I review the latest take on Godzilla, a science fiction monster movie directed by Gareth Edwards, starring Bryan Cranston and starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen and Ken Watanabe.
This was one of the many movies that I was interested in watching this Summer and I was glad that I got the chance to do so – whilst I’m not so taken with Breaking Bad as everyone seems to be (maybe I should try sticking with it beyond episode four?) I was looking forward to seeing Bryan Cranston in action and with the film being called Godzilla, I was hoping that the movie would deliver on both accounts. But the biggest problem with this is that despite Cranston and Godzilla itself being featured prominently in the trailers, they actually both play minor roles – with a slow reveal expected as Cranston only sticks around for the opening act of the movie, which is a real shame given that an actor of his calibre should be featured in a heavier role.
But if you can put aside this problem though, Godzilla actually manages to be very entertaining. Sure, we could have been stuck with more Cranston and Godzilla, but with what we get, Godzilla is actually very entertaining – and whilst it’s a slow build up, the payoff is worth it – culminating in an epic brawl that shows us that Godzilla really is the King of the Monsters – with some great special effects really helping bring them to life – Godzilla itself looks fantastic on screen, with a great portrayal of the monster that works very well indeed.
The structure and pacing of the film is a slow build-up. We start with revelations that nuclear testing in the 1950s was actually a cover up for the attempts to destroy Godzilla – that obviously backfired. We then cut to Japan, where Cranston’s character, Dr. Brody – works at a Power Plant with his wife – the day that it all goes to hell. With the death of his wife and the destruction of the Plant, Brody becomes convinced that there’s a greater conspiracy at work – and recruits his son fifteen years later, who is part of the US Navy and Bomb Disposal. He’s played by Aaron Taylor Johnson, and Lieutenant Ford Brody – and is essentially the film’s major character. Ford finds himself heading to Japan from San Francisco to see his father after he’s bailed out of prison. From there, Brody Sr. Enlists his son in an attempt to discover what really happened on the day he lost his wife.
And then, in true monster movie style, it isn’t long before all hell breaks loose, and the real set piece structure of the film begins. We get Godzilla proving why he’s King of the Monsters, and is involved in a brawl with two smaller creatures that feed of Radiation. The smaller creatures are known as Gorjira, but are still giant monsters, and provide some great action and devastation in several scenes as they tear San Francisco to shreds. The battles are all handled very well, with the atmospheric build-up whilst being slow is still executed strongly.
Ultimately, following a strong start, the human element of the movie becomes the weakest part. Cranston’s performance is the film’s highlight from the actors involved which is no surprise, demonstrating passion and some great acting – in comparison, Aaron Taylor Johnson falls a bit flat, not really working well as the lead actor in the flick. Much like Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen – who plays Brody Jr’s wife, doesn’t get much to do which is a shame given that she is clearly a talented actress. So there’s a lot of underused potential there.
But aside from that though, Godzilla is great. The cinematography is epic and there are several jaw-dropping moments on display here. Whilst this film may not be the best of 2014 (That award currently goes to either Winter Soldier or X-Men: Days of Future Past so far) it manages to be a fun movie and will certainly have me coming back for the sequels – and for Gareth Edward’s Star Wars spinoff.