Does Gareth Edward’s reboot do the king of all monsters justice? Let’s find out…
It’s been 60 years since Godzilla first appeared on screen, emerging from the ocean to wreak havoc on the city of Tokyo. Since then, we’ve seen the gigantic prehistoric creature transition from antagonist to hero and back again, with the bulk of his cinematic adventures featuring battles against other gargantuan monsters. But one thing remains unchanged regardless of whether he is being portrayed as the hero or villain; Godzilla will always be a terrifying, unstoppable force of nature.
The film opens in 1999, with nuclear physicist Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) researching a strange pattern of seismic activity that could threaten the stability of the Japanese nuclear power plant where he and his wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche) work. Officials dismiss the readings as aftershocks from an earthquake in the Philippines, but Joe suspects otherwise.
Meanwhile Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and his partner, Dr. Graham (Sally Hawkins), chopper into a Filipino mine, where they discover a pod containing a MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) and evidence of another MUTO that has escaped.
It turns out that the nuclear plant where Joe and Sandra work are unknowingly producing the MUTO’s life source. Cue the tremors. Start the explosions.
Something causes a breach at the plant and the whole facility is destroyed. Joe is forced to leave his now infected wife to die, meaning that their son Ford will have to grow up without a mother. The accident is put down as a natural disaster, but the scientific genius knows better than that.
Fifteen years after the ‘accident’ at the nuclear power plant, Joe Brody joins forces with his soldier son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) to eke out the truth of what really happened. What they uncover is prelude to global-threatening devastation.
Ford is an explosives expert working for the Navy. He thinks his father is crazy, preferring to spend time in San Francisco with his nurse wife, Elle (Elizabeth Olsen), and their young son, Sam (Carson Bolde).
The area surrounding the nuclear power plant is still under quarantine. Joe has become obsessed with discovering the source of the accident, and his current research indicates that the same incident that destroyed his life is on the verge of happening again. Ford reluctantly agrees to help out his father and before long the duo find themselves back at the site of the accident, where the Japanese government is hiding something big. Something very big.
Soon enough all hell breaks loose and Dr. Serizawa looks to the nuclear physicist and his son to help. The world’s most famous monster is pitted against the malevolent MUTO creatures who, bolstered by humanity’s scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence.
Edwards uses a technique similar to that used in Jurassic Park, he slowly ratchets up the tension and then begins doling out the big reveals in smaller doses. He also wisely showcases nearly every bit of action from eye- level, giving us a uniquely human perspective on the breath-taking scope of the destruction. This helps keep the audience captive and ensures their investment in the plight of the regular-sized characters.
My only criticism is the MUTO’s. The tardigrade-like, multi-legged monsters were not in any way menacing. It’s hard to be scared of something that looks as though it was drawn using a ruler.
Fans have finally been given the Godzilla film they’ve been dreaming of, one that honours the memory of the original whilst simultaneously erasing the painful memory of Roland Emmerich’s 1999 attempt.
By Ruth Walker