Review – Godzilla
2014’s Godzilla kicked off Legendary’s MonsterVerse series and is its best offering so far with its well negotiated balance of character drama and monster fighting inducing destruction chaos.
Hollywood’s last run at the famous Japanese character of Godzilla was Roland Emmerich’s 1998 Godzilla film which never really got anywhere and quickly saw off any ideas of a cinematic series for the monster and his pals.
Legendary pictures brought it back 16 years later with english director Gareth Edwards at the helm, with a script that was written by Max Borenstein (actually his first major film script although we now know that he would go on to co write the stories for Kong : Skull Island and Godzilla : King of the Monsters).
The film opens with a disaster in a Japanese nuclear power plant following mysterious seismic activities. 15 years later a scientist from that disaster (Bryan Cranston) remains obsessed that there has been a cover up of what really happened, and that other events are afoot. This runs concurrent to storylines following his son (Aaron Taylor – Johnson) returning to his wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and child, and investigations into previous encounters with monsters conducted by Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins.
Inevitably, what begins to play out is a set of disasters involving a MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestial Organism) which is feeding on nuclear power. In response, we see the arrival of Godzilla and all manner of destruction plays out.
What I enjoyed about this film, is the is manages to avoid just letting CGI take complete control of this film and solidly grounds the story in the human characters. We all sense where the plot is heading in its broadest sense, but it is the characters that are credible and developed early in the film that maintains jeopardy and engagement.
It is a very different approach to what took place in 1998, and frankly what was lost by the time that the film made it to the direct sequel (which Edwards was not available for).
Ultimately in this sort of box office blockbuster cinema, CGI effects can only take a film so far, and without any sort of good story and engaging characters underpinning it, you end up with the later Transformers movies. What works here is exactly that, the characters, and story keeps you interested whilst skyscrapers collapse left right and centre in the last third of the film.
It worked well enough to set off a new franchise for Legendary and that remains strong with planned films in the future. I’m sure that was everything that was hoped for at the time.