Directed - Gareth EdwardsStarring - Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe.
In 1954 the Toho Film Company made a picture about a huge dinosaur-like monster that rampaged through Tokyo. It was only 93 minutes long but it spawned a legend that has lasted 60 years and 28 (Japanese) films. I am, of course, referring to the colossus that is Godzilla.
Fast forward to 2014 and the newest incarnation of the world's most famous kaiju. Godzilla is an icon and the director, Gareth Edwards, had a mammoth task to overcome; how to bring the monster into the 21st Century without angering the fans.
The film begins with some original opening credits; words are redacted before the viewers' eyes, leaving only the names of the cast. This plays out over footage, supposedly from the 1950s, showing radars, military personnel and, finally, a large nuclear explosion at Bikini Atoll (the first of many references to actual events and /or classic [Godzilla](movie:45291) movies ).
We jump to 1999 and meet Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) who is investigating the skeleton of a large, prehistoric creature found in the Philippines. Then we zoom over to Japan where Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) is concerned about the nuclear plant where he works. Disaster obviously ensues and what follows is a sequence reminiscent of the Fukushima disaster which occurred only a few years ago.
And now we are up to date. Joe's son, Ford, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, is happily living in San Francisco with his wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and young son. At this point I would like to say that I was slightly disturbed at watching these two young actors playing lovers as, in my head, they are the Maximoff siblings (I know, I know, it's not real but I can still have my opinion).
Father and son are eventually reunited and that's where the action really begins.
Cranston is brilliant as a father who feels like he has lost it all; both traumatised and unhinged in equal measure. Watanabe is the yin to Cranston's yang; calm and collected to a point where some of his dialogue is barely above a whisper. The younger actors; Taylor-Johnson and Olsen, are not as strong in their roles. Olsen is not given much to do except cry and run. In fact, one downside of this movie is that there is a distinct lack of strong female characters. Taylor-Johnson has a larger part to play but he doesn't quite fulfil the leading man role. He isn't entirely convincing as an action star but neither plausible as desperate family man. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is a good actor but he wasn't given enough to work with. The script is basic with Cranston's impassioned ranting (heard in the trailer) as the only stand out part.
But to most, it isn't the human cast that people care about. Does the 2014 version of Godzilla make the grade? In short, yes. He bears a resemblance to the original creature but without the look of a rubber suit. You could believe that there is a dinosaur-like monster out there. As you have probably gathered from the many trailers, Godzilla isn't the only kaiju in the movie but I will leave what they are, and why they are there, as a surprise. And then there is THAT roar. Spine tingling with a bass deep enough to turn your internal organs to mush, perfect.
At several points in the film, just as the audience thinks it might be treated to a monster smackdown, the focus is always pulled back to the less interesting human story. However, the final battle is worth waiting for, if not a little short. Gareth Edwards has held enough back for the inevitable sequel (pending box office results).
There are small niggles here and there but I was always a fan of the King of Monsters (another classic reference) and there is enough here to remind us of the creature we fell in love with. Bonus points if you spot the reference to another kaiju which appears in the first half of the film.
Rating - 7/10