Monday, 6 July 2015

Godzilla (2014)

So if you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you may have picked up on some subtle hints that I do not much care for the first American attempt at a Godzila movie.  So you'll understand that I had mixed feelings when Legendary Pictures announced they were making another attempt at the franchise.

Then Pacific Rim came out.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and my hopes for this movie correspondingly rose.  I'm pleased to say that - although I don't love it as much as I did del Toro's film - I was not disappointed.

One of the challenges of a kaiju film is balancing the human story and the giant monster story; it's no easy task to make both compelling and interesting.  The script here does a fine job of hitting what often proves a difficult target.  The story of Ford Brody and his family, though it lays on the sentimentality pretty thickly, is deftly interwoven with that of Godzilla.  It's helped significantly here by the believable affection between the actors playing Ford and his wife: it's probably no accident that they got cast as siblings in Avengers: Age of Ultron, as they work very well together on screen.

The main plot of the film is pretty straightforward: miners uncover massive bones in a recently unearthed cavern, along with what appear to be two strange eggs.  Fifteen years later, those two eggs are going to bring a world of pain for humanity ... but they will also draw out the one thing that might save us: Big G himself.

A second challenge of kaiju films, as I have mentioned in previous reviews, is maintaining interest and excitement before the climactic battle.  While almost every work of fiction ultimately comes down to the last act, few works are so specifically structured around a duel.  You know that any tussle between Godzilla and another monster in the first two acts has to end inconclusively because he can't defeat it until the climax of the film.  The script does a good job of avoiding this pothole as well; partly by the time honoured tradition of letting monsters Trash Stuff, and partly by escalating the threat halfway through.  Sure, Big G's proved he can handle one of these creatures in single combat, but there were two eggs ...

Despite my praise for the film, you'll notice I've given it only a qualified recommendation.  I've done so because I do feel the film is less impressive on the small screen than it was in the cinema.  The scale of the action is obviously impacted, and unless you have your lighting well set up, you might find the night-time sequences rather murky and hard to make out.

Still, if the whole 'giant monster' thing isn't an instant unsell for you, this is a well-crafted, well-acted, and visually impressive film.

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