Directed By: Gareth Edwards
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe
Running Time: 123 Minutes
“We knew the world would not be the same. A few people cried; most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture; Vishnu takes on his multi-armed form and says, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” J. Robert Oppenheimer (Developer of the atomic bomb)
Man of Steel, The Dark Knight Rises, Super 8, Iron Man 2, Watchmen. For the last five years there has always been one film that I was anticipating more than others. Some films on that list I have enjoyed more than others but none have given me the “wow” factor that I had been seeking when leaving the cinema. Walking out of Batman in 1989 as a 6-year-old and showing the first flickers of an obsession with those characters that continues to this day. Leaving, the now demolished “Classic Cinema” in Harold’s Cross, having seen Jurassic Park and genuinely wondering why anyone else would ever bother making a film again… because it would never top that. This year my attention on the year’s releases was focused squarely on Godzilla.
I have never been a massive fan of the original Man in Suit Godzilla films. I have enjoyed some of them and been surprised by the heart they convey, owing in part that the movies were originally made as a criticism of American nuclear weapons testing. However, my enjoyment of these films were hamstrung by the poor, often laughable, effects. I have always been a fan of giant monster movies but much like the horror genre, it is hard to find a genuinely good one. Pacific Rim was amazing for those few moments, during the scene in Japan, but otherwise left me flat. And the less said about the 1998 version of Godzilla the better.
So with my excitement at fever pitch, but with the trepidation of someone who has been hurt before, I sat down to watch the latest incarnation of Gojira. Within the first five minutes I would have a smile on my face that would not leave me until long after the credits had rolled. Put simply, it is a masterpiece of event cinema. When Gareth Edwards was announced as the director, I felt it was an interesting choice. I had mostly enjoyed his debut feature Monsters but was curious if his talk heavy, light on action independent film was due to budget or if that was his preferred style. The last Indie darling to be handed an iconic monster movie was Ang Lee and the result was the daddy issue snorefest that was Hulk.
Edwards does not make the same mistake. Here he creates some of the most jaw dropping scenes that have ever graced a cinema screen. Monster Vs Monster smack-downs (no Godzuki, sadly), oceans rising and entire cities being levelled. He holds nothing back. Godzilla’s full reveal is a lesson in suspense. There are half glimpses of various parts of the creature to tantalize and tease before we are treated to a full shot of the king of the monsters.
This is not to say the director has chosen style over substance and this is clearly evident in his choice of cast. Forgoing the A-list name above the title actors and instead assembling a cast who treat the material with the seriousness of a Shakespearean play. Bryan Cranston has emerged from Breaking Bad as one of the best and most in demand actors in the game right now. Here, he adds a heft and heart to his role as a man racked with guilt over his part in a family tragedy. The scene with Cranston helplessly looking on as he is forced to make an impossible decision with regards to his family shows him at his brilliant best. Watching him devour the screen every bit as much as his 350ft co-star is amazing. To think, if it weren’t for Walter White, one of the great acting talents of our time would have been forever known as Malcolm in the Middle’s dad. He is supported by Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick Ass) as his son, with the vehicular sounding name of Ford Brody. Elizabeth Olsen plays Ford’s wife Elle and adding to the Jaws homage, their son is called Sam, which is Quint’s first name. The two will be seen together again next year as the super siblings Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in Avengers: Age Of Ultron.
To say too much about the plot would ruin perhaps the best event movie since Jurassic Park. The movie does not skimp on story and never descends into a clichéd man Vs military/America-is-awesome, that so many of these films tend to do. At its heart there is a real message about man’s interference with nature, with a chilling reminder that at any time Mother Nature can remind us that we are the ones under her control and not the other way around. The monster himself is a beautiful design, paying homage to past incarnations but definitely one they have made their own. He feels real and every roar and step is felt. There are moments when his eyes alone convey more depth and emotion than a million Kirsten Stewarts. One moment in particular, showing almost a glimmer of understanding between man and beast, is beautifully understated. Capturing in one moment what the recent Amazing Spider-Man 2 failed to do in the cringe worthy scene with the child.
Overall, the film is an undoubted triumph and one that needs to be seen on the biggest screen you can find. IMAX 3D has always seemed somewhat gimmicky to me, Gravity being an example of one that worked in that medium but does not not carry its resonance over to the small screen. However, I don’t see Godzilla having this problem. This will be a film I will be re-watching for years to come. Step aside Cloverfield, back to the ocean with the Kaiju of Pacific Rim and as for King Kong, as the song says “Whats a King to a God?”.
The true king of the monsters has reclaimed his throne.
Long live the King
5 out of 5 Nerds (because we don’t have 6)