Thursday, 15 May 2014

Godzilla - review

It is very rare these days to be surprised by a film. Given the number of trailers, TV spots and social media posts in the lead up to a film's release, you can feel like you've seen the whole film before you've even got the cinema (*cough* The Amazing Spider-Man 2 *cough*) so it was a pleasure to be genuinely surprised by elements of Godzilla.

It's therefore a shame to read so many reviews that spoil them but rest assured I will do no such thing!

This is an entertainment less akin to the popcorn-munching, all-guns-blazing, Michael Bay-style spectacles of the Noughties but harks back to the original Summer blockbuster... Jaws.

Just like JJ Abrams did with Super 8, Gareth Edwards channels his inner Spielberg to craft a film that evokes feelings of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and Jurassic Park; the slow build, discoveries in fossilised remains or missing ships, fractured family relations, scientists knowing more than the military.

He also believes in the old adage that less is more, with the first hour being spent offering glimpses and teases of Big G before the money shot that kickstarts the monster mash and he becomes a bigger wrecking ball than Miley Cyrus.

It would be fair to say that there are a number of money shots because there are sequences and compositions which are simply stunning and breathtaking, particularly one shot through the visor of a soldier skydiving into a city through he cloud to reveal Godzilla doing his thing.

But Spielberg knew that the secret to success for a monster movie to work, is that you need characters that you believe in, to care about and root for. Characters like Chief Brody, Alan Grant, Indiana Jones and Ian Malcolm.

Bryan Cranston (who one day will hopefully star in a film where he no longer has to wear a bad "I'm on a break from Breaking Bad" wig) manages to do a lot with rather little delivering paranoid barking speeches as a Roy Neary-esque crackpot investigating a cover up of an accident that had deep repercussions for his family.

But whenever Cranston is not on screen we are left with a group of talented actors (Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, Elizabeth Olsen) who have nothing to do other than look scared of, look in awe of, or run away from a giant monster.

Honestly, how am I supposed to care about a family trying to being reunited amongst the destruction when they only share one minute of screen time at the beginning of the film?

In spite of a lack of 3D characters and effective 3D retrofitting, there is a decent monster movie here which does deliver on its promise of a smack down of seismic proportions. There is no cinematic cock-teasing a la The Grey here.

But Kaiju believe it? The overall result is a Godzilla where his bark is worse than his bite.

3 stars

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