Film Review: Godzilla – Economies Of Scales, Or Lizards At Large

May 20, 2014



Godzilla / Directed by Gareth Edwards / PG13 


But why?   Yes, I know that it is the 60th Anniversary of Godzilla’s first appearance, but why not re-release a cleaned-up digital print of Toho Studio’s Gojira?  Oh, they are.  I see.   So why throw gadzillions of dollars at another Westernised remake? This really is the perfect exemplar of a “But, why?” movie. If they were hoping to erase the memory of Roland Emmerich’s awful version circa 1997, they would have saved a lot of money by just buying up all the prints of that embarrassment and burning them publicly in key cities around the world.  They could even achieve a more lasting effect by burning Roland Emmerich publicly in key cities around the world, and actually do the film industry some good in the process, but that would be too much to hope for  (and if you think I’m being unduly harsh, Emmerich is probably the man most responsible for the domination of special effects and explosions over dialogue, sense, narrative, character development, intelligence, artistry and inspiration that sadly governs the Hollywood industry today).

However, here the film is – louder and more inflated than the original could ever imagine.  In fact, I think I lost about 40% of my hearing at the critic’s preview and I’m still waiting for it to recover.  And Godzilla only pitches up onscreen in the last third of the movie!  Yah! Swizz

This film does have one thing in common with the infinitely superior original:  The monster is unleashed upon the face of the earth by nuclear experimentation, in particular the Bikini Atoll tests of the late Forties and Fifties.  However, Ishiro Honda’s original came a bare nine years after the nuclear devastation inflicted on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and his film is a dark parable, filmed in black and white and showing a destroyed Tokyo very like the imagery we have seen of those two devastated cities.  It’s fear of what destructive forces man is capable of creating, and it’s a primal fear of man tampering with nature.  Gareth Edwards’ film is about fear of another movie taking a bigger slice of the box-office returns on opening day.

Edwards takes the destruction to the West Coast of the United States, allowing only a small city on the Japanese coast to be stomped, followed by a swift flattening of Honolulu.   In actual fact, it’s other monsters doing the stomping, nuclear power-plant and nuclear -weapon chomping monsters that look uncannily like those large cockroaches we find in Durban, albeit with longer legs.  (These monsters are called M.U.T.O. – Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism – which is possibly the only attempt at wit in the lengthy running time). Las Vegas is the first mainland city to be flattened (yay, it deserves it!), swiftly followed by San Francisco (aw gee, it doesn’t!).  It all looks impressive, but the narrative is so generic and truncated, the film seems to be a series of special effects.  Oh, it is.  My bad.

I settled down with my box of popcorn, fully prepared for some spectacular, silly fun.   And then they go and kill Juliette Binoche in the first ten minutes. Spoiler alert be buggered: how can you dispose of cher Juliette like that?  That’s when they lost me.  The hero role is handed to Taylor Kitsch, I mean Channing Tatum, I mean Chris Hemsworth, I mean Chris Evans … er, I actually mean Aaron Taylor-Johnson.  Come on!  Who can tell the difference bar the degree to which they give the audience wooden splinters?  Aaron’s special talent is fondling a little plastic toy soldier and looking on, meaningfully.  And bleeding a bit.

Ken Watanabe gets similar treatment, and he can act, though you wouldn’t think so to look at this movie. As for the rest, oh, get out of the way, you small appealing children with heartbreaking eyes and serious miens in mortal danger – we want to see the monsters blat each other again.

When the smoke clears, you’re deafened and mildly impressed by the digital wizardry, but me, I’d rather see Haruo Nakajima in a tacky rubber suit flattening a cardboard Tokyo any day…