Godzilla | reviews, news & interviews
Godzilla’s no longer a man in the suit, but the 60-year-old daikaiju (giant monster) still thrills
Born in an era when the Japanese were censored out of making a straightforward post-Hiroshima film, King of the Monsters Godzilla – or aka his infinitely cooler Japanese name Gojira – is a hero, cultural phenomenon and metaphor: he represents nature that can both kill and save. As a film star, however, he’s moved from ultra low-budget to high in over 28 films of various quality. The original 1954 Japanese film produced by Toho is often considered the best with Roland Emmerich’s 1998 version almost killing the monster and the franchise off entirely.
To paraphrase Jennifer Lawrence’s character in American Hustle, Welsh director Gareth Edwards could say to Godzilla, “Thank God for me.” He’s made Godzilla a huge contender for film of the year – certainly it is one of the must-sees of 2014 - for two terrific reasons: Edwards proved his mettle with the low-budget monster movie called Monster and it’s time we saw a familiar face we like – and everyone loves Godzilla.
Godzilla's just nature. He's not really got an agenda
As a combination of the Japanese words gorira (gorilla) and kujira (whale), Godzilla is much larger than those two. Edwards's 2014 incarnation compared to previous iterations is about twice the size. Of course, as a metaphor for nature and the environment, size doesn't matter, save the fact that our environmental problems are getting worse. Luckily, the director knows to put the money on the screen and in the script by Max Borenstein with help from Dave Callaham (The Expendables).
He takes the best from Spielberg movies like Jurassic Park (you’ll see the T Rex in Godzilla’s roaring snout) as well as taking Godzilla's scale from Pacific Rim and Transformers. Some argue that Edwards should not have overegged the cast with instantly recognizable faces like Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), a man who, despite wearing a very noticeable "syrup" (cockney rhyming slang), can act brokenhearted hysteria as few others can. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is the handsome, somewhat empty hero-son who returns to Japan to help his father, who hasn’t, despite the many years passing, gotten over …oops, almost gave you a spoiler there.
Suffice to say that there’s enough razzle dazzle science and destructive spectacle as well as a proper “message” in Godzilla to keep non-fans happy. Fans will be thrilled with the combination of emotional story and brilliant special effects. (Everyone will be happy with the concept of what these creatures thrive on - lateral thinking clearly pays off.) There are touches of humour and surprises at every turn – and Owen Paterson (The Matrix) shows a profound understanding of what the director wanted in terms of production design. While Cranston and wife (Juliette Binoche) are the biggest stars, David Strathairn, Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen hold their ground well in fairly predictable parts.
At the human heart of Godzilla stands Ken Watanabe (Inception, The Last Samurai, etc), who, as Dr. Ichiro Serizawa, understands the monster better than anyone. And when he utters Godzilla’s real name – Gojira – you want to weep with recognition and joy. The near tears of Sally Hawkins adds to this: she doesn’t have much to say, but what she says with her presence is powerful and deeper because her role is the opposite of wordy.
See Godzilla (2014) in 3D and IMAX if you can. It’s worth your hard-earned cash and you’ll come away feeling that you’ve learned something during the entertainment. Yes, Gojira does fight other monsters and after that, I say no more. After all, as Edwards says, “Godzilla’s just nature. He’s not really got an agenda.”
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