Going to see Godzilla in the cinema was quite the experience. There were bright lights, giant beasts, great action and threats of extreme violence, and that want even in the actual film. But we’ll get to that in a moment. In the meantime, what you need to know is that Godzilla is a great spectacle of a blockbuster in the tradition of Spielberg rather than a load of old nonsense in the tradition of bowel movement like the 1998 one was.
What’s immediately apparent is that two stars emerge from this film: One is director Gareth Edwards who manages to craft a globe-trotting disaster movie with the skill of a supremely talented seasoned professional. He certainly is channelling Steven Spielberg, not just in details like pens rolling across a desk as the big green guy gets near or a child’s face looking on in wonder, but also keeping the vast majority of the film viewed from the little people’s perspective. Desperate citizens of San Francisco look on in horror as Godzilla rises above them, but when a door slams closed to keep them safe, our view as the audience is also closed off from the mayhem. It reminds me a lot of War of the Worlds, we never see more than what Tom Cruise and family are looking at, and the same applies here as Aaron Taylor-Johnson watches as his fellow troops are smashed and torn to pieces.
The other star to emerge, or re-emerge as the case may be, is Godzilla himself. It takes a hell of a long time to fully reveal him but when he is finally shown in all his glory he is all kinds of bad ass wrapped up in one giant package. He’s not that weird skinny lizard with the huge underbite of Emmerich’s film, but a hulking, borderline obese, scaly behemoth. And he looks and acts as hard as nails. A lone warrior, almost like The Man With No Name, wandering into to town to deal with any ugly trouble that raises its slobbering head.
Talking of which, I’d reached a point about halfway through the film when the morbidly obese bald git sitting near the front had got his phone out for the tenth time, where I was beginning to lose my patience. I mean it wasn’t even just a quick time check, but long Facebook updates and eBay bids. I could tell all this because he had a Samsung Galaxy Note, the Godzilla of smartphones, and it’s blue glow was seriously getting on my nips. So taking things literally into my own hands, I threw a green Haribo crocodile which smacked him right on the fold on the bag of his fat bald head. “Who ever the fuck threw that I’m gonna punch your fucking head in!” he bellowed, but by the is point I was back watching the film, and you know what? He didn’t use his phone again for the rest of the film. Okay he was standing up near the exit waiting to tackle someone like a crazed wrestler, but he was more Giant Haystacks than Hulk Hogan, and he didn’t have a clue who’d done it. We’d eaten the rest of the Haribo by then.
Anyway, I was watching a film wasn’t I? Oh yes, Godzilla. (SMALL SPOILERS FOR THIS PARAGRAPH) So this human perspective makes for some great camera work and dark visuals however the humans in question aren’t the most engaging of folk. The most sympathetic and interesting character is killed off far too early and we’re mostly left with Taylor-Johnson who’s a pretty simplistic soldier type. The supremely talented Elizabeth Olsen as his wife is given little if anything to do other than gawp at monsters, and poor Ken Watanabe has only exposition and some commenting on monitor readings in his character. I don’t even know what Sally Hawkins job is. She just says “Ken, look at this. Ken, you need to see that” and that’s about it. Is she even alive at the end? I didn’t notice.
But the atmosphere is great. Derelict cities and destroyed jungles, set up the tension for the reveals later on. When Godzilla is about to show up he sets off a tsunami destroying thousands of homes and lives. But it’s not done out of villainy or spite, he’s just a really big guy who’s a little clumsy. (MORE SPOILERS) In fact when Godzilla has to fight off against a couple equally huge rivals there is so much destruction it boggles the mind. However it never outstays it’s welcome in the way say Man of Steel did with its seemingly never ending city levelling. Edwards seems to understand that to make true cinematic spectacle you’ve got to limit what awe inspiring set pieces you are going to show to the audience or else they will become numb to it. (END)
And Godzilla truly is awesome in the correct sense of the word. If the human stories are a little underwhelming then isn’t that to be expected when the main event is so spectacular? At least I had my own human story when I saw the film. I wonder if that mighty large fellow ever did find that green Haribo. I don’t think it slipped down the back of his neck. He didn’t have one.