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Godzilla
4/5
dir Gareth Edwards
scr Max Borenstein
prd Jon Jashni, Mary Parent, Brian Rogers, Thomas Tull
with Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, David Strathairn, Richard T Jones, Victor Rasuk, Carson Bolde, Ken Yamamura, Patrick Sabongui, Juliette Binoche
release US/UK 16.May.14
14/US Warner 2h03
Godzilla
Chasing monsters: Cranston and Taylor-Johnson

watanabe hawkins olsen
See also:
Godzilla (1954) Kong: Skull Island (2017)
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Godzilla As promised, Gareth Edwards brings a personal touch to this massive action movie, focussing on small details and human characters while still delivering the giant spectacle. It's an unusually satisfying blockbuster, packed with deeper themes and surprisingly complex ideas that make us think even as we're being entertained to within an inch of our lives.

In 1999 a nuclear accident in Japan claimed the life of a scientist (Binoche), turning her husband (Cranston) into an obsessive conspiracy theorist. Today, their son Ford (Taylor-Johnson) has a loving wife (Olsen) and cute 5-year-old son (Bolde) and returns to Japan to help his dad, who has spotted tremors similar to those 15 years ago. Suddenly Ford is propelled into chaotic events from Japan to Hawaii to Las Vegas and back home to San Francisco in time for a cataclysmic confrontation between the enormous creature Godzilla and two radiation-gobbling monsters.

Along the way, Edwards and screenwriter Borenstein take the time to generate some interest in characters from knowing scientists (Watanabe and Hawkins) to military men (Strathairn and Jones), all of whom begin to understand that human might is powerless against these towering beasts. And yet they still fire pathetic bullets at them, realising late in the game that Godzilla may be humanity's last hope to defeat the baddies. No, it isn't very deep, but it's far more morally complex than the usual blockbuster template.

And amid the action frenzy, the actors manage to add fragility to their roles by hinting at underlying emotion. Taylor-Johnson is fine as the requisite bland hero, while Cranston steals the film. Edwards spends the first hour cranking up suspense with knowing direction and clever editing, plus Alexandre Desplat's terrific monster-movie score. And enjoyable genre references are everywhere, from the unusually gritty effects to witty banter and cheesy melodrama.

The film's second half slows to a crawl at times, but Edwards keeps everything creeping forward, ramping up the stakes to make it sometimes exhilaratingly gripping. Although the 3D is unnecessary, Edwards refreshingly refuses to indulge in pointless spectacle, keeping things grounded in the people. Even if these people are eerily realistic monsters emerging from clouds of debris to attack each other, carelessly knocking chunks off skyscrapers in the process. And most significantly, this is a rare blockbuster in which duelling animated characters actually generate some emotional involvement.

cert 12 themes, violence 12.May.14

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© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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