Thursday, 22 May 2014

Godzilla


Slow. Sooo slow. But epic. Sooo epic. 

In 1999, a group of scientists, including Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) unearth a colossal skeleton of a creature in a quarry. The skeleton holds two eggs, one of which has hatched and the creature has escaped into the sea. Fifteen years later, Joe's son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a bomb disposal officer, lives with his wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and young son. However, he receives a call stating that his father has been arrested in Japan for entering the now quarantined area of the nuclear power plant. When he arrives, Joe convinces Ford that the creature could be returning. Soon later, the original creature breaks free from its egg and releases itself into the world, but that isn't the only creature waiting to surface.

Godzilla is preposterous. There's no getting past it; the sheer concept of Godzilla in itself is painfully silly and you can't expect any film about it to have any sense of realism. In this sense, Gareth Edwards' Godzilla meets expectations. But, thankfully, this Godzilla outing is as epic as it is silly. This is only Edwards' second feature film, following on from his incredible Monsters a few years back. From a $500K budget to a $160million budget is one hell of a leap. I almost believe Edwards couldn't hand this jump; a lot of time in Godzilla is wasted on a lot of nothingness, but when they do get a chance to show off their visuals, boy was it worth it.

The main problem with Godzilla is its plotting. It has already been criticised for its slow start, but I really didn't expect it to be this slow. I get that Edwards wanted to develop the story and the characters, instead of throwing us into a frenzy of VFX and monsters. But by the time we reach the explosive final act, the characters are still annoyingly bland. Taylor-Johnson's Ford is a about as lifeless as protagonists can come; a guy who spends the entire first act moaning at his father for taking things into his own hands, then suddenly does the same in the film's final moments without a word of warning. Maybe this was Edwards' attempt of character development, but it failed. The plot is built up rather nicely, making the big Godzilla reveal even more tantalizing, but for a film that spends its first 75 minutes developing its characters, none of them wind up all that interesting come the payoff.

But, what a payoff. The characters may be stretched thin and Godzilla's face itself may be more welcoming than scary, but the scale of the action in Godzilla's final act is extraordinary. I'm glad Edwards didn't waste too much time on humans shooting at the monsters (of which there are three); it was always inevitable this wouldn't work. Thankfully, more time is spent watching the monsters take on each other. Think of it as a far slower paced edition of Pacific Rim, just, y'know, without the robots. The visual effects here are sublime; while it may never feel real due to its ridiculously silly premise, it sure as hell looks real on screen. If you don't have a slight excitable giggling fit when Godzilla first breathes fire then you probably don't deserve to be watching the film.

Overall, though, Godzilla is a real mixed bag of a film. Everything you'd expect to work, does. Everything you'd expect to fall flat, also does. But, let's face it, you don't go to Godzilla for the human characters. You go to see huge monsters punching and kicking the shit out of each other, and in that respect, Godzilla succeeds. I just wish it didn't take so long to get there, especially when it all feels worthless by the end. After 75 minutes of development, the human characters are still about as flat as the city after Godzilla was done with it. If the pay-off wasn't to the level it was, Godzilla would be one huge disappointment. But thanks to the sheer level of carnage and action in the film's final act, Godzilla keeps it interesting enough to warrant our attention. Hey, at least it was better than the 1998 version, huh?

To Summarise: It suffers from plotting issues and weakly drawn characters, but Godzilla's strong visual effects, epic action and colossal scale make it a monster film worth watching.

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