Review: Godzilla (2014)

May 23, 2014 9:41 am

When you look back at it, Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla was actually pretty bad. There was no discernible plot and it was content to just be a hollow-point action creature-feature. Luckily, Gareth Edwards has done well to make sure the western reboot of the series has matured in the last 16 years.

This is a Godzilla-meets-Cloverfield tour de force of Promethean proportions. If Puff Daddy’s ‘Come With Me’ was the soundtrack to Godzilla (1998), then Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’ is definitely made for Godzilla (2014). It’s similar, but it’s darker and it’s truer to the original film series.


It starts in a similar way to Emmerich’s – nuclear test footage to set the scene. Jump forward to 1999 and scientist Joe Brody witnesses the tremor-induced destruction of a nuclear facility he is stationed at, as well as the death of his wife.
Not satisfied with the idea of this simply being a natural disaster, he spends the next 15 years in pursuit of the truth – which we can assume, from the uncomfortable tension between the two, led to him neglecting his son in this time. Nothing unusual for a scientist portrayed by Bryan Cranston.

Tremors, explosions and a lot of shouting later, we’re faced with two new monsters – identified as MUTOs (Mutant Unknown Terrestrial Organisms) by the military, despite the fact that one of them is flying so is technically a Mutant Unknown Airborne Organism. And much later we meet the walking pitbull-faced mountain that is Godzilla. Let the mayhem begin.

Yet despite the global scale of events so far, from The Philippines to Japan, once it’s mentioned that a dormant monster egg (which was excavated in Japan) has for some reason been transported all the way to the US to be stuck in a radioactive waste dump, it becomes clear how things will go. And sure enough, the bulk of the monster mashing happens in the US (doesn’t it always?).

But as we all know, even if you have limitless possibilities of things to do in a place, you tend to fall into the same habits. And the same is apparently true even if you’re a massive plasma-spewing lizard: after a while, it becomes difficult not to draw parallels with the 1998 film.

This has something of a story. This has sufficient character development. This has subtle reminders that nature is a force to be reckoned with. This has Bryan Cranston. So why does it feel like we’re being just a little bit cheated here?

It comes largely down to the monstrous fence-sitting stance that the film takes. Though it does well to be packed full of light politics and relevancy in the form of drawing your eye to disasters that mirror things such as Fukushima, it skirts with its tail between its legs around the topic of nuclear energy and radiation. It touches very gently on it, as the monsters are sustained by radiation and are born of it. Or are they? A few simple lines by frustrating plot device Dr. Serizawa throw the whole thing into uncertainty. It’s a hundred miles away from the anti-nuclear message that gave the original Gojira it’s terrifying power some 60-years ago.

It’s understandable, of course. It’s an action-packed blockbuster with a sizeable target audience, and it doesn’t want to fall short due to the weight of dense political messages. But Gojira managed it, so why couldn’t this? It’s a solid film and it’s sure to grip you in its claws and entertain you, but it’s not going to change the world.

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