Godzealous reptile will shake you to the bones

After VFX artist Gareth Edwards made his directorial debut with Monsters (2010), his candidacy for a film such as this was evident – this title in particular was so obvious, as to make one groan at the announcement. 

Monsters was a mirco-budgeted almost-masterpiece with fresh ideas but not quite enough of them to fill its running time – nevertheless, it was bursting with ingenuity and a genuine enthusiasm for the genre. 

An atmospheric and unexpectedly quiet film, it was unafraid to make us wait for the good stuff and knew the value of audience imagination. 

Nuclear hide and seek
Godzilla, against all the odds and with an impressive, established set of names, continues along similar lines.

Despite a large international cast and numerous locations, the focus holds to one American family as we are introduced to Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad), a seismologist working at a Japanese nuclear plant on the day a tsunami hits. 

No doubt, these scenes are likely to reopen still-healing wounds for Japanese viewers, but they serve an allegorical purpose, just as the 1954 original spoke to a Japan still reeling from the Second World War.

We jump to 15 years later when he and his son Ford (Taylor-Johnson) – a bomb disposals expert in the US army – have become estranged. 

Ford travels back from San Francisco to Japan after he learns his father has been arrested while trying to gain entry to the exclusion zone around the plant within which lies their old family residence. 

As he listens to his father’s conspiracy theories, Ford, now a father himself, is certain Joe has lost his mind. 

Despite this, Joe convinces Ford to accompany him back into the zone where they find that, far from having lost his mind, Joe is right – the site is the centre of an international cover-up. 

Furthermore, they learn from one Dr Serizawa (Watanabe) that nuclear tests carried out in the Pacific Ocean during the ‘60s were not tests at all, they were attempts to kill something – attempts that failed.

Reptilian tease
Opening not dissimilarly to Denmark’s own monster movie, Reptilicus, we find remnants of a giant monster at the site of a large-scale mining operation. 

We’re teased with a slow reveal of fossils and sonar evidence, but it’s not until at least the halfway mark we get our first proper look at Godzilla. 

It’s worth the wait – the sound design and visuals combine to produce a truly bone-rattling spectacle that pleasingly recalls the ’54 original while intelligently reappropriating its themes.

Kill the pet dog
Regrettably, the script makes some face-palmingly sentimentalist slip-ups and seems to wantonly flirt with clichés like the school bus trapped on a bridge and the pet dog caught in a flood. 

Its strongest moments are when Edwards can find beauty in the devastation and calm inside the chaos – and he does this, frequently, creating some very memorable imagery. 

Rest assured, your lingering memories of the 1998 version will be deftly erased. This is a Godzilla that means to earn the title ‘King Of Monsters’.


Dir: Gareth Edwards
US/Japan, Adventure 2014, 123 mins

Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bryan Cranston, David Strathairn, Juliette Binoche, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins

Premiered May 15
Playing nationwide