If you have avoided reading anything about his movie, avoid this review; it will have spoilers in for you. For those of you who have followed the spoilerific PR overload, there will be nothing spoilerific here for you. I don’t think.
So, Godzilla. What is it all about? Primarily, we follow the Brody family, including father Bryan Cranston and son Aaron Taylor-Jonhson, as they attempt to get to the bottom of a government cover up, before coming face to face with several enourmous monsters, Godzilla included. That is it in a nutshell. It sounds like the set up for an entertaining monster mash, but is it?
Before getting to the positives, of which there are many, lets start with the black cloud hanging over any potential enjoyment of the movie. It takes itself far too seriously. The movie does not seem to enjoy itself. It has three huge creatures causing havoc but, in general, in the dullest way possible. The movie avoids showing too much monster, which is to be applauded, but the payoff when they do appear is lacking; bar one or two moments … Godzillas’s atomic breath and the acompanying lightshow for one. Compare that to Pacific Rim, a movie that delights in pitting monsters (alien and man made) against one another and finds new ways to make each battle thoroughly entertaining.
The positives though … The scarcity of Godzilla. It is a strange thing to say, but when a movie throws nothing but crash, bang, whallop at you it becomes a little mind-numbing. Hello Michael Bay. Godzilla manages to avoid this by avoiding showing him, or the other creatures, too often. More often that not we only get a glimpse here and a glimpse there, usually in such a way as to emphasise the size of the creatures, or the lack thereof of the human leads. The movie certainly leaves you anticipating the big wide shots where you get to see the Godzilla et al. If only these shots were as satisying as the build up. All of these scenes are helped by excellent effects. No men in dodgy rubber suits here.
The cast are all throughly enjoyable to watch. Bryan Cranston acts up a storm as you would expect him to do, Aaron Taylor-Johnson has bulked up immensely, Elizabeth Olsen (the most talented Olsen sister) manages to avoid just being the token screaming female and Ken Watanabe is Ken Watanabe, fantastic accent and all.
Spoilers. The biggest negative (besides the previously mentioned lack of payoff) are how much the PR machine for this movie spoiled it. How good would it have been to head into the movie expecting just Godzilla only to find out that there are not one, but two other monsters. Knowing about them going in ruined the ‘hatching’ scene in the Japanese nuclear reactor. To have expected Godzilla only to be surprised would have been excellent. It is not the first time over exposure has spoilt a movie, and it will not be the last.
The movie is also far too ‘gritty’. Far too grey. This is part of what makes the move a little too po-faced. Too much is exposed by dust or cloud. Where are the colours? A leaf could have been taken out of Guillermo del Torro’s book with the movie being set in an LED wonderland like Hong Kong. This would have given everything a little more vibrancy. Serious war movies should be gritty. Monster movies should not be.
So, the movie as a whole is very good. It is very well made, as you would expect of the director of Monsters (a marvellous movie shot on a shoe-string budget) and Godzilla looks fantastic. He is bigger than usual, yes, but skyscapers are somewhat bigger than they were in the past, he has to be bigger to remain imposing. Were the monster mash payoffs somewhat better, somewhat more fun and exhillerating, then the movie would be excellent. Unfortunately it falls agonisingly short.