Rather, they launch a film that starts with science – intelligent, gripping science – and form the basis of an intellectual viewing that can also boast a strong emotional narrative on the side. This plotline comes in the form of the on-the-mend relationship of Bryan Cranston’s Joe Brody and his son Ford, a father and son who are reunited to investigate strange occurrences in Japan some 15 years after the death of Joe’s wife and Ford’s mother in similarly suspicious circumstances. Cranston performs well as the father who has lost his way, while Aaron Taylor-Johnson shows promise and sincerity as the loving son insistent on building a happy family life for himself, his wife and his still-young son.
Early earthquakes and journeys into the depth of radiated territory give rise to suspense and allow the man pointing the camera to flex his big ass FX budget even before the monsters show. For a while, early on in the film, the efforts of the production team to take this blatant B Movie subject matter into the A leagues seems to have worked out surprisingly well. The only problem is that at some point in a film about giant fighting monsters, you’ve got to have giant monsters fighting – and when Godzilla and the M.U.T.Os (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms) begin to face off, all the serious tone of the film completely falls out the frame.
This can basically be seen as a movie of two very different halves. To start with, you’ve got your early plotline and tension building scenes set across America and Japan which are acted out wonderfully, crammed full of enough emotion to glue you to your seat and boast enough dramatic scenery and CGI to impress the best of us. Next, you’ve got your mucho monsters destroying landmarks around the planet while the previous plotlines effectively deteriorate as a bunch of irrelevant characters, including Ford Brody, now fighting with the US Army, fail to make any impact on the war taking place.
Seriously, as soon as those monsters get fighting, the characters may as well just set off. Ken Watanabe is the thoughtful Dr. Ishiro Serizawa, a scientist charged with helping David Strathairn’s template Admiral William Stenz with stopping the beasts destroying the planet. Only problem is, Serizawa very rarely actually offers any scientific input, instead sticking to a more philosophical approach, only ever providing long-winded answers to questions that nobody ever actually asked. Watanabe’s character does provide the signature moment of the film with his dramatic denunciation that the beast is named ‘Godzilla’ though, so we’ve got to give him credit for that. Some quotable shit right there.
Anyway, the visual FXs are impressive, but not to the point where it shocks. Godzilla is effectively a giant scabby dinosaur on steroids, and he appears as such, and the M.U.T.O.S he fights are overgrown bats that are indeed presented well but are hardly an innovation. The big set battles are fun and provide the set pieces that the audience look for in such a film, but after such a strong narrative build up, the remaining storyline descends into army-driven repetition and weakly presented plotlines as the film peters out.
Ultimately, after such good work from Cranston and indeed Gareth Edwards to create an intelligent foundation for the film, the inevitable and necessary scrapping of two overgrown play toys retracts the good work of the script and removes any decent plotline. Perhaps all the early stuff was just out of place intellect, and the film should’ve stuck to the B Movie script throughout – either that or stuck out the clever plotlines better. Either way, the resulting film is a fun watch, but not much more.
Verdict: The big money FX shots and the big set battles are there, but despite a build up which promises much more than just another battling B Movie, that’s exactly what this film inevitably ends up being.