The latest reboot of the Godzilla brand stars Bryan Cranston as a scientist obsessed with suspicious seismic activity in Japan, Aaron Taylor-Johnson as his US Navy son and Godzilla as himself.
Godzilla will be justifiably angry at how little screen time he’s given in this disaster spectacular, not to mention how fat they’ve made him look. In fact, most of the action is left to the equally badly designed MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms), making the title somewhat misleading. They should have called it Godzilla & Friends or just Godawful. His anthropomorphised face and cuddly physique do little to alleviate the problems inherent in the story, leaving him wishing that he could pick better projects or simply fire his agent.
The rest of the cast do their best with thankless characters, including Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and David Strathairn, who brings to mind a bizarre parallel universe in which Barry Manilow has chosen to age gracefully. Meanwhile Bryan Cranston, who seems to only play crazy dads, is as woefully underused as Barry Manilow’s comb.
This complete lack of characters totally deadens the impact of the impressive visual effects and the sheer scale of the scaly action, while the story commits the twin crimes of crowbarring in cute children and relying entirely on coincidences. The result is a bombastic, vapid and confusing mess, which follows the disaster movie formula all the way to its predictable conclusion.
This is all the more disappointing for fans of director Gareth Edwards’ debut feature Monsters, a brilliant low-budget monster movie in which the real monsters were humans. In Godzilla, the real monsters are monsters. In Monsters, improvised dialogue carried an impressive naturalism. In Godzilla, people talk in B-movie clichés, particularly Sally Hawkins’ non-entity of a character and Ken Watanabe’s senior scientist who walks around with his mouth open and pauses for the music to go DUM DUM DUMMM every time he speaks. “We call him… (DUM DUM DUMMM) Godzilla!”
DUMB DUMB DUMB would be more appropriate, given the non-sensical nature of the movie’s premise. Godzilla was originally conceived as a direct reaction to the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, while this reboot makes a cack-handed attempt at a post-Fukushima update. At least the 1998 version featured Jamiroquai on the soundtrack.