Film Review: Godzilla

After such an impressive debut with the multi layered and thought provoking Monsters, Gareth Edwards returns with a bigger budget and more responsibility as he is charged with reawakening a cinematic legend in Godzilla. And sadly, for me at least it failed to live up to the standards set by Edwards’ original extraterrestrial visitors.

Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate Godzilla, there are parts to like and admire in this film – as I shall explain – but I think that throughout the film it becomes more and more obvious that the talents Edwards unquestionably has for film making are diluted and lost when you scale things up. I really don’t want to use a football analogy but it’s very much like the lower league manager who builds a huge reputation only to fail in the top leagues as it’s one step too far.

Gareth Edwards & Bryan Cranston - Godzilla

And it’s this failure that creates both the biggest positive and negative in the film for me. It is glaringly obvious that Edwards has arrived at in the Directors chair from a position in the special effects department. This film, visually, is a treat to behold. It is stunning. It is obviously that a lot of time and effort has gone into making a world where everything fits together and everything feels real. Nothing, even prehistoric monsters, ever feels out of place and the detailing work that’s gone into said monsters is breath taking. I thought the CGI used to bring Smaug in the last Hobbit film was good, but this has ramped things up a little further.

However, once you’ve realised that the “special effects” Director has blown the budget on, special effects, purely creating the world in which he wants to tell his story, the rest of the film just starts to fall apart and become implausible, poor and clichéd. There are huge amounts of this film that just don’t make sense and my overriding feeling throughout was one of racing from cinematic stereotype to cinematic stereotype. The black fearless and heroic school bus driver; the dark, isolated and rickety railway bridge, the wide angle shots of the golden gate bridge being destroyed. I accept that I maybe missing the point, that these old fashion, constantly rehashed scenes and devices that appear throughout cinematic film folklore are there not to pull the film down but rather serve as a nod to Godzilla’s age and place in history but for me, they fail to pack that punch and just make you sigh and go “really, come on Gareth you can do better”.

Bryan Cranston & Aaron Taylor-Johnson In Godzilla

It is then dragged further south by the way the script and plot connect these clichés together. The cast is impressive. With some proven weight in Bryan Cranston and Sally Hawkins backing up immerging and young talent in Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen. The problem is, the cast isn’t utilized in the way it should be. Cranston while hugely important to the plot and reasoning of the film has such a short role that you feel almost cheated by the teasing of his talent you are given. And Hawkins and Olsen seem to be more narrative window dressing than important characters, which just adds to the disappointment and sense that this film is really holding back the strength it has buried within. One character you cannot claim they’ve held back or underutilized is Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who is sadly adding to the Hollywood clichés, by appearing indestructible and the ultimate American hero. Capable of surviving anything and always managing to be in the right place, at the right time, and with the right amount of luck to save the day. The last time I saw a character this unreliable he was shouting “I have got to get me one of these!” while flying alien space craft. The problem is, when you are flying alien space craft you are cool, when you’re arming nuclear weapons you’re not.

It seems only right now to mention the star of the show – Godzilla – I actually loved the whole idea behind his surviving existence: living deep within the oceans at depths we can’t reach, but that’s it, afterwards forget it. For most of this film he doesn’t feature, and I spent huge parts thinking that calling this film Godzilla would be the like Steven Spielberg calling Jurassic Park – a film more about velociraptors hunting than anything else – T-Rex because it arrives at the end to save the day. But, I will back down on this slightly, because as the big climatic and clichéd ending arrives you are treated to Godzilla in his full, obese glory, strutting his stuff, opposable thumbs and all, but I’m sorry Gareth Edwards, it’s taken so long to reach this point and for you to give Godzilla the screen time he needed that things weren’t looking great for you and then you give Godzilla a party trick that would be far-fetched in the realms of space let alone from a prehistoric creature.

Godzilla - Obese

At this point the movie had lost all creditability for me and I am sad to say that I did actually look at my watch. 15 minutes to go and I really did just want it to end. I can even tell you all that having treated myself, through a complimentary ticket, courtesy of a crying baby during The Monuments Men, to a VIP seat in a 3D screening, that firstly, while the budget has been well and truly blown on the visual effects, I never actually felt the 3D added anything to the film and I don’t think you’d lose anything at all watching it in 2D and secondly, the VIP seats in my local multiplex are seriously uncomfortable!

I am seriously disappointed in Godzilla. Everything looked good: a naturally talented up and coming director, a character who is a cinematic legend and a cast that should compliment and work together beautifully, but it has all ended up looking like a film created by someone trying his best while being out of his depth. It’s not a bad film, but it’s certainly not a good film that will be remembered for long, or in a positive light. There is room and demand for a modern Godzilla film, but it needed a stronger pair of hands guiding the ship. Maybe next time…

6 out of 10 stars (6 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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