An epic rebirth to Toho's iconic Godzilla, this spectacular adventure pits the world's most famous monster against malevolent creatures who, bolstered by humanity's scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence.
Bigger isn't always better. That seems to be the philosophy of Gareth Edwards' Godzilla, a new take on the classic Japanese city-destroying-monster franchise that adopts a slightly more personal angle on the story than we've seen before, with far less of a focus on endless large-scale action than we saw in the previous (1998) American version.
That's not to say that there isn't a decent amount of skyscraper-smashing here - but director Edwards doles it out sparingly, preferring to build tension for the final climactic action scene, rather than blow all of Godzilla's grandeur on earlier clashes with the movie's other monsters.
That's right, there are more weird creatures here than just the eponymous giant lizard. A pair of other strange beasties soon rear their heads, and the movie becomes something of a showdown between the three of them - with Godzilla acting as a sort of hero figure, which makes for a fun twist. And after a couple of initial clashes (during which Edwards teases us with brief glimpses of action so as not to steal the thunder of the last act of the movie), the stage is set for a final blowout battle that doesn't disappoint.
As I said, though, that action - while enjoyable - is not really where the heart of this version of Godzilla lays. Instead, it's more concerned with telling us a story about the people who get involved in the action, which helps to ground the plot in something that we can relate to.
Godzilla's human cast includes an underused Bryan Cranston - fresh from his TV success with Breaking Bad, who takes a far more sympathetic role here as the classic archetypal scientist-who-saw-it-all-coming - as well as an even more underused Juliette Binoche, who makes the most of an ultimately pretty thankless and two-dimensional role that amounts to little more than a glorified cameo.
A younger pair of protagonists, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen, get more of the spotlight as the film rolls on - but for my money, I would have much preferred more of the dramatic weight to have been carried by the frankly far more accomplished Cranston and Binoche. Still, there's a decent amount of human drama here to enjoy, even if it's not of the kind of calibre that's going to win any Oscars.
As well as the character-based aspects of the story, there's also a certain amount of thoughtfulness and intelligence put into creating Godzilla's backstory. The Japanese origins of the franchise are heavily alluded to - including some elements involving a nuclear meltdown that are uncomfortably reminiscent of the real-life Fukushima disaster of just a couple of years ago - while other aspects of the film reference other modern preoccupations, such as the militarised reaction to the 9/11-esque urban terror that's caused by the monsters' rampages, or the giant waves caused by the beasties that evoke the recent tsunamis seen in Asia.
Overall, there's a strong sense that Edwards is making a definite attempt to shackle the ridiculousness of Godzilla's giant-lizard concept to examples of disasters we can all relate to, and it helps to make the threat feel serious and immediate. This, combined with a decent stab at a character-based story to go along with the action, makes for a film that's more compelling and interesting than you might expect.
This might not be a big all-out action film in the same way that the 1998 version was, but it shows you that a less noisy, more focused and more thoughtful approach to these big tentpole franchises can sometimes be more effective than two hours of noise and bluster.
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Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Sally Hawkins star in this science fiction reimagining of the 1954 Japanese film about the destruction caused by a giant monster. When a devastating event is covered up as a natural disaster, nuclear physicist Joe Brody (Cranston) realises something much more sinister is to blame. Scientists Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Watanabe) and Dr. Vivienne Graham (Hawkins) reveal that in 1954 a powerful monster was awakened and though 'nuclear tests' were carried out in the Pacific Ocean to destroy it, the creature has now returned. With the US Armed Forces, including Joe's son Navy Lieutenant Ford Brody (Taylor-Johnson), called into action, humanity fights for its survival. The cast also includes Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche and David Strathairn.
Please note this is a region B Blu-ray and will require a region B or region free Blu-ray player in order to play. The king of all monsters gets a reboot with this production helmed by Gareth Edwards, who gained critical attention with his intimate twist on the giant-creature genre with his feature-film debut, MONSTERS. Frank Darabont (THE MIST) and Max Borenstein provide the script.