A mining operation accidentally reawakens a huge subterranean creature that feeds on nuclear energy and it threatens to destroy huge swathes of the Japanese cityscape. But when another creature emerges from the depths it appears that the problems of the human race are just beginning.
I was a big fan of Gareth Edward’s meagre-budgeted debut Monsters and was looking forward to his re-imagining of one of the longest running franchises in cinema history. Godzilla takes some obvious cues from the original Japanese Gojira, most notably in the form of Ken Watanabe’s character who clearly follows Takashi Shimura’s example from the original film and the subtext of the human race foolishly messing with forces they cannot possibly control – in this case, nature and the environment – is always bubbling beneath the surface. Edwards always ensures that each scene is framed within the context of the natural world; the disaster is catalysed by a drilling operation, Godzilla’s landfall echoes the catastrophic effects of rising sea levels and tsunamis and the final scenes set within a refugee camp inside a sports stadium is an obvious reference to the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.
Bryan Cranston also brings the right kind of hand-wringing anxiety of a bereaved conspiracy theorist but once the focus shifts to his son, the script begins to show the obvious shortfalls of being the subject of a Hollywood blockbuster. Watanabe and Cranston were far more interesting than a stereotypical US Army grunt and the militarism of the second half of the story starts to make the film feel a little too “Independence Day”. The director does bring a really nice sense of scale however, where humans are mere gnats that seem truly insignificant compared to the forces they’e unleashed.
Godzilla certainly works as an epic spectacle – the atmospheric railway bridge and visually beautiful HALO jump scenes spring to mind – but my overall impression was that of a talented director struggling to bring the best out of a rather generic script.