Doom And Gloom
The monster loses his voice in Gareth Edwards’ brooding take on the Japanese dinosaur flick. Bryan Cranston does his best, but really, why so serious?
12A, 123 min
A contender for disappointment of the year thus far, the remake of Godzilla is not exactly bad, just extremely uninspiring. I had, before seeing the film, heard some fairly good things about it, but this monster movie just wasn’t for me. It was supposed to be a clever updating of the story, tapping into nuclear concerns etc etc. Those bits are, admittedly, well-observed. It’s just a shame about what remains.
The story picks up with a ‘natural disaster’, resulting in the demise of nuclear power plant worker Juliette Binoche, the wife of plant supervisor Bryan Cranston and the mother of their child together. Everyone’s introduced so quickly, however, that it’s hard to care. Then there’s a great big fifteen year time jump, and their child is suddenly all of the following: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, a US Navy Lieutenant, and married to Elizabeth Olsen, which is nice work if you can get it. They now also have a child together, and Mr. Beefcake barely sees his own father, who is a reclusive figure hellbent on finding out more about the ‘thing’ that killed his wife. All the stereotypes are here – Ken Watanabe is in as The Bloke Who Has To Look on Ominously and Provide Exposition As Bad Things Happen, and Sally Hawkins plays much the same part, but with a bad bout of the jitters. I would give character names, but I just can’t be particularly bothered. You get the idea.
Good old Cranston is a reliable source of gravitas/ rage, but he doesn’t have a great deal to do in the film apart from provide the aforementioned things (which he admittedly does well), thus leaving his talents a bit squandered. Annoyingly, he never gets the chance to be ‘the One Who Knocks’, as, given the fact that it’s (supposedly) a monster movie, any available door collapses rather sharp-ish. However, despite his supporting part, he delivers what is by far the best performance in the film.
That’s another thing – Godzilla is meant to be a monster movie. All of the parallels with nuclear disasters and man taking on more than it can handle are all very well, but very quickly people will want to see things being smashed. Whacked. Kerblammed. If you want that sort of thing from the off, you won’t get it here. Godzilla suffers from a serious case of King Kong syndrome. AKA they spend a stupidly long time building up the plot and it takes an hour before we finally see the dinosaur. And when we do … he just looks like a big dinosaur.
The tension and suspense bit beforehand isn’t even done that well – not once did I quake in my boots. You know what’s coming – big monster will head straight for you, and if he isn’t doing so, he’s probably hiding, you know, under the sea or something. Perhaps I’m the only person in the world to think this, but nothing was that heart-in-mouth. It’s not like the reveal for Smaug in the recent Hobbit film, which managed to be fairly awe-inspiring. Granted, the dino’s roar does take some beating, but it’s a pity the rest of the film chooses not to follow it, and instead croaks away in the corner.
So then we get to Phase Two, where the big, epic battles come into play (albeit ones between Godzilla and the weirdest-looking enemies ever). No spoilers as to what they are, but they’re strange specimens. Here there could have been the chance for improvement, but the majority of the action takes place either at night-time, or under skies so grey they may contain actual lead. So once we arrive at the crazy wham-bam part, everything becomes unclear. I don’t know about you, but whenever there is big-screen inner-city destruction on a massive scale, I like to be able to see what’s being destroyed. Here, that’s not possible. Give me The Avengers (sorry, Avengers Assemble…) any day, because that has a) daylight, and b) Tom Hiddleston, and he would’ve given this effort the jolt of levity it sorely needs. The film should be applauded for its attempt to be a serious blockbuster, but it wouldn’t harm one of the cast to smile once in a blue moon. Come to think of it, a blue moon would’ve been exciting too…
A sequel to this lumbering blockbuster has already been greenlit, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. At least I know there’s definitely room for improvement, and if anything, I feel sorry for the monster. He could’ve lumbered, roared and destroyed in a much better film, in my opinion, but unfortunately he got stuck in this one. That’s why he’s roaring so loudly – he’s miffed that even when he started roaming, his own film caged the beast.
Next time, they should set it in Manila. Then the title, if nothing else, could raise a smile. As for this one, it’s a shame that it was a whimper and not a bang.