I’ll be honest – I was looking forward to this. A big monster mosh from Gareth Edwards? What’s not to love?
(He did Monsters. You haven’t? Go watch it the minute you finish reading this)
And it was a great day to go see it too. Nothing makes a great cinema experience like a bright sunny day keeping the chattering classes at bay…
And then I clocked it was only a 12A. Maybe I should have known this. Tough. I’ve been busy.
Now, call me optimistic, but I want a bit more than ‘mild violence and threat’ when my monsters rise from the deep and go a-fighting.
But hey, let’s not be hasty, let’s not judge. Let’s just sit back, hotdog in hand (shush – I’d left my tea at work) and enjoy…
And it starts off well enough – Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins discover a thing that’s all mysterious and shocking in the Philippines and we’re off.
Then it’s Bryan Cranston’s birthday in Japan, only he and wife Juliette Binoche have to go and work at the nuclear plant in Japan because stuff has been happening.
And then stuff happens. Major stuff.
And at this point you’re just wondering how dialogue this crass and hackneyed actually made it as far as the screen.
It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that there are 60s sci-fi b-movies with more thought-provoking prose.
OK, I know, it’s all scene-setting and back story, but is that any reason to let yer kid have a go?
Still, onwards and upwards, and before you know it 15 years have passed and Aaron Taylor-Johnson (he of Kick-Ass fame) is all grown up and back from his job as a bomb disarming expert.
And he’s home to see his lovely wife Elizabeth Olsen, and have some time away from all the stress and drama of the disarming of the bombs that he’s been busy a-doing.
Alas, it’s not to be, and it turns out his dad (Cranston) has been where he shouldn’t have been in Japan, trying to prove the accident has been all covered up and gone and got himself arrested.
Having caught the next taxi from San Francisco to Japan (they leave every 10 minutes and don’t need booking, right?), ATJ has collected BC and is trying to take him home.
Only he gets sucked into the conspiracy theory and before you can say “no, really?” they’ve hopped into a friendly boat and return to the scene of the nuclear meltdown. And the family home.
And finally we get a monster.
And, as luck would have it, we get re-united with Watanabe and Hawkins, who are on the scene trying to work out what’s going on.
Which is when things get really weird.
Over the remaining 90 minutes we are treated to more “what the WTF?” moments than most people fit into a franchise, interspersed with some monster fights.
And that’s the massive problem with this film.
The actual monster scenes are great – I’d go as far as to say breathtaking. The epic size and scope of the ancient beasts is captured perfectly, and every time they appear on screen you’re gripped.
I even caught myself holding my breath a couple of times.
It’s just the rest of it is filler. And not well thought-out filler.
The head of the military operation seems to teleport about with gay abandon, flitting from ship to shore with an ease that would impress Star Fleet.
There is weight and gravitas being ladled onto dialogue that is just not worthy.
Then there are the WTF moments.
When you’re watching it (and you should), ask yourself the following:
- How did the birthday banner get put up?
- How does Watanabe manage to just walk onto the flight deck of the aircraft carrier?
- How are those windscreen wipers still working?
- Where did they find those ladders?
And that’s just off the top of my head.
And yet, I didn’t hate this film. Far from it.
Yes, things like those listed above annoyed the hell out of me, but once the fights started none of that matters.
And at the end, you really do care what happens to Godzilla.
And that is the crux of what’s both great and wrong with this film.
Ol’ Godzy is the star – he’s what we want to see – and when we do, it’s brilliant.
You feel every roar, you want to touch every scale, you’re willing him to win his battles – but there’s not enough of him.
I don’t know if it was a budget issue or a misguided attempt at delaying the impact, but you’re made to wait too long for not enough.
It’s like queueing for an all-you-can-eat buffet and then finding they’re serving nouvelle cuisine.
The fights – and, in fact the entire final third of the film – are also very dark and moody. Not a problem for ol’ Mr 2D here, but with the sunglasses on I imagine you’re going to struggle to make out who’s doing what to whom through the dust and darkness.
Which is frankly criminal.
And yet, as I said, you should see it. It is, for the most part, fun.
Younger audiences won’t care about the appalling script and weak characterisation or the fact brilliant actors are being totally wasted here (watching this, you have to force yourself to remember Hawkins was in Blue Jasmine).
They’ll love the bosh and the bash and the fires and explosions.
And as long as you disengage brain at the start, so will you.
(Oh, and if you watch the trailer before going to see the film, let me know what happens to the Statue Of Liberty, because I have no memory of that being in the movie…)