Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Godzilla

I've been a Godzilla fan all my life. However, my introduction to all things Godzilla wasn't through the original film. No, instead of a cautionary tale regarding the rise of the nuclear age, my first Godzilla film was Godzilla vs. Hedorah. Made in 1971, this film contains the now infamous scene in which Godzilla focuses his powerful atomic breath on the ground, leading him to levitate off the ground and fly away. It perfectly encapsulates the later Godzilla films, as most of them are over-the-top, crazy and just plain weird. Since its conception Godzilla has remained a huge star in Japan, but the film series went on hiatus with 2004's Godzilla: Final Wars. Since then Toho haven't given any indication of when, how and where we might see the next Japanese iteration of Godzilla, but with the release of America's second take on the franchise, that wait just got a little easier.


Directed by Gareth Edwards and out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes Godzilla, a surprisingly fresh, emotional and action packed take on the franchise. Godzilla opens up in Japan in the home of the Brody family, with parents Joe and Sandra and their son, Ford. Joe and Sandra work in Janjira power plant, and during an apparently not so freak accident, there's a complete nuclear meltdown which claims Sandra's life. The film then cuts to 15 years later. Ford is in the military and on leave from Afghanistan, and he receives a call from Japan saying that his father has been arrested. Upon bailing him out Ford discovers that his father is feverishly investigating what truly caused the nuclear meltdown at Janjira. However, the source of the meltdown is far more terrifying than they could have imagined, as a creature previously living beneath the surface of the Earth has returned. Thankfully we have another similar type of creature fighting on our side. He's called Godzilla!


Though I do love some of the more bizarre Godzilla films in the past, I always preferred the ones that took after the original film in terms of tone, story and the fact that Godzilla itself was a secondary character. I'm happy to say that this latest incarnation is very much in line with the original Godzilla. At it's heart it's a human drama story, with the monster-on-monster action merely being the icing on the cake. Performances are strong throughout the film, especially that of the always incredible Bryan Cranston. He plays Joe Brody wonderfully, as even as early as the opening 10 minutes of the film, the amount of sheer raw emotion he manages to dish out is really heartbreaking. That said, Aaron Taylor-Johnson who plays Ford Brody is good but seems rather wooden compared to how Cranston is playing it. I think it was a mistake playing his military character so, well, cold and military-like, but it does slightly diminish the hard emotional impact the film could have had. Still, for a film that is about a giant monster that shoots atomic breath from its mouth, Godzilla is built upon a firm foundation of human drama, emotional scenes and great character development.

Then you have Godzilla, you know, the other star of this film. However, with Godzilla director Gareth Edwards has approached it a little differently than before. If Godzilla came out swinging in the first 20 minutes or so, all that action would begin to bore the viewer. Instead the monster is only shown very briefly throughout the film, ultimately being fully revealed in a showdown that is breathtaking, action packed and incredibly suspenseful. Trust me, I know a lot of people bitch about how little Godzilla is in this film, but when he turns up it's more than worth the wait. As expected the CGI is nothing next to impeccable, but even when monsters are being hurled through skyscrapers and the shit hits the fan, the central human drama continues on the ground below. It's all so masterfully done that I'm genuinely shocked and awestruck by how non-crap this film is. Lets be honest, after Roland Emmerich's take on the franchise back in 1998 the odds were against it, right?


From start to finish Godzilla is a triumph. When speaking about Godzilla at Comic-Con once, director Gareth Edwards got extremely emotional, and through fighting back tears let everyone know how much of an honour it was to direct this film. He's a fan, a genuine, genuine fan of the Godzilla franchise. Well, he's done the franchise, us fans and the original concept of what Godzilla stood for, justice. From it's hard hitting and emotional story, stunning CGI, perfect design of the monster Godzilla itself, a soundtrack that proudly stands next to Akira Ifukube's work, and some beautiful, chilling imagery, this is far better than I expected it to be. Awesome.

Godzilla is still king of the monsters and gets a 5/5.

★★★★★

Denis Murphy


Godzilla at CeX


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