The monster re­turns...

The Church of England - - Reviews - Steve Par­ish

Godzilla (cert. 12A) is back in cin­e­mas, 60 years af­ter Ishir Honda first brought us the king of mon­sters. The di­rec­tor is Gareth Ed­wards, a re­ward for his low budget but highly com­mended in­die film Mon­sters (2010) – and a big budget Mon­sters: Dark Con­ti­nent se­quel is on the way.

Writ­ers Dave Cal­la­ham and Max Boren­stein have stuck closely to the orig­i­nal con­cept – a re­quire­ment of the Godzilla fran­chise – but this Godzilla is even big­ger (he’d al­ready dou­bled in size over the years in line with the height of the Tokyo sky­line). This Godzilla is also cast as hero, sav­ing the world from a cou­ple of mutos - Mas­sive Uniden­ti­fied Ter­res­trial Or­gan­isms, which look more metal­lic than or­ganic.

They’re all dis­turbed by, and feed on, ra­di­a­tion, and the 1950s atom bomb tests are at­trib­uted to, in re­al­ity, at­tempts to kill these crea­tures. Godzilla al­ways was a metaphor for nu­clear de­struc­tion, and in fight­ing the mutos the old mil­i­tary gloss, “to save the town we had to de­stroy it,” takes on spec­tac­u­lar mean­ing.

The hu­man in­ter­est is pro­vided by a sto­ry­line where in 1999 Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) is an Amer­i­can nu­clear physi­cist work­ing in Ja­pan at Janjira nu­clear power sta­tion, where his French wife San­dra (Juli­ette Binoche) is a nu­clear con­sul­tant. When tremors from the awak­en­ing beast trig­ger a breach, she is trapped, Joe him­self clos­ing the con- tain­ment door to seal her fate.

Fif­teen years on, his son Ford (Aaron Tay­lor-John­son) is a US Navy lieu­tenant spe­cial­is­ing in bomb dis­posal, and mar­ried to Elle (El­iz­a­beth Olsen), a nurse in San Fran­cisco. Their son Sam (Carson Bolde) sees as lit­tle of his fa­ther as Ford did of his.

Just re­turned from leave, Ford sud­denly has to travel to Ja­pan where his fa­ther, ob­sessed with dis­cov­er­ing the truth about what hap­pened, has been ar­rested for en­ter­ing the Janjira quar­an­tined area. For a bit of fa­ther-son bond­ing, they both go back to Janjira, just in time for one muto to emerge from its chrysalis, wreck the place, and fly across the Pa­cific to meet its mate, which has been dis­turbed by min­ing in the Philip­pines and trans­ported for safe keep­ing to a deep bunker in Ne­vada.

Las Ve­gas is in the way of the muto re­union and, if noth­ing else, it means CGI can give us the half-size replica of the Eif­fel Tower be­ing top­pled. It’s one of the more no­table de­pic­tions of the car­nage, though like some of the monster bat­tles, it’s shot in a rather dim light.

Need­less to say, the venue for the muto tryst is San Fran­cisco, so while Elle deals with ca­su­al­ties at her hospi­tal, son Sam is evac­u­ated across the Golden Gate Bridge – or at least un­til the bus gets stuck in the traf­fic as Godzilla ap­proaches. Ford, hav­ing per­suaded Janjira sci­en­tist Dr Ichiro Ser­izawa (Ken Watan­abe) and Amer­i­can ad­mi­ral Wil­liam Stenz (David Strathairn) of his po­ten­tial value, gets to ride with a train car­ry­ing nu­clear mis­siles to be used against the mon­sters - or at least un­til one of the mutos at­tacks a viaduct en route.

A monster that feeds on and fires ra­di­a­tion, elec­tro-mag­netic pulses drop­ping planes out of the sky, a con­spir­acy of si­lence, and po­ten­tially the end of civil­i­sa­tion, all com­bine to make for a de­cent plot and an ex­cuse for some great ef­fects. Some of the mys­tery, fear and beauty of Mon­sters has dis­si­pated with the mil­lions of dol­lars Gareth Ed­wards has been able to throw at this, but it is a no­table ad­di­tion to the genre.

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