Reviews

Godzilla

4

Of Godz’ and men…

Subtlety and restraint aren’t words you tend to associate with tentpole blockbusters, particularly not those featuring hulking great monsters. The latest incarnation of Toho’s iconic kaiju might be the tallest ever, clocking in at around 350ft, but the movie itself isn’t afraid to build to the stomping with baby-steps, favouring tension over excessive VFX money shots, and the human characters over the headline creature.

Director Gareth Edwards won the director’s chair off the back of Monsters, his micro-budgeted creature feature that, by necessity, put human characters at the front of the drama, leaving the titular beasties mostly just hinted at through incredibly subtle background CGI. It’s heartening that, given this film’s reported $150m-plus budget, he’s stayed true to that movie’s central tenets even when playing with a much bigger train set. Perhaps Godzilla 2014’s greatest achievement is that it doesn’t feel like it has been churned out on a Hollywood production line. Refusing to adhere rigidly to the prescribed beats of the blockbuster formula, it often feels surprisingly low-key for a film in which major cities are levelled and destruction spans continents.

It helps that, of all the franchises, being repeatedly torn down and rebuilt, Godzilla is arguably the one that could actually do with a reboot. Roland Emmerich’s calamitous attempt is now 16 years old, negating the too-soon syndrome afflicting Spider-Man. Godz has always been a good vehicle for expressing wider societal concerns – born, as he was, back in 1954, to riff on fears of nuclear weaponry – and given the modern taste for reality-grounded franchise fare, it’s a rare case of a welcome, even necessary, revival.

With Edwards zooming in on the human reaction to the carnage, it makes sense that there’s one family at the heart of the story. A 1999-set prologue sees nuclear physicist Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) unearthing a vast skeleton in the Philippines, before bearing witness to the collapse of the Japanese powerplant where he works. Fifteen years later, his young son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has moved on, returning to his family after a tour with the US Navy, while Brody Sr. continues to obsess over the incident. It’s against this dynamic of separated families that the bigger story, of prehistoric monsters rampaging through the modern world, plays out.

At times it can feel like the high-calibre cast are adding layers to a sparse script, particularly when it comes to Breaking Bad’s Cranston, who delivers some searing emotional moments during the film’s opening scenes. The female roles are given particularly short shrift: Elizabeth Olsen has disappointingly little to do, while Sally Hawkins is mostly left to reel off jittery scientist exposition. Taylor-Johnson – carrying convincing military bulk – does a solid job with a fairly straightforward character: Edwards’ commitment to believability means that there are no gung-ho heroes, and no hissable bad guys. It’s a case of humans versus a force of nature.

Like Spielberg’s most thrilling films, Jaws and Jurassic Park (where the creatures’ appearances were kept down by visual effects limitations), here you’re made to wait a fair while until you get a glimpse of the title star. There’s even one set-piece, which cuts away to a TV news report as the action kicks in, which might have you wishing Edwards hadn’t been quite so judicious with his reveals.

What this approach does reap though, is a genuine sense of tension and, crucially, payoff, that’s so rare in films of this scale. When the beast is finally unleashed, the set-pieces are worth savouring. Early glimpses reveal little more than Godzilla’s jagged, shard-like spines protruding out from the sea, while the rest of him’s submerged underwater like an armoured iceberg. Even in the limited moments when he’s seen in his full glory – thick snout, chunky forearms, scales like armour carved from rock – he’s pleasingly, untameably animalistic. (Monsters fans will appreciated some of the subtle, unsentimental interactions).

To give too much detail on the film’s most impressive set-pieces would be to spoil their impact (despite the recent glut of trailers and clips doing just that). Given Edwards’ POV-heavy visual instincts (much is glimpsed through visors, car windscreens, news reports), Godzilla – despite having his name on the poster – almost feels like a supporting character. While that in itself might leave audiences raised on a cinema diet of instant gratification feeling unsatisfied and yearning for just a little more destruction, when the climactic moments do come, they’re felt on a much more appreciable scale than, say, the casual cityscape-flattening in Man Of Steel. The globe-hopping feels grounded, and justified, and you’re actually invested in the chaos and monster smackdowns. For that reason, Godzilla feels like a noble endeavour, and one that deserves to be savoured on its own terms.

Verdict:

That rare breed of blockbuster that emphasises character over spectacle and slow-burn tension over relentless action sequences, Godzilla rewards patience with strong performances and sparing, spine-tingling set-pieces.

 

 

 

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Film Details

User Reviews

    • RaveyDaveyGravy

      May 13th 2014, 9:03

      This looks right up my street, hope it holds back while concentrating on tension like the review says.

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    • TwoBobRuss

      May 13th 2014, 21:06

      I've just been to see this in 3D (special preview). The 3D didn't do much for the film. Only one or two noticeable moments. But the reviewer here says Cranston finds a skeleton in 1999. No he doesn't, he has nothing to do with that. Poor bit of reviewing and by getting that wrong missed a major point of the movie. Did you actually watch it????

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    • LarsN

      May 17th 2014, 9:22

      TwoBobRuss is right Cranston Character does not find the skeleton, Ken Watanabe's character finds the skeleton. I went to see the movie yesterday and I have mixed feelings, the visual are really nice and the characters are great. Cranston is such a amazing actor I really enjoy him on the big screen, the emotion that he brings are so real. Overall it is a good film and I enjoyed it but af of now it will not add it to my blurry/digital collection. 7/10 on IMDB

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    • matthewbrady

      May 17th 2014, 22:34

      5

      "Let them fight". This movie has one of the best visual effect's of the year by far, The fight scenes at the end are so epic and amazing I also cried with joy. And some critics have said the characters are boring but I didn't mind them. My favorite scene has to be the sky driving part and yeah I know it only lasted only 2 mins but the music was scary and chilling and the cinematography was beautiful to look at. Godzilla looked awesome in the movie and the final fight at the end was so bad-a*s and so much better then pacific Rim fight scenes. Godzilla's roar in this movie was loud and scary. a lot of people said Godzilla didn't do anything in this movie and I didn't know what there where talking about, Godzilla walked around a couple of times and kicked a*s at the end.

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    • batt101

      May 18th 2014, 12:16

      3

      If you have seen Monsters (Edwards last movie) you have kind of seen this with Godzilla playing a cameo. Its not bad but not great either, uninspired, under developed (and to be honest) annoying human characters (especially Cranston) and not nearly enough of Godzilla doing what he does best.

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    • dex2010

      May 18th 2014, 15:39

      2

      Godzilla looks great! Cranston is superb! But thats it! One star for each for them. The story is muddled ,Godzilla only makes a cameo and under developed characters really kill this movie. I was really expecting so much more from this. I really don't know how TF can justify giving it 4 stars. They did the same with Pacific Rim which was a lot worse than Godzilla.

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    • Ali1748

      May 18th 2014, 15:57

      4

      I'll give it a generous 4/5. The scenes involving Gojira are breath taking and epic but they're brief and left mostly till the end of the movie. I found ATJ's character a bit dull and lacking emotion, honestly I would of preferred to of followed Cranston throughout the movie but he was killed off after about twenty odd minutes. The CGI is almost perfect and the creature designs are incredible, you really get a great scale of just how dangerous and huge those monsters are. The teasing of the battle was a little annoying, the first time it happened I was fine but the second time was just taking the p**s IMO. I paid to see Godzilla throw down not glimpses of his battle in a news report. Overall I enjoyed the movie but it could of been doing with a trimming down of the military scenes. Edwards is a talented director and it's crazy when you think that Godzilla is only his second feature, I can't wait to see his career develop and evolve over time.

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    • Ali1748

      May 18th 2014, 16:00

      I will say though that personally I enjoyed Pacific Rim more, simply because Del Toro spoiled me with the action in that movie. I am not saying it's a better movie or has better CGI, creatures etc but I just enjoyed watching it more.

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    • vinnym1980

      May 21st 2014, 21:34

      2

      just seen this I'd give it 2 stars, Bryan Cranston was decent and should of been in it more, some of the fx were good. Thats it for the good points. I was semi bored through most of the film the main monsters in the movie were so slow moving it kinda made the action boring. plus it cuts away so many times from the action it gets annoying. hey Godzillas fighting lets cut to some marines walking! most of the time Godzilla is just on a news screen or a blurry camera footage, that happens so much through the film and i cant understand why the director thought that was a good idea, it just felt like the monsters were back ground characters. wouldn't recommend, borrow a mates Blu Ray don't buy it.

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    • Chufferstud

      May 24th 2014, 19:20

      2

      For the past two years this has been the film I have looked forward to the most and words can't express fully how disappointed I am. The film starts great and has that classic 70s/80s Spielberg feel. I didn't mind the build up to seeing the big man himself, but the reveal is so underwhelming. The MUTOs were great and I actually rooted for them all the way. The fight scenes were awesome...all 20mins of it at the end of the film. I went in expecting a more character driven film, but not at the expense of fun. Seriously gutted, proper proper sad face.

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    • sampathjayakody

      Jun 7th 2014, 4:05

      Still CAM copy is available to watch this online. Hope DVD will be available soon. online-mdb@com

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    • StrapMouse

      Oct 11th 2014, 15:30

      5

      The most tense, atmospheric and jaw dropping movie of the year, Godzilla is breathless entertainment, phenomenal from start to end and it does more than enough to wipe any memories you have of the cheesy 1998 version, this is Gareth Edward's love letter to monster cinema with plenty of heart and emotion to anchor the spectacle. When a deadly monster is unleashed upon Earth after years of captivity, the king of monsters Godzilla rises to restore balance, leaving a wake of destruction in his path as he battles his foes, leaving the world powers with a plan to wipe out these creatures. It's obvious most viewers will be dying to see the big beasty but there's an hour wait before you even catch a glimpse, thankfully that first hour is filled with compelling human drama with characters that are worth digging for, instead of disposable characters that just run amok which seems to be the norm lately. I wouldn't go as far to say there is heart at the centre of this epic, but rather character resonance, will to fight and emotion, especially seen when Ford ventures high and low to get back to his wife and son. The cast are highly capable, I love the fact most of them bare a terrified in awe type expression as they look up to see the might of numerous creatures. Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins are utterly engrossing as they explain the origins of the monsters, they utter each sentence with power and fear, and they have some of the best lines. An all round top cast, getting involved in the chaos and despair, a big thumbs up for all of them. Gareth Edwards has moved on big time from his 2010 hit Monsters, which personally I found a disappointment but there's no denying he has skill and passion, and you can see that in this megalodon movies. His master style is the silence, he puts you right up close to mist or dust clouds, there is no sound but the breeze, you are dreading and fearing what might happen and then suddenly Edwards let loose, Godzilla's roar is a piece of cinematic beauty, hearing the echo tremble through the cinema for the first time sends chills down your spine and your jaw to drop. I think this film has the finest sound design I've heard in a long time, it is tremendous, listening to the Muto call and growl is fierce and harrowing, you simply have to experience it for yourself. The Hawaii encounter is so masterfully paced and calm you are taken by surprise when the dust settles, the flare guns fly and Godzilla's body comes into view, and the awe doesn't stop. The destruction, explosions and collapsing buildings rival the enormity and scale in The Avengers and Transformers 3 finales, and that is a statement when you see the colossal size of them. Godzilla will truly unleash the inner child in you, it's overwhelming and tremendous, like seeing a blockbuster for the first time again and in 3D, the size feels even bigger and closer.

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