DIRECTOR: Gareth Edwards
May Contain Spoilers!
Will we be adding this to our collection? YES
Godzilla or Gojira in its native Japanese, like all great science fiction, is reflection of the film-making sensibilities of the day, with Toho’s original 1954 post Hiroshima/Nagasaki catharsis piece, Gojira, to Roland Emmerich’s fun but misjudged and frankly childish 1998 reboot. But 2014 has seen the post Nolan and 9/11 take on the established franchise, with Monsters director, Gareth Edwards, braking through with his shoestring budgeted indie monster flick, Monsters (2010), going to great lengths to humanise, justify and make sense of the franchise which had become a series monster mash-up in big cities.
The tone is darker, grittier, which only harks back to the original which whilst shot on a low budget and with some of the effects being nothing short of laughable, even by 1954’s standards, the heart of the Japanese original was very much on its sleeve. Using Godzilla as metaphor the U.S. A-Bombing of Japan at the end of World War 2, the nuclear beast would reek havoc until a greater, even more destructive bomb is used to defeat him. But the film also goes to great lengths to debate the morality of using such a device and unleashing its power on the world who would no doubt pervert its noble use and it on each other.
In short, Gojira is more than just a monster b-movie about a nuclear monster, it was a character based drama and Edwards has brought this element back to the fore with this reboot. But he isn’t entirely successful in this character drama but for a monster movie such as this where the main attraction is in fact Godzilla, he’s succeeded above an beyond what was necessary, at times, brilliantly, such as the opening sequence with the nuclear disaster in Japan which packs an emotional punch and makes excellent use of its stars, Juliette Binoche and Bryan Cranston.
The plot is narrativly driven in a way that draws you deeper into the reasons as to why Godzilla ends up where he does and impacts the world in the way that he does. The action makes sense and is phenomenal, with a documentary style and point of view leading the way, but there’s plenty to see and the build up is classic Speilberg, and it’s hard to successfully to evoke Speilberg’s style without looking cheap. J.J. Abrams with Super 8 (2010) is another example how to succeed but so is this.
The U.S. Armed forces are portrayed brilliantly here too, seeming professional, reserved and intent on containment and evacuations rather than the usual cliched futile efforts to kill the rampaging beast. Lead by David Strathairn, this is how any military force should be portrayed, but the U.S. army has a tendency to be shown in a gung-ho manner, but not here. There’s still plenty of destruction to go round. Ken Watanabe’s scientist who is tracking Godzilla evokes, as does so much of this film, the original, but there are so many subtle twists which turn what we know on its head.
Overall, this was a brilliant second feature for the young British born director, who made his name with a micro budgeted film about monsters and he has managed to maintain his artistic integrity against the odds with this $200 million dollar blockbuster, reinvigorating the slumbering franchise with a sequel already green-lit.