A new trend has begun to develop in blockbuster movies – particularly ones that are “reboots” or attempting to breed new life into a franchise. It’s occurred in two films being released this summer, Godzilla and the new Transformers movie, still being directed by Michael Bay. It’s a phrase that usually resembles “this movie will be much more character-driven than before.”
Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for character driven movies. I can even see the benefit of marketing your potentially huge, summer blockbuster film as character-driven. In the case of Godzilla, it has attracted a cast that you wouldn’t usually associate with a monster movie; Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnston and Elizabeth Olson.
This works to great effect, especially in the first half an hour of the movie as it builds, effectively and tensely, to the reveal of the monster. Bryan Cranston owns the first half hour, having to prove his acting credentials and showing that he has a long career ahead of him, post-Breaking Bad. This is also great because it means we don’t get the same “popcorn blockbuster” that the 1998 Godzilla was. This is taken much more seriously and it actually works. It doesn’t feel silly seeing serious men, like Ken Watanabe, talking about nuclear-powered monsters.
Unfortunately, director Gareth Edwards is so concerned with delivering a character driven piece that we get an infuriating first three-quarters of the movie where any Godzilla action is teased rather than shown. I genuinely found myself becoming angry and frustrated everytime a character passed-out or was shut away just as Godzilla was about to unleash hell – meaning we missed any actual Godzilla and were then left with shots of the devastating after-effects.
To his credit though, Edwards does this for good reason. It isn’t just because he is focused on delivering that character-driven story he was so desperately plugging but also because when we do get to see Godzilla in all his glory, the moment is so worth the wait. You can’t help but get goosebumps the first time he sizes up, unleashes his roar and the destruction begins. It was worth the wait, but the wait could have been reduced by a fair amount.
Edwards also delivers something else rare in a Hollywood summer blockbuster, a surprise. The trailer is heavily edited to give a very different idea of what Godzilla is actually about. I found myself genuinely shocked as I was watching the film, not realising what the actual story or dynamic between the monster and the human characters actually was. In a time when trailers pretty much give the full details of a movie’s story and the main set-pieces, Godzilla manages to hold-off, delivering a trailer that is both enticing and exciting but gives pretty much nothing away!
As character-driven as he made the movie, Edwards still falls into some frustrating traps of all monster movies. The real action takes place around one specific character rather than a group, meaning all the major events are either involving or because of one human. You have to make some pretty big leaps of faith and logic to follow how this one guy could be unlucky enough to be involved in every major encounter with Godzilla. It’s a small issue but can be quite distracting for the fourth or fifth interaction he has with the monster.
All complaints can be put aside for the final half hour of the film though. The real star was always going to be Godzilla and as long as Edwards delivered a movie where we saw him destroy stuff and kick-ass, he couldn’t really go wrong. Luckily Edwards delivers here effectively. The CGI is flawless, the action exciting and surprisingly tension-filled. It also ends with a great potential for a franchise, something that would be very interesting to see.
Overall, a flawed but effective monster movie that brings a modern Godzilla to the screen in all his true glory. It’s a film full of surprises, great performances and a decent story. Although it can be frustrating at times and does fall into the trap of the usual summer blockbusters, all can be forgiven when we see Godzilla unleash both the roar and the fury.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)