Forget Roland Emmerich’s 1998 version of Godzilla. Erase it from your memory. Gareth Edwards gives us the big budget version of the iconic Toho Studios monster that we always wanted.
Setting-up the history of the nuclear age in the opening credits, Godzilla then shifts the focus to the Japanese nuclear disaster in 1999 before segueing into present day where Aaron Taylor-Johnson tries to connect with his father (Breaking Bad‘s Bryan Cranston), who has become obsessed with the incident, believing that there was more to it than authorities have divulged. He’s right, as a pair of Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism (M.U.T.Os) threaten the planet. Salvation rests in the hands of Godzilla – the only beast equipped to handle such deadly terrors.
Edwards’s film has an impressive build-up, keeping the creatures in the dark and shadows. Much like with his earlier movie, Monsters, the director shows restraint in showing his beasts. We’re in an age when CGI spectacle is what sells tickets but Edwards holds back on seeing the money shots until the end. This could have been a film where CGI giants fight and destroy cities and while there is enough destruction to satisfy action fans, there’s a certain amount of restraint on show.
Godzilla features an impressive ensemble cast (Cranston and Taylor-Johnson are joined by Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins and David Strathairn) who give the events a certain believability. The cast adds a human element to the film which could have been lost if another director had been at the helm. I wasn’t a fan of Edwards’ low-budget Monsters, even though the concept was intriguing. That monster-mash didn’t have a pay-off (although the character elements seem to have laid the roots for Godzilla), but he more than makes up with that film’s shortcomings with this big budget hit.
The original Japanese Godzilla films were a reaction to the Atomic bomb and the events in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and this new interpretation covers similar socio-political ground. The post 9/11 world, international terrorism and global warfare all play a part in Edwards’ film. This is very different from Emmerich’s 1998 film which was made in a time when the destruction of skyscrapers were a novelty designed to sell toys rather than a reality.
Entertaining without giving the impression it has been dumbed-down to reach a mass audience, Godzilla is a modern big-budget summer movie which is a pleasure to watch. Classically produced, but with a modern sheen, Gareth Edwards has brought the iconic Toho character back to the big screen in impressive fashion. Legendary Pictures now has the opportunity to build on this new interpretation and deliver a series of screen adventures which should thrill audiences across the globe.
A selection of behind-the-scenes featurettes add a bit of context to the film and show how Godzilla was brought back to the screen. Like a lot of modern releases, this lacks a longer piece to get into the nitty-gritty, but it’s still a strong disc.