By James Mackney
Godzilla is old school both in terms of character and this fantastic re-boot. It is a proper monster movie with a heart. It contains nods to Spielberg left, right and centre and manages to tell a monster story a million times better than Peter Jackson did with King Kong.
Over the last few years we have been treated or tortured depending on your inclination to summer blockbusters that have told us that everything needs to be shot at 100mph, have no story and all of the action needs to look like it’s happening inside a food processor. Taking this analogy further, Michael Bay has served several Transformer films that have equated to nothing more than slush but Gareth Edwards has managed to create something so fully formed it thoroughly took me by surprise. It has heart, a good story, and understandable and thrilling action sequences and is carefully pieced together.
Edwards’ loving direction, especially during the action sequences is something to behold. At no point during the action sequences are we unsure of what is going on and who is fighting whom. I personally admire this due to having had to sit through several Michael Bay metal-on-metal porn films having no idea what was going on. It has been argued that Bay’s films are anti-narrative in their action sequences and I’d be hard pushed to disagree, Edwards however keeps the narrative central at all times. This shouldn’t come as a surprise as his previous film the ultra-low budget Monsters was fundamentally more about the characters having to deal with their own battles rather than the monsters themselves. Godzilla does have a long build up but this is not a criticism. It allows you to invest in the characters both human and monster and when Godzilla is finally revealed the satisfaction is only increased.
It becomes apparent that more often than not what is holding the entire film together is Alexandre Desplat’s score. Which is at times subtle and haunting. The score allows the action to unfold without the need for dialogue and in truth dialogue is sparse in the film after the first 35 minutes. This is not to say that it descends into an all out Monster bonanza but that the dialogue becomes a series of short, sharp discussions into tactics rather exposition. The plot is always moving forward and so are the characters.
The plot is a simple one; Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche play scientists in Japan circa 1999, they work at a nuclear facility where a disaster takes place. We jump forward to the present day and their son played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson is heading home after a 14-month tour of Iraq to his wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and young child in San Francisco. Oh and the unexplained tremors are back. That’s all you need to know. If you’re unsure what happens next then maybe this isn’t a film for you.
This is a rowdy, ridiculous and utterly enjoyable monster film. In truth giving a pretty much, untested director the chance to tell a story on this scale (pun intended) may have seemed ludicrous a few months ago but Edwards shines and so does Godzilla. A sterling achievement.