As a child of the late nineties and early noughties, my younger years were full of car-crash blockbusters that failed to impress critics but made a lot of money. As a result of this, a small percentage of my recent years have been spent rediscovering the truth about these films. Movies that enthralled me at the age of eight, turned out to be thoroughly disappointing, cringe-worthy disasters. From The Phantom Menace to Deep Impact, reliving films I loved as a child is always somewhat nostalgic and disheartening. Of all the nineties stinkers that fooled me at the time, Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla was perhaps the most dramatically deceiving. Fifteen years later, the special effects are horrendously dated and the whole film is blatantly soulless. A decade and a half on, I now have a deeper knowledge, understanding and appreciation of cinema and its history which now makes me aware of Emmerich version’s disloyalty to the original Japanese Kaiju franchise.
I am certainly no Godzilla fan girl. I don’t claim to know the franchise particularly well but I am an appreciator of great cinema and nothing makes me happier than a blockbuster with bite. By bite, I mean substance – and unconvincing green-screen monsters just don’t cut it any more. Gareth Edwards brings us the latest adaptation of Godzilla. The Monsters director demonstrated his ability to expertly handle monstrous threat and foreign-bodied life in his debut. His take on Godzilla certainly feels like the work of the same film-maker; a film also visually impressive and moving, but slightly flawed at times. Edwards has a knack for presenting monstrous beasts whilst questioning whether or not they are ‘monsters’. I was not impressed with Edward’s character writing and found his protagonists the most irritating thing about Monsters. Luckily, writer Max Borenstein has brought more complex characters to Godzilla who are believable but perhaps a little dull. Bryan Cranston’s performance is exceptional. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is a more conventionally stiff monster-movie character and this talented actor does his best with what he’s given. Equally great performances comes from Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche and Sally Hawkins, although Hawkins’ character is not treated with enough care or given enough attention.
Replacing the silliness of Emmerich’s version with an emotional drive, Edward’s Godzilla is evidently made with love and affection. The film obviously comes from the minds of people who have a deep appreciation for the original series which only makes the film more enriched in meaning and purpose. The narrative loses its way at times but comes back gradually, building to a stupendous final act. I have a lot of respect for whoever decided that this would only be a two hour film. Godzilla refuses to succumb to the foolish notion that all blockbusters should now be no less than a hundred and fifty minutes – and it is all the better for it. I do not recall feeling that any sequences were particularly long or pointless and the film manages to develop character, story and suspense within its two hour running time. At its worst, Godzilla feels a little too Cloverfield-esque and there is perhaps too much use of the shaky camera. Alternatively, at its best, oh boy, at its best it will blow your mind with just how epic it gets. If you can sit through an hour of set-up and back-story, you’re in for a heart-pounding treat. Be patience and you shall reap the rewards.
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3 responses to “Godzilla.”
The best thing I can say about Godzilla is that it seemed to me made by someone who loved Godzilla movies and Kaiju cinema. I avoided the 90s Godzilla but having grown to love the Japanese Monster from Destroy all Monsters (late night, Ch4, after the first Vic Reeves Big Night Out series) onwards I could not resist this.
It follows familiar Kaiju and Japanese cinematic traditions. Its a broad brush that paints Kurosawa and Honda as the same style but there is an element in Japanese cinema that presents the journey as being as important as the destination which is why if one were to watch a classic of the genre – Ebirah, Terror of the Deep – one would notice that Godzilla does not do anything except swim until 89 of 92 minutes when he turns up and rips Giant Lobster Ebirah’s claws off. The rest of the time is army men running around. Likewise collecting the Seven Samurai is two thirds of the picture. The Hidden Fortress is all journey.
Watching Godzilla 2014 honoured that. Godzilla in small doses, and with superb effect. And so as a Godzilla fan I approved.
Glad you thought so Michael. I am not knowledgable about the origins but could see the appreciation and thought it was handled with care.
Great review Hannah. I feel like Edwards was trying to distance this too far from the awful 1998 version. It means its all far too serious and glum. I loved when Godzilla shows up but before that I was pretty bored.