes a mark in the scenes he does appear in. Same again, although to a much greater extent, for Juliette Binoche, Elizabeth Olsen and Sally Hawkins, all of whom show up and then fade into the background as the giant dinosaur/mutant creature thing smackdown kicks off. Gender equality has taken a few steps back since Emmerich’s version, it seems. Then there’s Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who has been known to put in good performances in the past but in this instance is a blank slate onto which the audience can project their emotions.
In fact, all of the good work in the first hour of building up the characters and giving the story an emotional core is thrown out of the window in the second hour, and Godzilla himself – whilst entirely awesome in the screen time he does receive – occasionally feels like a guest star in his own film. The build-up in the first half is all well and good, but you almost wish he’d show up a bit sooner just so the carnage can commence. There’s also the fact that much of the action takes place off-screen, or occasionally in the corner of it, which in fairness does leave you slack-jawed when you finally (FINALLY!) get to see it close up.
It’s not without its flaws, but at least Godzilla has been treated with respect to the source this time round. Would an appearance from Mothra next time round be too much to ask?