Film Review: Godzilla

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 20th May 2014.

Director Gareth Edwards made his feature film debut with the highly enjoyable Monsters in 2010. A low budget sci-fi thriller set after an alien invasion, the film follows a journalist who accompanies an American tourist through the Mexican quarantine zone to safety. Edwards proved he was a writer-director to watch by managing to keep the human story at the centre of our attention amongst an array of skirmishes between the military and CGI creatures. I couldn’t wait to see what he would do next.

Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. obviously felt the same way and handed Edwards the reigns to the $160 million reboot of the Godzilla franchise for his second movie. No pressure there then.

The good news is that Edwards has delivered a solid creature feature. The bad news is that there is little else to report. It’s a Godzilla film.

Just like the recent Amazing Spider-Man 2: Rise of Electro, where the titular villain is strangely only a supporting character, Godzilla is not really the star of his own movie. Like many of the big name actors in the cast, the King of Monsters has little to do in the storyline.

Much of the first half of the plot is dedicated to the emergence of the MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism), giant praying mantis type monsters which feeds on radiation.

On the human side of the plot, nuclear plant supervisor Joe Brody (Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston) is still mourning the loss of his wife (a wasted Juliette Binoche) fifteen years previously in a meltdown precipitated by an “earthquake”, actually the hatching of a MUTO. Whilst investigating in Japan, he is arrested in the radioactive quarantine area, which prompts his son, army explosive ordinance disposal officer Ford (Kick-Ass’s Aaron Taylor-Johnson), to come to the rescue.

When the male and female MUTO begin a destructive path across the globe to come together and mate, Godzilla arises from the depths of the ocean to reaffirm his position as the alpha predator of our planet. Destruction and chaos ensues, in 3D.

If fighting giant monsters are your bag, Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim did it so much better. Godzilla’s monster showdowns all seem to take place at night, and combined with the light loss from the 3D glasses, I left the cinema still wanting to have seen more of the battles.

Edwards certainly assembled an all star cast and I was looking forward to seeing the ensemble in a blockbuster popcorn picture. Unfortunately, there is simply not enough of Cranston or Elizabeth Olson, in the thankless role of Ford’s wife. Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins play scientists who conveniently pop up whenever we require exposition. At least Watanabe gets to do the trademark turn to camera and mutter, “Godzirra.”

Godzilla may already have me his match in the plethora of superior CGI filled monster, alien and superhero films on the market.