As the camera zooms in and Godzilla opens his jaws, you hear a roar so thunderous you expect your 3D glasses to shake. Unfortunately this infamous sound is pretty much the only thing Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla gets right. Taking a wildly different approach to the age-old Japanese story than the 1989 version, Godzilla promised to be one of the most exciting movie releases of the year but sadly couldn’t live up to the hype.
Getting off to a brilliant start, the film sees Bryan Cranston and his family living in Japan when tragedy strikes at the nuclear power plant where he and his wife work. Flash forward 15 years and his little boy is all grown up (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and happily married to Elizabeth Olsen. As long as you don’t feel the need to question how someone so young has become an army officer, married a trained nurse and had a 5-year-old boy of his own, so far so good.
But no sooner are we witnessing the bliss of family life than Taylor-Johnson is called away to bail his deadbeat father out of a Japanese jail and try to convince him to let go of the past. Bryan Cranston gives a heartbreakingly convincing performance as the man who’s lost everything, only to have his screen time cut inexcusably short. Sadly, after that it’s pretty much down hill.
After setting the movie up almost perfectly, someone obviously decided that that was more than enough context for one action movie and devoted the last two thirds of the film to massive action shots of monsters. What’s the problem with that you ask? Well, it might look pretty amazing but it does start to get boring very quickly. Plus, if you missed the beginning, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were just watching Pacific Rim again.
Without Cranston to anchor him Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s character floats through the rest of the movie aimlessly trying to get home but never quite succeeding. Furthermore, whilst it made total sense for him to be in the army, audiences will still find themselves questioning how one man could possible be the sole survivor of so many monster attacks.
With Taylor-Johnson left little more to work with than a couple of lines and a constant look of shock, we turn to his wife Elizabeth Olsen. Conveniently working as nurse in the very city that’s about to be attacked, we’re treated to a few shots of her looking worried at a TV and very little else. By the end of the film it’s a struggle to remember if you even care what happens to them.
Whilst this version does stay truer to the original Godzilla story (with him fighting other monsters rather than trying to single-handily destroy New York), that doesn’t mean it makes more sense. Although the supporting cast of scientists and army generals go to great pains to portray Godzilla as our saviour, it’s never really explained why he’s doing what he’s doing. All in all, considering the movie’s named after him, Godzilla really has more of a bit part.
It’s not all bad news though. Despite the mediocrity that dominates most of the film, the beginning is genuinely very good and enough to keep you watching until the end. Other highlights include Godzilla’s epic fire-breathing (amazing!), and some spectacular 3D scenes - watch out for Taylor-Johnson’s sky-diving.
If you’re a massive action junkie who doesn’t mind Godzilla taking a back seat and questionable plot points, then you can head to the cinema knowing your money will be well spent. However, if you’re looking for Edwards to take this classic monster story to the next level and reintroduce an exciting new Godzilla to Hollywood, you’re in for some disappointment.