Film Review: ‘Godzilla’ Is A Monster Treat

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Godzilla-vs-BridgeBy John Lyons

ENGLISH director Gareth Edwards has wanted to be a filmmaker since he was a child.

Like most cinema lovers who dream of one day making their own films, Gareth realised that if he wanted to make a film, he was going to have to pick up a camera and do it himself.

Unlike most of us dreamers however, Gareth stopped aspiring and starting doing something. Using cheap consumer-grade equipment, two professional actors and a crew of just five people – Gareth travelled across Mexico and the US to make a low-budget film about a post-apocalyptic world where giant monsters had inhabited our planet.

With just the loose outline of a script, locations that they just happened to come across, and a budget that was close to nothing, anyone would’ve easily dismissed this as a fools endeavour. A man with nothing more than a camera and a far-fetched dream.

Gareth spent over a year processing the footage on his home computer and digitally animating all the monsters solely by himself.

The resulting film, Monsters, was absolutely stellar. The film catapulted Edwards to fame in the indie-film community. And if Hollywood loves anything, it’s the story of an underdog.

Around this time, some folks at Warner Bros. were looking for a director for their new Godzilla reboot. They hired Edwards.

In all the interviews leading up to the release of the film, the filmmakers kept alluding to the fact that their goal was to make a monster movie with a human story at its core. The film wastes no time finding that human story.

At the beginning of the film we’re introduced to the Brody family, consisting of Elle (Juliette Binoche), Joe (Bryan Cranston) and their young son — Ford. They’re living in Japan in 1999.

Joe and Elle are two expert nuclear physicists working at the local power plant. Joe is growing concerned about the current seismic activity in the ocean, and sends his wife along with a team of scientists into the core of the nuclear reactor in order to find the source of the mysterious tremors.

Disaster soon strikes, the city is evacuated and there’s a particularly emotionally gripping scene with Joe and Elle. Twenty minutes into the film and it seemed like the filmmakers were accomplishing their goal. But then something odd happened…

We jump fifteen years into the future and the protagonist shifts from Joe to his son, Ford (Aaron Taylor Johnson), now a grown man with a wife and son.

Ford is working as a bomb disposal expert for the military. I don’t understand this, the opening disaster scene was wonderful, it had the human story that the filmmakers wanted to captivate us with. We’re now empathising with Bryan Cranston’s character… why are we suddenly shifting protagonists?

I find it so odd that this was the main problem that the film had. The problem with most modern monster-movies is that they rely too heavily on, what I like to call, the ‘Jaws-effect’, i.e. in the first half-hour of the film we see people’s reactions to seeing the creature.

Then about an hour in we’ll see a shadow of the creature, then a foot, then a quick glimpse at it’s face, etc. In the third act we see the entire thing, and the film promptly wraps up and the credits roll. Yawn.

Thankfully however, Edwards and his team have taken the King Kong approach to revealing their creatures. At a certain point in the film, the creature emerges – we see it from head to toe in all it’s magnificent glory – and then we get on with the film.

The creature is just another character. It’s this bold move that saves the film from being just another run-of-the-mill monster movie.

Edwards seeded a human story in the film, but shot himself in the foot by switching protagonist. However, even though Ford is a dull, stone-faced, and frankly uninteresting military-type – because Edwards doesn’t treat his titular character as a gimmick, he rectifies the film.

Ford’s journey takes us through action packed Man vs. Monster scenes. These are full of superbly-timed moments of suspense that had me, at times, gasping aloud and squirming in my seat.

Once Godzilla is given his godly King-Kongesque entrance, he completely steals the third act. The film may have an uninspired protagonist, and too many characters altogether, but there’s never a dull moment.

The creatures are incredibly designed, the suspense scenes are wonderful and there’s plenty of Spielberg-influenced moments of spectacle scattered throughout.

Legendary Pictures and Warner Brothers have made a new entry in the series that’s perfectly fitting for the creature’s 60th birthday.


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