Perhaps long overdue a Hollywood reboot after Roland Emmerich’s much maligned 1998 version, Japan’s most famous Kaiju monster gets to stomp on some buildings once again with Gareth Edwards helming following his critically acclaimed breakthrough indie-hit Monsters (2010).
A great tragedy strikes Joe Brody (Cranston) and he is convinced that there is a cover-up to hide the truth from him and the people. Fifteen years later he persuades his solider son Ford (Taylor-Johnson) to help him prove his suspicions as he fears the same disaster is about to strike again.
With Monsters, Edwards had to edit and do the special effects on his own PC; and he now graduates to big-budget studio blockbuster. He proves he can make good use of Godzilla’s substantially larger budget (an estimated $160M) as he produces several visually impressive well choreographed and most importantly, exciting action sequences. It is a curious shame then that precious few of these scenes actually feature the titular monster. Instead these sequences tend to follow Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s bland GI Joe as he avoids the destruction wreaked by two other monsters – the big man himself turns up at the end to give these smaller creatures a bit of a thrashing.
Godzilla has a slow start and then is hamstrung with an awkward, flawed story and an indistinct script that make it hard to care about any of the characters amongst the carnage (much more of a sin that we don’t get more of the monster treading on a few buildings, then.) After his previous monster movie had tremendous heart, it is strange that Edwards’ has made one with so little. Ford Brody seems to have a confused motivation. Is he a father simply trying to get across the world to be with his family? Is he a marine determined to do whatever it takes to protect people? Is he avenging against the monsters that have ruined his parents lives? In any event, Taylor-Johnson seems little bothered in finding out. Ken Watanabe exists just to spout exposition; Elizabeth Olsen and Sally Hawkins are after-thoughts while the always reliable David Strathairn does the best he can with a (very) straight, limiting role. Bryan Cranston has only a small but important supporting role and seems to be trying to act enough to cover for everyone.
The Verdict: The large production budget is obviously on screen for all to see, making Godzilla a fun enough brainless blockbuster; but this monster movie squeals rather than roars, lacking satire, interesting characters and any real fun -not to mention the star attraction himself.