I kind of forgot that there had been a load of backlash to Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla when it first came out. I think, by the time I saw it, I was just so relieved that it wasn’t dreadful that it was elevated in my memory. Even reading back my review of it left me realising that I was looking back with rose-tinted glasses. I think it also helps that it’s not been long since I saw the new film. Let’s be honest, that would have made a lot of things look like masterpieces. Even if there are some people out there who would strongly disagree. I was looking at the Guardian’s review of Godzilla: King of the Monsters the other day and one guy kept commenting on everyone else’s comments that’s all the critics were wrong and the new film was the greatest. It was weird and, quite frankly, utterly baffling. Yes, if all you’re looking for in a film is mindless monster-fighting then good for you. God, I bet he fucking loved the newest Hellboy film.
Godzilla was Hollywood’s second attempt to make their own Godzilla film. The first time didn’t just go badly: it was more catastrophic than a visit from the creature himself. But, we had to move on eventually and Gareth Edwards brought a more sophisticated approach to the whole thing. Some might say too sophisticated. His approach was to be a bit more subtle with the whole building crushing monster thing. Taking a lot of inspiration from Steven Spielberg, the big reveal of Godzilla comes well into the film. Before that, we’re left with mere glimpses of him surrounded by fog. Does it make it more impressive? Yes. But it also doesn’t make for a great monster movie.
I haven’t seen this film since the first time and, even though I still enjoyed it, I do think it could have taken itself a little less seriously. Maybe everyone was just a bit too worried about creating another mess of it that they were trying to be too respectful? It definitely tries to capture the spirit of the original Japanese films even if it does with a traditional Hollywood approach. This is like one of the early Godzilla films but with CGI, more violence, and more sex. I mean comparatively. In Hollywood terms, it’s still really tame.
The story of Godzilla becomes tied up with soldier Ford Brody and his family. His mother died in a radiation leak years before in Japan. His father remains convinced that it wasn’t an accident and that there is something going on. Turns out he’s not mad with grief. There has been a weird object leeching off the radiation in the reactor for years and it caused the meltdown. Unfortunately, this unidentified object hatches and a winged creature escapes. It becomes apparent that the creature is looking for its mate so they can have a bunch of babies who feed on radiation. Thankfully, a familiar face has also heard about the creature’s appearance and he’s not happy.
I guess there is a lot going on here but it is a really good film. There is a decent balance between the emotional side of the story and the heavy action. It really is a well-thought-out film. Even more so in the light of the awful sequel. It’s a visually stunning film with some really good action sequences. And it does a pretty good job with the human side of it. Maybe some of the characters could be a bit more developed but the opening of the film is really strong. Bryan Cranston is amazing and should have been along for the entire ride. And, no offence to Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen would have made a much better main character. She has such an inherent charm and skill that her character would have handled the emotional crux of the film better.
Still, Godzilla is possibly the best Godzilla film that we’re ever going to get out of Hollywood. As we have seen, the go-to approach is just a shit show of fighting monsters. Which is fine in some aspects but it needs a bit more to it. Does Edwards’ film maybe have a bit too much more? Yes but it’s still a good film. There is a sensitivity and intimacy here that the other two films never get anywhere near.