Godzilla has form: he’s flattened Tokyo, made a fool of himself in New York and teamed up with a cute sidekick for a best-forgotten cartoon series. Now everyone’s favourite mean, green, city-stomping machine gets the big-budget 3D treatment courtesy of Brit director Gareth Edwards, whose 2010 DIY indie ‘Monsters’ impressed many. If all you need for a good time is full-on shots of wondrously realised CGI creatures turning to the camera and giving an almighty spit-flecked roar, you’re in luck.
But those hoping this ‘Godzilla’ might have brains as well as bulk could be disappointed. It starts strongly, with eerie stock footage of Pacific nuclear tests followed by a nailbiting opening sequence at a Fukushima-style power plant, bluntly but effectively echoing the original 1954 film’s post-Hiroshima atomic angst. Flash forward 14 years and we find chief engineer Joe (Bryan Cranston) obsessed with theories about the accident, while his estranged son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) tries to bring his dad back down to earth. Then something stirs in the deep…
Edwards is an absolute whiz when it comes to creature design. Godzilla himself is chunky, tactile and pleasingly old fashioned, particularly in comparison with Roland Emmerich’s ornate, spiky 1998 reboot, while his adversaries, the winged, insectoid Muto (aka Mothra), are delightfully grotesque.
But his handling of storytelling is not so confident: following a couple of gripping action scenes (and one distracting plotting blunder early on), ‘Godzilla’ settles into a simple, fairly standard cross-Pacific chase movie. The script is derivative and lacks humour, and the characterisation is weak: actors like Sally Hawkins and Ken Watanabe have little to do, while a bland Taylor-Johnson is miscast as the square-jawed hero. It’s fun to watch scaly, skyscraper-sized behemoths lay waste to civilisation, but a bit more human drama would be welcome.