A terrifying creature is approaching the coast and Brody – half crazed with fear and loss – is trying to convince sceptical authorities of the impending disaster without success. And what a great 5-Fad film Jaws was! Godzilla on the other hand…
It’s not as if the film is absolutely terrible. As an example of the genre of dumb-arsed, popcorn-munching summer blockbusters, it has its diverting moments. Certainly if you get turned on my giant dinosaurs fighting each other and smashing up San Francisco, this is definitely the film for you. But it’s not going to set the awards season alight, in just about any category as far as I can see.
It starts promisingly enough, with a Jurassic Park-style helicopter ride over lush Philippine jungle to a Raiders of the Lost Ark-style dig where some Alien-style eggs have been discovered. So far, so plagerised. The ever reliable Ken Watanabe (probably hired solely for the way he pronounces “Godzilla”) plays the investigating scientist with his rather unlikely side-kick Sally Hawkins (‘Blue Jasmine’).
The action then moves to one of the best segments of the film in Japan where nuclear plant boss Brody (Snr), played by Malcolm in the Middle / Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston, has to contend with the tragic consequences of what has been disturbed.
We then skip 15 years forwards to where explosives expert Ford Brody (Jnr) (Aaron Taylor-Johnson of Kick-Ass fame) has to leave his young family in San Francisco to fly to Japan to bail out his dad from jail. (Yes, I couldn’t work that one out either… doesn’t Japan do Paypal?). The basic premise here is that Godzilla is the good guy in the picture (even though the Americans seem to want to try and shoot him at every opportunity) helping to “restore balance” to the prehistoric world by defeating the horny preying-mantis-like monsters (aka MUTOs) before they can have rumpy-pumpy and make thousands of other preying-mantis like monsters, so returning “man to the stone age”. Much mayhem and destruction naturally follows, showing once again (“Man of Steel”, “Avengers Assemble”, etc, etc) that the US economic recovery is based solely on jobs for builders, decorators and glaziers.
In the acting stakes, Taylor-Johnson is very good (channelling a brooding Jake Gyllenhaal look) but Cranston seems rather over the top. It is also a very sexist films, with the female leads being given scandalously little to do: Elizabeth Olsen (looking wonderfully un-skinny and gorgeous in a non-Hollywood sort of way) is confined to running and screaming and the wonderful Sally Hawkins has even less to do, confined to being Watanabe’s bag-carrier for the majority of the film.
Where I could get very critical is in the nonsensical story. Leaving aside the scientific problems I have with “radioactive levels reducing” due to “catalysation” (whatever that means), the story plays fast and loose with the concept of the MUTOs feeding on radioactive materials. In one scene, a MUTO leaves the main US stockpile of radioactive waste voluntarily, but is supposed to be ‘lured out to sea’ by a single nuclear warhead. Like, WHAT? And why the US army would try to transport said ‘bait’ through the enemy territory by train rather than fly it out is bizarre. The story is also strong on Watanabe’s claim that letting Godzilla duke it out with the MUTOs is the way forwards, and yet there are at least two occasions when Godzilla and one or more of the MUTOs are together, and yet nothing seems to come of that confrontation. The story just moves on to another pursuit of monster vs monster. Like, WHAT? Very unsatisfactory.
In other departments, the special effects are passable if not outstanding, but there are some memorably cinematic scenes: notably the free-fall parachuting into San Francisco set to Ligeti’s music (as used in 2001: A Space Odyssey), which is impressive. And the rest of the music by the omnipresent Alexandre Duplat is also noteworthy (no pun intended). Relative newcomer Gareth Edwards directs, and clearly made an impact as Disney have just given him a Star Wars spin-off film to direct.
A decent early salvo for the summer blockbuster season, but (unlike Godzilla and the MUTOs), unlikely to set the world alight.
Fad Rating: FFf.