Angus Saul

Review: Godzilla – It Isn't Perfect, But The World's Most Famous Monster's Back With A Bang

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1954, Bikini, Marshall Islands. The US military drops a hydrogen bomb for “test purposes”. Or was it? Could it have been dropped on a massive sea-creature left over from prehistoric times that feeds on radiation? Was there a huge cover-up?

Of course there was. What would you expect from this kind of film? The new Godzilla is riddled with plot holes, cliches and a million things that make the audience say things like: “seriously, how did they not see that MASSIVE hole in the ground?” But considering the last well-loved yet critically despised 1998 Godzilla set in New York, this reboot of the franchise, some 10 years after the last Godzilla film was made, is a big success.

Commercially, it’s raking it in, and the reviews too have been overwhelmingly positive. That’s not to say it’s a masterpiece, or that you’ll be swept away by its sheer brilliance. But it’s different.

Of 123 minutes, Godzilla gets just 20 minutes of screen time. There are other monsters wreaking destruction too, so don’t worry about that, but this reboot builds and builds and builds towards Godzilla’s big entrance. You might see a foot, or a spine on his gargantuan back, or a flick of his tail, but when you see him, he’s phenomenal.

This time, he’s fighting other monsters in Japan, Hawaii, and San Francisco, and Las Vegas gets its fair share of monster action too. These monsters feed on radioactivity, and so they’ve been going around tearing up Russian submarines and the like to get their claws on nuclear weapons. The US government have decided that the best way to deal with the monsters is to lure them into the ocean and drop a hydrogen bomb on them. Others disagree, saying that Godzilla and these other monsters should be left to fight it out themselves. “Man’s arrogance is that he believes nature is in his control, when really it is the other way around.”

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Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad’s Walter White) is the half-crazed scientist who has lost everything but is determined to uncover the truth, and turns in a great, if sidelined performance, and Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai, Inception) is the Japanese scientist who is the only one who knows who and what Godzilla really is. Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson are OK, but we’d rather have seen more of Cranston and his on-screen wife Juliette Binoche.

Last time most western audiences saw Godzilla in 1998, Jurassic Park II had been released just one year ago, and a T-Rex had been seen stomping around San Diego, so a poor T-Rex lookalike in New York was hardly going to impress in what was essentially a comedy starring Matthew Broderick and Jean Reno.

One of the issues a lot of people have with this latest showing is that there are multiple monsters. In fact, if you look back through the years, Godzilla regularly fought with other monsters terrorising the city. And that’s not the only throwback to the classic Godzilla movies.

He looks like the old Godzilla, thankfully. Godzilla, or Gojira was a portmanteau of gorira, and kujira, the Japanese words for gorilla and whale. This was to allude to the size and power of Godzilla, as well as its aquatic origins. And what’s more, facially, the original Godzilla always looked a bit ape-like, and british director Gareth Edwards has brought this classic look back, along with the fabled glowing spines and radioactive breath that were sorely missed in the 1998 travesty.

There’s plenty of pulsating action to go around, suspense and destruction are rife, and the CGI is excellent. A lot of people worked very hard to reboot this franchise, and they’ve managed it with aplomb.

Yes it’s a bit predictable, as all monster movies are, but this is one which focuses more and more on the human side of the story. There’s rumours of two sequels to form a trilogy, and if either offering is half as good as this, they’ll still be worth a watch.

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