Crush, crumble and chomp
As monster movies go, the last 50 minutes or so of this epic are about as awesome as ... wait, cancel that. They have no peer. Yes, there is nothing in the known world or on Skull Island to rival the sheer spectacle of Godzilla’s posterior, a sight that might inspire will.i.am to go back and write a song 20 times more annoying than My Humps.
OK, all kidding aside – although we do see why many diehard fans have been decrying the new Godzilla’s fabulously immense derriere – this movie really does serve up some of the most eye-popping daikaijumayhem since last year’s Pacific Rim.
In terms of pacing, sense of urgency and spectacle, Godzilla’s finale will knock your bloody foot-warmers off, pardon the swearing.
So it’s a curious thing why director Gareth Edwards (who made the acclaimed 2010 sci-fi road movie/romance Monsters) seems to be trapped in indie movie mode for the first half of the film, trading the nothing-left-to-the-imagination slam-bang of summer blockbusters for a lot of buildup, foreshadowing and teasing.
It works sometimes, but is not always necessary – or welcome.
There are moments when it seems like an entire chunk of “epicness” has been cut out; the hullabaloo in Hawaii and a giant monster’s Vegas vacation feel especially truncated, and there’s a little too much aftermath and not enough during-math ... er, whatever – just so Edwards and his visual effects wizards can wow us with the big showdown at the end.
I say thee nay! Gareth, buddy, your budget is a hundred and sixty million this time, not a hundred and sixtythousand. And it’s a summer film. So while I do appreciate what you were going for here, Pacific Rim did prove that you can serve up a lot of giant monster mayhem and those of us geeks who are into this stuff won’t tire of it. Honest.
So what is this new Godzilla all about, you ask. Does it continue the celebrated Toho tradition? Is it a follow-up to the 1998 Roland Emmerich film? Or a reboot to bring the world’s most famous monster to a new generation?
More of that last one, and certainly not disrespectful to the Toho tradition.
Initially presented as a mystery of enormous proportions, with some clever misdirection to keep you off-balance, Godzilla focuses its human drama on one family, the Brodys – Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) and his wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche) are nuclear scientists working at Japan’s Janjira nuclear reactor when calamity befalls the place in 1999.
Fifteen years later, Joe believes that the “event” which turned Janjira into a deserted, quarantined wasteland is about to occur again.
His son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a child at the time of Janjira, is all grown up and in the Navy now, and gets mixed up in his dad’s obsession.
Multi-government conspiracies, ancient radiation-eating beasts – a notion that seems more convincing when you hear it in Ken Watanabe’s strongly-accented English than if some Hollywood type had posited it – and cities in dire peril follow Joe’s ranting and raving in quick succession.
And before you can say “Smog Monster”, the Big G himself shows up to play anti-hero.
It takes a while, though, and the net effect is that there isn’t nearly enough of Godzilla in this movie as we’d like.
Again, we get the whole “less is more” thing, but the film does skirt dangerous territory, that of relegating Godzilla to a guest-starring role in his own reboot.
Even with these little stumbles, Godzilla is a kick-ass monster mash, with some cheer-worthy moments when the big fella performs some of his “signature moves” and shows his enemies who’s the boss.
It’s like a pro wrestling extravaganza, and almost as operatic.