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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Bryan Cranston
Elizabeth Olsen
Ken Watanabe.
Directors
Gareth Edwards.
Screenwriters
Max Borenstein
Dave Callaham
Frank Darabont.
Running Time
123 minutes

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Godzilla
Shock and roar


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Plot
Fifteen years after an ‘incident’ at a Japanese nuclear power plant, physicist Joe Brody (Cranston) joins forces with his soldier son Ford (Taylor-Johnson) to eke out the truth of what really happened. What they uncover is prelude to global-threatening devastation.


Review
Godzilla
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There is a moment in Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla in which two creatures — M.U.T.O.s in the film’s parlance — start nuzzling. Given the director’s startling lo-fi debut Monsters gave us full-on creature rutting, you might fear that this is a daring director being shackled by a rating-conscious studio. Happily, the Brit director’s take on the Toho studio icon gives full reign to his ability to create compelling imagery and a knockout monster mash. It’s a shame, then, that the movie gets caught between honouring the character’s B-movie conceit AND delivering a let’s-take-everything-super-seriously approach de rigueur in post-Dark Knight blockbusterdom. If any film needed a sense of levity, it is one about a 355-foot lizard hitting stuff.

The movie gets off to a cracking start, a title sequence depicting nuclear tests, Darwinian theory, sea monster illustrations and redacted information all to Alexandre Desplat’s flash-and-thunder score. Yet, unlike 99.9 per cent of recent blockbusters, the film then admirably slows down to set up story strands of (chillingly mounted) family tragedy, anomalous seismic activity, frustrated interrogations, perplexed scientists and all-round conspiracy.

The models here seem to be Jurassic Park and particularly Close Encounters (look out for the gas masks bit) as the film flits between personal tales — bomb disposal officer Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) helps his father Joe (Bryan Cranston) investigate what really happened at the Janjira nuclear plant — and a global overview, in which scientists (Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins) team up with the military (David Strathairn) to try and make sense of it all.

Edwards and credited writer Max Borenstein try their darnedest to legitimise the potentially hokey conceit, smartly respecting the creature’s atomic age roots by imagining the ’50s nuclear tests as attempts to kill off the subterranean creatures and peppering the movie with post-War On Terrorism reference points: jets plummeting out of the sky, carnage playing out on 24-hour rolling news, helicopter shots of refugees escaping to safety, the displaced seeking out loved ones in huge stadia. There is definitely no place for Godzooky in this world.

Yet underneath the patina of realism, Godzilla doesn’t have the story smarts to pull you through. Much of the drama set up in the first 30 minutes bears little consequence later on. The scene work suffers from logic lapses (where does Watanabe get his preternatural understanding of Godzilla’s motives?) or feels just plain fudged — a plan involving a nuclear bomb is unclear and unthrilling.

Edwards creates evocative moments, both small — a slug crawls over a toy tank — and huge — a submarine dangles from a tree — but he has less of a sense of keying it into a narrative imperative. The HALO jumping that everyone loved in the trailer remains fantastic but makes little sense when it appears the army can simply drive into the danger zone. If the movie had a different, more playful tone — Independence Day, for example — all this would be less problematic. But in the credible real world the film seems to want to set up, it just rings dumb.

While the characters may get time to breathe, they don’t emerge as a complex, memorable bunch. For all the great casting, the first-base writing never allows these people to emerge as anything but stock characters. Bryan Cranston is at his most Cranstonish as a man trying to prove a theory deemed crackpot, Aaron Taylor-Johnson is a colourless, stoic soldier, a criminally under-utilised Elizabeth Olsen is a wife-mother-nurse permanently stuck on the end of a phone, Ken Watanabe is a noble Japanese scientist who spurts homilies about messing with nature, Sally Hawkins his exposition-clarifying assistant, and David Strathairn labours as a one-note military man. Given, as with most creature features, the humans are bystanders doing practically zilch to affect the outcome, it demanded a more rounded, engaging dramatis personae.

This lack of personality extends to the main monster. In certain respects the Lizard King struggles to register as the star of his own film. Not only does Edwards afford the evil M.U.T.O.s (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Objects) a better introduction — Godzilla’s entrance feels a bit thrown away — the malevolent, moth-like creatures also seem to get longer screen time and more characterful business.

As you’d expect, Edwards excels in creating awesome kaiju juju — be it toppling aircraft like dominoes or Godzilla swimming under a battleship — that always leaves you wanting more until the battle for San Francisco delivers on the promise. This is not the men-in-suits wrestling we’ve seen before; instead it’s a beautifully shot (very Apocalypse Now-y) and choreographed smackdown that, for once, doesn’t feel like a bunch of pixels hitting each other. It somehow combines the richness and charm of a ’50s George Pal flick with the believability modern technology affords. If the rest of the film could have pulled off the same trick, it would be the Godzilla of our dreams.


Verdict
Edwards’ film boasts great filmmaking, noble intentions and cracking monster action. Yet it never reconciles its B-movie origins — preposterous premise, clichéd characters — with its solemn, Nolanised tone. This Godzilla stomps but very rarely romps.


Reviewed by Ian Freer

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Godzilla
Empire Star Rating

RE: How is this so boring?

L: grucl Did this scene really need a kid in it to convey danger? That's lazy screenwriting right there. isagree. Lazy screenwriting would have been to have no boy, but still have Ford in danger, when really we know he'll survive because he's the protagonist. L: grucl Plus once the danger is over the boy finds his parents within 30 seconds... hat's lazy screenwriting right there. I just rewatched this and I love the fuck out of it. Yes the main chara... More

Posted by UTB at 22:34, 18 October 2014 | Report This Post


RE: How is this so boring?

The point where the film lost me was when Ford ended up with having to take care of the littel japanese boy on the train. Did this scene really need a kid in it to convey danger? That's lazy screenwriting right there. Plus once the danger is over the boy finds his parents within 30 seconds... ... More

Posted by grucl at 11:03, 17 September 2014 | Report This Post


RE: King Is Back!!!!

Yes seriously, too many action scif films lay it on too thick nowdays taking running time of films way over what they should be. ... More

Posted by SQUATCH at 15:05, 30 May 2014 | Report This Post


RE: King Is Back!!!!

ERS**ent in to this with slightly lowered expectations due to the so-so buzz, but I actually really quite enjoyed it. I can definitely see shades of s film, as Godzilla and co. are almost a background event to the human story in the way that Edwards' debut film followed the same structure. It doesn't work as effectively here as I would much rather have had the focus on the underused Cranston (shame his character died so early) and Watanbe - Aaron Taylor Johnson's soldier just wasn't an interest... More

Posted by Filmfan 2 at 13:43, 30 May 2014 | Report This Post


RE: King Is Back!!!!

I agree with him. It's a movie about a radiated giant lizard destroying stuff. We want to see crazy special effects and carnage, not in-depth character development and backstory. I think thats the trouble with a lot of movie criticisms now, everyone is looking for relatable characters and miss the whole point of the movie - like transformers, a great franchise for what it is - robots fighting robots but people pan it because the story line is under developed or the characters are full of fl... More

Posted by RodbertusIlludere at 20:01, 29 May 2014 | Report This Post


RE: A dissapointment...

And then I go and spell disappointment wrongly! 1 star for me. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by pgmark at 11:32, 29 May 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Godzilla

Saw it last night. The creature stuff was good and the human element was piss poor. The creature feature is a cut-away adjunct to Aaron Johnson and co so yeah, this is a liability and not something that can be equivocated on a basis of what we really wanted to see. Did the Empire review talk about "Nolan-isation?" if so that's a bad definition for a Michael Bay film without the forced levity. Couldn't understand forgiving San Franciscans at the end. "Saviour of our city"...well he fu... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by demoncleaner at 10:50, 29 May 2014 | Report This Post


RE: King Is Back!!!!

es a toss about characterseriously? ... More

Posted by Whistler at 10:29, 29 May 2014 | Report This Post


RE: King Is Back!!!!

Who gives a toss about characters, Godzilla i went to see, nice surprise that there were other monsters in it. Thought Walter was gonna be in it throughout. ... More

Posted by SQUATCH at 10:21, 29 May 2014 | Report This Post


RE: GOJIRA!!!!

Well I liked it, but it probably didn't live up to my expectations. The tone evokes the 54 original, yet the narrative has far more in common with the dodgy spin offs - specifically the inclusion of the mutos. Their involvement didn't work for me; clearly they are there to provide more opportunities for monster-mashing scenes without diluting the presence of the title character. Unfortunately though, this for me led to a needlessly incoherent plot, strung together by set pieces (which... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 17:01, 24 May 2014 | Report This Post


RE: No emotional involvement

3 stars is bang on. Godzilla's only on screen about 10 mins or so, but it's brilliant when he is. Cranston was the only human character I cared about and so the film lost something when he carked it. They've tried to make it serious but then you're taken out of the serious by some awfully cheesey lines. Worth seeing at the cinema tho, just for Godzilla's RRRRRROOOOOOOAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRR. The 2nd one where it lasts about 10 seconds was fecking awesome sound effects. ... More

Posted by CORLEONE at 00:46, 23 May 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Godzilla

I saw Godzilla last night. I know it is a summer monster movie blockbuster. I also know that I should want nothing more from this than dumb fun. But I think that I may have let Mr Edwards superb debut mislead me into thinking I could have both monster mayhem as well as good characters and a solid plot. Hmmm. WARNING - may contain spoilers - Visually, it's great but to be honest, once Bryan Cranston had been criminally dispensed with, the film became a bit of an unecessary mess until the monst... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by OldGrey at 09:50, 21 May 2014 | Report This Post


RE: DESTROY ALL NAYSAYERS!!!

PEOPLE WHO AVOID MY POSTS ARE PEOPLE WHO AVOID THE TRUTH I TELL YA THE TRUTH ALSO INCOMING SPOILERS FULL OF TRUTH I can understand that, but I wouldn't personally consider it a worry, since the MUTOs didn't exactly pull out an EMP there and they were too small and invisible there to be noticed by MUTOs indulged in a fight against Godzilla (and EMPs don't affect Godzilla), it wasn't like a fleet or some really noticeable fighter jets. I think the female MUTO used the EMP only once the ship ... More

Posted by Deviation at 21:04, 20 May 2014 | Report This Post


RE: DESTROY ALL NAYSAYERS!!!

L: Deviation Yup, thought my previous post to that showed that. try and avoid your posts whenever I can lot holes matter when I'm not concentrating on the film because I'm too busy trying to figure out what just happened. When they land after skydiving in from 35,000 feet to get the nuke (because they couldn't fly in on account of the EMP), they promptly pull out perfectly functioning electronic equipment. I found that confusing. It felt like the EMP was something they used when it sui... More

Posted by superdan at 20:55, 20 May 2014 | Report This Post


RE: DESTROY ALL NAYSAYERS!!!

Yup, thought my previous post to that showed that. ... More

Posted by Deviation at 20:44, 20 May 2014 | Report This Post


RE: DESTROY ALL NAYSAYERS!!!

L: Deviation L: superdan L: Snake 4Skin What an age we live when movie-goers are criticising the the acting and plot logistics of a frickin GODZILLA movie!? ust so I know for future reference, for which movies is it not ok to criticise the plot? Is it just Godzilla, or is it any movie containing one or more elements of sci-fi/monster/alien/space/fantasy? What an age we live in when glaring, confusing and contradictory plot holes are ignored because the computer-ge... More

Posted by superdan at 20:40, 20 May 2014 | Report This Post


RE: DESTROY ALL NAYSAYERS!!!

L: superdan L: Snake 4Skin What an age we live when movie-goers are criticising the the acting and plot logistics of a frickin GODZILLA movie!? ust so I know for future reference, for which movies is it not ok to criticise the plot? Is it just Godzilla, or is it any movie containing one or more elements of sci-fi/monster/alien/space/fantasy? What an age we live in when glaring, confusing and contradictory plot holes are ignored because the computer-generated imagery is so ... More

Posted by Deviation at 20:36, 20 May 2014 | Report This Post


RE: DESTROY ALL NAYSAYERS!!!

L: Snake 4Skin What an age we live when movie-goers are criticising the the acting and plot logistics of a frickin GODZILLA movie!? ust so I know for future reference, for which movies is it not ok to criticise the plot? Is it just Godzilla, or is it any movie containing one or more elements of sci-fi/monster/alien/space/fantasy? What an age we live in when glaring, confusing and contradictory plot holes are ignored because the computer-generated imagery is so pretty. ... More

Posted by superdan at 20:17, 20 May 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Godzilla

L: Jasper_29 L: Coyleone I have to laugh at anyone coming out of a film like GODZILLA and nitpicking it to that degree. You obviously spent the whole film looking for flaws. I feel very, very sorry for you. Even if I didn't like the film (which I did) I'd think that was a ridiculous post. el more sorry for the person who actually copied and past the same infantile answer under all 41 questions. Asfor the movie, I enjoyed it for the most part but why does every blockbuster these... More

Posted by Deviation at 20:16, 20 May 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Godzilla

L: DarkSideDK SPOILERS! Just some questions for the movie.. SPOILERS! 1. How come it took Joe, or anyone else for that matter, 15 years to figure out that there is no radiation in the entire quarantine zone? 2. How come the floppy disks wasn't damaged by decay, humidity or impacts? 3. Why is it, that the first time Joe is caught trespassing he is taken to the police station, but the second time he trespasses, they decide to take him and his son straight to the ... More

Posted by elab49 at 18:40, 20 May 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Godzilla

L: Coyleone I have to laugh at anyone coming out of a film like GODZILLA and nitpicking it to that degree. You obviously spent the whole film looking for flaws. I feel very, very sorry for you. Even if I didn't like the film (which I did) I'd think that was a ridiculous post. el more sorry for the person who actually copied and past the same infantile answer under all 41 questions. Asfor the movie, I enjoyed it for the most part but why does every blockbuster these days have to be so... More

Posted by Jasper_29 at 15:08, 20 May 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Better than expected - although hard to disagree with this

SPOILERS etc: L: tysmuse Also, as the review rightly mentions. The whole thing with the bomb is never fully explained. The idea that he now has to go in and disarm it is a cool idea, but they don't make enough of a big deal about it so there's nothing riding on it. is 'expertise' in nuclear bombs, and therefore the whole reason for him to be on the mission, is rendered completely pointless by the fact that he doesn't disarm the bomb. In fact he doesn't even get to try on account o... More

Posted by superdan at 22:30, 19 May 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Better than expected - although hard to disagree with this

Some stunning visuals, some brilliant individual moments and a great performance from Cranston but dull characters and illogical script choices. Even the big guy himself is kinda dull and doesn't earn the "hero" status the filmmakers seem to be trying to give him. A badly written giant lizard - how hard can that be to get right. Very disappointing 2/5 ... More

Posted by Scruffybobby at 22:06, 19 May 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Godzilla

L: DarkSideDK SPOILERS! Just some questions for the movie.. SPOILERS! 1. How come it took Joe, or anyone else for that matter, 15 years to figure out that there is no radiation in the entire quarantine zone? 2. How come the floppy disks wasn't damaged by decay, humidity or impacts? 3. Why is it, that the first time Joe is caught trespassing he is taken to the police station, but the second time he trespasses, they decide to take him and his son straight to the ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by superdan at 20:54, 19 May 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Godzilla

I have to laugh at anyone coming out of a film like GODZILLA and nitpicking it to that degree. You obviously spent the whole film looking for flaws. I feel very, very sorry for you. Even if I didn't like the film (which I did) I'd think that was a ridiculous post. ... More

Posted by Coyleone at 19:41, 19 May 2014 | Report This Post


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