It’s been a weird old journey for Godzilla and western audiences. Growing in popularity through the Toho films of old, that rubber monster would make his first official States appearance in 1956. Often mocked but ultimately adored, that giant lizard would go on to have his movies either released or imported to the country, massive merchandising deals, get his own song, a dinosaur named after him and even have a basketball match against Philadelphia 76ers’ Charles Barkley. Of course then after that initial taste, Godzilla went all Hollywood on us and in 1992 TriStar Pictures would acquire the rights from Toho in order to create a new American based trilogy of movies focused around the King of Monsters.
Director: Gareth Edwards
Staring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn & Bryan Cranston
Run Time: 123 Minutes
Exhibition: 2D (Available in 3D & IMAX 3D)
Release Date: Out Now
In 1998 we got Godzilla – Directed by Roland Emmerich, Produced by Dean Devlin and with a screenplay from the two fresh from Independence day. I remember the summer of 98 and being massively hyped for this new incarnation of the beast I loved so much. There were TV channels running previews of the new flick with all night Godzilla marathons to celebrate the release of the film, Jamiroquai and Puff Daddy would have catchy sounding singles in the films soundtrack (which I bought), I was a kid excited for Godzilla… then I saw it. Godzilla got terrible reviews, result of which saw the following two sequels pulled from TriStar’s future plans and the licence shelved until it reverted back home to Toho in 2003. The film was such a poor incarnation of the King of Monsters in fact that it was featured in the 2004 movie Godzilla: Final Wars, where its name was changed to Zilla as there was nothing Godly about the creature.
Things went pretty quiet for Western audiences and Godzilla for a while after the Japanese series of movies ended ten years ago, that was until 2010 when Legendary Pictures announced that they would be creating the next big Hollywood Blockbuster version of Godzilla and with out an Iguana, Matthew Broderick or Independence Day creator in site. I like many other G-Fans out there, waited with baited breath… until now.
The plot begins in 1999 with Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston), an American working in Japan for a nuclear power plant. When Joe begins to notice some strange seismic activity, he tries to alert the plant heads to take action which they are hesitant to do. After a major incident the plant is destroyed and he suffers the tragic loss of his wife. Fast forward to the present day, where Joe’s Son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is returning from Military duty to reunite with his own Wife and Son. After just one day back, Ford learns that his now-estranged Father has been arrested for trespassing into his now-quarantined home, and so Ford travels back to Japan to take care of Joe.
Once the Brody boys are reunited, Joe tries to prove to his son that there is something hidden within the quarantine zone that surrounds their home and the old nuclear plant. Once the same seismic pattern starts up again, a prehistoric monster is unleashed upon Japan and causes the King of Monsters to awaken from the depths of the ocean. What follows is an epic ride that spans across Japan, Hawaii and Las Vegas to name a few territories of this action packed adventure.
Now when you think Godzilla, you cant help but think of two men dressed as Kaiju as they they duel in a miniature model city. These battle scenes – though probability tacky to kids of an age when they have watch giant CG robots and aliens laying waste to each other in Pacific Rim, were actually really well done for there time and managed to capture the awkward movements of a giant monster thanks to the difficulty of moving around in a bulky rubber suit. As you an expect in this modernised version, all the Kaiju are now created using CG and still somehow manage to capture those realistic mobility of a Toho classic.
Where the glaring problem showed for me is that these fight scenes as impressive as the are, were really cut short and often shown through the eyes of a bystander from far away. I completely understand that this is a movie made to be viewed in IMAX 3D (as the trailer for the very same movie I was watching alerted me I should be doing) and it probably is a great way to give the viewer that truly immersive experience, but this left the 2D viewers with just a few short minutes of Kaiju action.
Though I complain that his screen time isn’t exactly to scale (because he’s huge), Godzilla is a sight to behold. A much better tribute to the original than the 1998 Iguana incarnation, he looks as you’d expect… like a ruddy great big reptile thing! he’s incredibly detailed and looks brilliant in both day and night setting, which is an achievement in itself to have CG work look that convincing in a well lit scene.
After about 60 minutes into the film I was starting to think that the title should have been The Adventures of Ford Brody – featuring Godzilla, but I suppose that wouldn’t exactly draw in a huge crowd on opening day. This isn’t really a huge problem as this happens in every Godzilla movie I can remember over the years; humans do stuff, monster battle, humans do more stuff, look at the monsters punching each other. What helps move along the the lizard-free scenes is the casting put in place; Bryan Cranston chews the scenery like we know he can do, Aaron Taylor-Johnson seems to have this uncanny ability to play any role and Elizabeth Olsen can seemingly take as many emotional performances as she wants, without reaching that point of being drawn out.
If you’ve never really watched any Godzilla film and just want to see a cool looking flick then I think you’ll struggle to find many blockbusters that could go toe to toe with this behemoth, and even though the most die hard G-Fan may take issue with some of the films choices, there’s still some enjoyment to be had. There are some nice nods and references to the original Godzilla series movies and the basis of the character’s origins littered throughout the film, none of which I’d want to spoil for those eagle eyed fans.