Godzilla sees the return of the ‘king’ of monsters to the big screen in a triumphant and satisfying film. Directed by Gareth Edwards, credited with the making of the indie hit Monsters, the film contains breathtaking action, staggering destruction and real human emotion. Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen and Bryan Cranston, Edwards keeps the human story the focus of this movie with the titular creature kept mostly in the background and not appearing until a good way through the film. This serves the film well though as it builds anticipation making the appearance of Godzilla even more spectacular.
The film bases around one family, the Brody’s, and provides ample room for human drama amidst all the action. Joe Brody (Cranston) is consumed in his search for the truth around an accident at a nuclear plant he used to work for. While his son Ford (Taylor-Johnson) seeks to move on from this past and live happily with his family. In one of his first roles since the hit show Breaking Bad, Cranston hits the mark once again finding real emotional resonance in Joe Brody and delivering some truly stirring and impressive monologues, although he is very much a supporting role in this film.The star of the film is Taylor-Johnson who does just enough to supplement the action and CGI with human drama despite coming off a little too stoic in some scenes. Most of the other characters in the film have little to do and struggle to make an impact.
It’s a testament to the writing that the human story remains front and centre in this movie and isn’t overshadowed by the enormous monsters and battles. Credit must also be given to the script as the film is paced perfectly. While some have criticized the slow start, it gives the arrival of these monsters some context and allows for some great acting by Cranston. The running time doesn’t feel overextended and the switching of locales keeps the plot moving along nicely. When it comes to monsters, this film succeeds tremendously. Godzilla is as he was intended: a force of nature. The impact of the battling between Godzilla and the other monsters is incredible to behold and a type of action that feels like its been missing from the big screen for a while.
Gareth Edwards work in this movie has been described by some critics as Spielberg-esque and this is well earned. The slow build towards the reveal of something extraordinary or terrifying yet always spectacular is reminiscent of old films such as Jurassic Park and Jaws which is high praise indeed as those films are held up as an example of how to make great movies. Godzilla and the other monsters have such a sense of scale and awe that you can’t help but be mesmerized by them as an audience. Despite similarities to Spielberg’s work this film certainly feels like Edwards’ own and the decision to trust him with such a large budget with his limited works was well worth the risk. Compared to the 90’s Godzilla film this one is much more successful and effective.
Only a slightly dull main character keeps Godzilla from becoming a truly amazing film and earning five stars. Incredible special effects and an interesting and entertaining plot keep the film ticking along nicely while emotional gravitas is found in spades with Cranston’s performance.