Godzilla (2014)

“The arrogance of men is thinking nature is in their control and not the other way around.”

The rebooted Godzilla movie from Monsters director Gareth Edwards has had a massive impact on the cinema scene in the last week, creating ambivalence that ranges from massive adoration to equally huge disappointment. But whether you will love it or hate it, huge credit must be given to the determination of the film to pay homage to the original Toho series of films. In the context of the modern monster movie, Edwards’ film is perhaps not as fun as Pacific Rim, less scary than Cloverfield, but nevertheless has its own visual personality that eventually outshines the rest of the movie’s rather average plot and head-in-hand acting. 

The character-based introduction that lays the plot-lines for Godzilla’s entrance is fairly lengthy.  After suspicious seismic activity destroys the Janjira nuclear plant, and robs plant supervisor Joe Brody (played by a slightly over-acting Bryan Cranston)  of his wife, the film then jumps forward fifteen years where his son Ford (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is attempting to balance family life with a seemingly crackpot father. But when they are both taken to the site of the destroyed plant after being caught salvaging data form Brody’s home, they discover a massive cover-up that launches the monster parade of Mothra-esque creatures and Godzilla himself, as he bursts out of the depths to hunt these creatures down.

One thing I noticed when Godzilla first plants one of his massive size a-million feet in front the audience, is that the revered monster does look very much like the original depictions from the 1950s. Of course, the charm that develops over the decades cannot be immediately replicated, but to support this effort, many of the themes and ideas hark back, and at times flashback, to an era of nuclear fear and international tension. Unfortunately, although Edwards’ continues to hold the human viewpoint in focus that gave his 2010 hit Monsters most of its plaudits, the predictable script and fairly shallow characters leaves it wanting during some key moments. But when Godzilla and co hit the screen, some of the action sequences are spectacular, combing old-school stylistics with ground-breaking CGI, leaving you wondering why ol’ Zilla and co had spent so long underground.

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What really works from this point on is the anti-hero status of Godzilla.  According to scientist Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Wananabe), the mighty monster is necessary to restore balance, whereas the stereotypical knee-jerk military are adamant he is a massive threat. They may have a point, as Zilla causes massive destruction as he marches through the cities on his quest for prey. In other words, Godzilla is saying, “I’ll help you out humanity, and hunt these creatures down. But you had better get out of my way when I am doing it, or your gonna get squashed”.

In fact, I really liked most the action scenes, especially those shot from Ford’s perspective, giving an even better depiction of the monsters’ massive size. Even the inevitable introduction of Zilla’s radioactive powers is executed well, despite the anti-climatic ending to some scenes. The over-scoring of the picture can be blamed for that, more often than not, a typical result of over-hyping films and franchises. But again, huge credit should be given to Edward’s as he acknowledges the need for tongue-in-cheek visuals, including the odd TV-footage shot of the monsters fighting, which is more a nod towards the past than something of modern substance. A film that creates mixed emotions, including surprise, frustration and even the odd laugh or two for good measure.

Shapstik Verdict: Both lame and lovable, Godzilla will divide audiences everywhere with its animated, unashamed and nostalgic depiction of Godzilla. The unattractive dialogue and uninspiring acting may be hard to ignore, but so are the delightful visual treats in store for the viewer, meaning that Edwards has given us the platform to fall in love with Godzilla all over again. It just make take some time to become its own classic, and let’s just hope that a run of dreadful sequels does not spoil the party. 6/10

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