Gigantic Nuclear Proportions

Godzilla

godzilla_ver4

Director: Gareth Edwards

Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Sally Hawkins, Ken Watanabe, Juliette Binoche, David Strathairn

At the heart of any disaster film, is the struggle of a nuclear family to survive the impending devastation. The brilliant film The Impossible directed by J. A. Bayona about the 2005 Boxing Day Tsunami which wrecked Thailand and beyond proves that.

The Original 1956 Godzilla film

The Original 1956 Godzilla film

In the 2014 remake of the Japanese director Ishiro Honda’s http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishir%C5%8D_Honda original 1956 classic Godzilla, King of Monsters, director Gareth Edwards retains the Japanese mythology of Godzilla setting the 21st century Godzilla in a range of Asian Pacific rim cities from San Francisco to Honolulu to Tokyo. Assembling an all star and eclectic cast similar to Guillero del Toro’s Pacific Rim, director Edwards adds a global flavour to this ultimate retro Asian inspired disaster movie.

With an international mix of supporting stars like Bryan Cranston (Argo), Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine, Great Expectations), little seen Oscar winner Juliette Binoche (The English Patient), Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai) and David Strathairn (Good Night and Good Luck), Godzilla boasts an impressive cast to support the rising stars Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Anna Karenina, Savages) who star as Elle and Ford Brody who have a young son Sam, played by Carson Bolde.

As the looming threat of nuclear transformed monsters emerging from the depths of the Pacific Ocean looms, it is this nuclear family that Godzilla focuses its narrative on, not that there is much deep characterization necessary or acting to make Godzilla credible. Serving as a historic metaphor for the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ending World War II and permanently etched in the Japanese psyche, Godzilla become a symbol of all that was wrong with nuclear energy and its transformative effects on the natural world, creating gigantic monsters as a horrific by product of nuclear testing in the South Pacific.

Director Gareth Edwards as a former visual effects artist for a range of scientific TV series (Perfect Disasters, Space Race), naturally in this version of Godzilla, the monsters and special effects take precedence over the acting, leaving the talented cast literally dwarfed by the sheer scale of Godzilla and its two malignant monsters the Moto. Visually this is where Godzilla excels especially in 3D maybe not to the imaginative scale of Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim, but definitely in the set design and the sheer scope of this disaster film, as the action moves swiftly from the Philippines to Japan to the Californian Coastline and beyond. Even sin city, Vegas is not spared by the wrath of these  destructive creatures.

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Godzilla will surely impress audiences with all the mayhem, dazzling visual effects and sheer destruction on screen, however the second half of the film is literally overshadowed by utter devastation to such an extent that it does not make the action seem plausible. Whole cities from Honolulu to San Francisco and parts of Tokyo are destroyed inconsequentially as these monsters play havoc with nature and humanity.

Unfortunately the action erases any attempts at credible acting but then again this is a fantasy disaster movie of nuclear proportions. Cranston and Binoche are underutilized and Taylor-Johnson and Olsen are left struggling to survive this horrific assault on themselves and their city, whilst protecting their only son. The action sequences are incredible especially the Hawaii and Honoulu devastation which is like a combination of Jurassic Park and The Impossible on acid.

For viewers that enjoy big budget disaster movies like Pacific Rim, then Godzilla is not to be missed. What is noteworthy is the allusion in Godzilla to the many natural disasters that Japan has suffered recently from the Fukushima nuclear leak in 2011 following the devastating earthquake which destroyed Sendai.

Director Gareth Edwards does his best to maintain a balance between the characters survival narrative, and a visually impressive disaster film which pays homage to its unique Japanese heritage. Its Godzilla which ultimately triumphs leaving the cast a little underutilized and at times superfluous to the incredible spectacle of the King of Monsters battling its alien nuclear usurpers against an obliterated urban landscape.

 

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