Taking a second stab after Roland Emmerich’s disastrous reimagining of one of Japan’s best and most popular cinematic exports, one would hope that our team had learned their lesson and given the twenty-Megaton Bionic slugger it’s due. The result is leagues away from the previous effort but just doesn’t quite hit the mark.
That’s not to say it’s a write-off by any means; what works, does so incredibly well: you just end up wishing there was more of it. Let’s go back to what we all love about Godzilla; endless destruction, endless destruction and destruction, an idea that the film really does have embedded firmly in its ethos, after all, there’s never been a better time to realize through CGI what monsters of that magnitude could actually do to each other and the surrounding population.
It seems to be a given that big-budget blockbusters need to have a gritty, monochrome tang to them nowadays, sacrificing the more carefree awesomeness for melodramatic depth and trebuchet swung character arcs. Switching one for the other would be forgivable except that Godzilla’s overcrowded ensemble doesn’t manage any of it, having its characters come across as one dimensional and utterly generic. Let’s put aside the phenomenal waste of acting talent (Bryan Cranston is completely unessential to the plot and Ken Watanabe is lumbered with needless exposition and ominous foreboding), the biggest problem is that we don’t care.
We don’t want to see an emotional struggle between father and son or the reuniting of a soldier and his little boy, we want to see a Godzilla kicking a M.U.T.O to death, chewing off its face and retching it into the sea. Most of the runtime gives us mere glimpses of the beast, shrouded in dust and detritus or snaking through the ocean, a foot here or a whip of tail there. In the beginning this works very well to build excitement for a fight that is agonisingly slow to culminate, so much
so that, as awe-inspiring as the final slugfest is, it somehow leaves you feeling short-changed. A real pity as the fighting is truly brilliant.
The M.U.T.O’s are a little on the ‘samey’ side (anyone who’s seen Starship Troopers will notice more than a passing resemblance) but the big guy himself is terrifying; looking like the roided-up offspring of a grizzly bear and an alligator, he’s ferocious. It’s a true kudos to computer wizardry when the monster has far more personality than any of its supporting cast.
When the monsters finally get down to it though, it’s awesome. Some of the best rock’em-sock’em in recent film, it almost makes the first Godzilla-free 40 minutes worth sitting through. Hopefully a sequel will iron out the kinks; mainly keep Godzilla exactly the way he is and jettison everything else.
Well, Ken Watanabe’s Dr Ishiro Serizawa Repeats it through the entire film; just let them fight!