Contemporary Kaiju carnage
Is the King Of The Monsters the King Of The Reboots? The big budget Kaiju bonanza stomps onto DVD and Blu- ray.
Our patience is rewarded in the third act, in which Godzilla finally enters into battle
Release Date: 27 October 2014 | 12 | 118 minutes | £ 29.99 ( Blu- ray 3D)/£ 24.99 ( Blu- ray)/£ 19.99 ( DVD) Director: Gareth Edwards Cast: Aaron Taylor- Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen,
Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn
If all you
really care about when it comes to a new Hollywood take on Godzilla is that it doesn’t commit the kind of crimes against canon Roland Emmerich’s 1998 movie did, then you’ll be satisfied with Gareth Edwards’s version. Edwards doesn’t make big G scamper around like an over- sized iguana, rather than stomping about like an angry hod- carrier in platform boots. Neither does he strive to shrink the action down to human scale by aping Jurassic Park and unleashing Raptor- like Babyzillas. The look is faithfully scaly- spined; the roar is right; the atomic breath is present and correct. Edwards also knows that what most people really want from this franchise are epic rumbles – the monster movie equivalent of WWE. Once you’ve ticked off everything on your list of demands and breathed a huge sigh of relief, however, it may strike you that the Monsters director’s take on the King Of The Monsters does have its issues.
In part these are to do with the problems of squaring fidelity to the source material with the demands of a modern blockbuster and a more sceptical, demanding audience. The high- concept is essentially silly, yet toss it out and you risk being on the receiving end of a fanboy fatwa. This leaves Edwards struggling to present a universe that seems plausible, yet in which a 300- foothigh lizard selflessly acts as the protector of humanity. Pity poor Ken Watanabe, twice tasked with delivering unconvincing dialogue about how Godzilla is an agent of nature, here to restore balance. Getting the balance right between showing the spectacle and maintaining audience anticipation is also a terribly tricky business.
The film is at its most successful in its opening third, which ( righting another of Emmerich’s wrongs) kicks off in Japan, and eases in Kaijuphobes by disguising itself as a comparatively sober thriller with a tinge of The X- Files. Bryan Cranston is excellent as Joe Brody, a nuclear physicist turned conspiracy nut obsessed with unearthing the truth about the nuclear reactor breach that claimed his wife’s life. Cranston projects Joe’s anguished monomania with Godzilla- like force, but sadly is awfully underused; when the focus shifts to his son, a navy ordnance technician, the film loses one of the most powerful weapons in its armoury. Ford Brody ( Aaron Taylor- Johnson) is a capable but cookie- cutter hero, who until the plot finds something for him to defuse, seems to have little to do, and makes equally little impression. Say what you like about the Emmerich movie, but at least Matthew Broderick’s geeky scientist was vaguely memorable.
Entering its second phase, Godzilla starts to echo globe- hopping disaster movies like World War Z. Flaunting its scale, it positively bristles with hardware; a Godzilla drinking game that involved downing a shot every time a military chopper was on- screen would undoubtedly end in liver failure. This section also suggests that when Gareth Edwards undresses for bed at night, he does so while humming “The Stripper” and seductively twirling his socks around: frankly, the man is one hell of a tease. Once not one but three giant monsters are in position on the board, it becomes increasingly frustrating that we’re only allowed fleeting glimpses of them, rampaging across 24- hour news in the background, or receding into the distance as the camera focuses on the aftermath of destruction rather than actually showing it in progress.
Our much- tested patience is rewarded in the third act, in which Godzilla finally enters into brutal, bestial battle. There are some particularly memorable moments here: skydivers leaping out of a plane
over San Francisco to the unearthly strains of György Ligeti’s “Requiem” ( soundtrack to the obelisk in 2001); the sight of Godzilla emerging from plumes of smoke and bellowing in rage. But again, there’s a tension between verisimilitude and the demands of the genre. It’s logical that these titanic scraps take place shrouded in flying debris ( it’s impossible not to think of New York streets filling with clouds of pulverised masonry as the Twin Towers tumbled down). But it’s frustrating not to be able to get a clearer view of the action. It’s like watching WrestleMania through a bonfire. Plus, the fighting feels like it’s over too quickly. Maybe the idea is to leave us hungry for more. Regardless, the longer the film progresses, the more you realise just how difficult it is to make a Godzilla flick in the year 2014. Gareth Edwards has made a very good stab at it, but perhaps a “great modern Godzilla movie” is simply a contradiction in terms.
Extras: Buy the DVD and you get just two short Making Of featurettes. “A Whole New Level Of Destruction” ( eight minutes) gives you a glimpse of the perverse power wielded by Hollywood directors: when Edwards decides that a brand new car that’s part of the set dressing looks a little too pristine, they casually squash it with a bloody great concrete block. Don’t park across his driveway. “Ancient Enemy: The MUTOs” ( seven minutes), includes interesting glimpses of the concept art for Godzilla’s adversaries. Buy the Blu- ray ( rated) and you get two more featurettes ( 23 minutes), which focus on reinventing Godzilla and the skydiving sequence. Fourteen minutes of leaked “classified files” complete the package.
I am lizard: hear me roar.