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Godzilla – Review


Release Date: 16th May 2014 [USA]
Director: Gareth Edwards
Writer: Max Borenstein [Screenplay] - Dave Callaham [Story]
Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson - Elizabeth Olsen - Bryan Cranston - CJ Adams - Ken Watanabe



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Posted May 24, 2014 by

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Godzilla Review:

King Kong’s sparring partner returns from the ocean depths for the first time in English since Emerich’s ’98 outing, but Brit director Gareth Edwards would have done better to leave the beast alone, as this 2014 reboot fails to fulfill its own cinematic potential.

The phrase commonly associated with this creature-feature is ‘summer blockbuster’, and of course that’s what it is, but to its own fault. This sci-fi shamelessly treads in the wake of past monster movies, adopting the clichéd city-stomping formula to tiresome effect. When you opt for a monster movie, you usually know what you’re getting, but Godzilla tries so desperately to satisfy as the blockbuster, it forgets its own quiet intent and results in something quite ephemeral.

Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston sheds his Walter White skin and brilliantly plays the anti-Heisenberg Joe Brody, a paranoid and grief-stricken nuclear physicist tormented by the past. Godzilla begins fifteen years earlier. Brody is stationed near Tokyo at the Janjira Power Plant when seismic activity results in a radiation leak and consequently, the death of his wife (Juliette Binoche).

Now, what if I told you that Godzilla isn’t the real threat here? The marketing material for this high-concept slice of cinema secreted the fact that Godzilla wouldn’t be the only guest at this wrecking party. Our title character begrudgingly shares the screen with a pair of mating M.U.T.Os, or massive unidentified terrestrial organisms (imaginative, I know). These creatures, that dwell in underground craters and feed off the radiation from the Earth’s core, are essentially multi-limbed pterodactyls with a face that belongs in the Alien franchise.

In the present day, Joe’s son Lieutenant Ford Brody, an explosives expert and family man blandly rendered by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, is summoned to Japan when his father’s own conspiracy theory begins to cause ripples. Convinced that there is something hidden out there, the duo venture into supposed radiation territory to retrieve computer files that may uncover the truth. Joe and Ford are then unexpectedly arrested and transported to a nearby operations hub where scientists are running tests on a M.U.T.O – until it breaks free that is.

The strength of this popcorn-flick lies almost entirely with Cranston. The Malcolm in the Middle star gives the most memorable performance of the night and provides the only narrative momentum. Cranston’s intensity in the role builds up some genuine steam but sadly isn’t harnessed through to the final showdown, and instead what we get is something quite anti-climactic.

Although the gigantic lizard has always been portrayed as having a softer side, Edwards goes full-throttle in rendering the klutz as some desperately sympathetic monster, like a reptilian Edward Scissorhands. Our title character has plenty of personality – very crocodilian in water, but catastrophically clumsy on land. His laboured waddle and gauche disposition may suggest a 350-foot hungover Winnie the Pooh, (which certainly helps on the sympathy front).

Like Jaws, most of Godzilla is just off screen or seen through transitory glances. One thing Edwards does well (and arguably the only thing) is his screen compositions. He effectively utilises wide-angle shots, giving perspective to the enormity of Godzilla whilst highlighting humanity’s vulnerability. The carefully choreographed reveals are genius and for the first hour or-so, Edwards merely hints towards the rambunctious reptile. The cutaways are timely and clever but at the same time frustrating, as our director teases carnage.

The human characters are painstakingly flavourless and the performances, with exception to Cranston and Ken Watanabe (Inception) who delivers a class act as the underutilised Dr. Serizawa, are as plastic as Toho’s original dinosaurian suit.

Although Gareth Edwards orchestrates clever reveals and supervises some praiseworthy special effects, when it comes down to it, there’s just no weight behind the punch. The directionless director doesn’t seem to commit entirely to this nuclear paranoia story and as a result, Godzilla remains an unexceptional and underwhelming adaptation of one of cinema’s most iconic beasts.


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Anthony Lowery
Freelance Contributor

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