Direction: Gareth Edwards
Actors: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen
It is not an earthquake. It is not a tsunami. It’s the king of the monsters announcing his arrival with a trademark bellow. Six decades and countless spin-offs after the beloved Japanese original, Hollywood finally delivers a Godzilla which lives up to its great expectations. It also sets a new standard for wannabe mega-beast blockbusters.
Arousing every fanboy’s fantasies, the skeletal plot is outlined in a prologue set in 1999 at a Japanese nuclear plant. Fifteen years and a great deal of exposition later, a naval lieutenant (Taylor-Johnson) and his estranged father (Bryan Cranston) are swept up in an escalating crisis when gargantuan winged critters stomp across San Francisco threatening to reduce the city to rubble. Enter Godzilla. Arising from the sea, the titular behemoth battles the malevolent invaders while also lashing out at the ornery humans trying to kill him.
Directed with considerable chutzpah by the monster auteur Gareth Edwards (his debut feature was even titled Monsters), the film generates tension in subtler ways than the usual creature features. Making striking use of screen space, Edwards utilises point-of-view shots to intensify the dread factor. A skydiving sequence where soldiers soundlessly plummet into the ravaged cityscape is breathtaking. Sorrily, though, none of the humans are compellingly etched.
Juliette Binoche, in particular, is given short shrift in what amounts to a glorified cameo. Viewers looking for wall-to-wall mayhem along the lines of Roland Emmerich’s bloated 1998 version will be disappointed. But those who savour an immersive visual spectacle will likely go ooh-aah in the presence of the freshly-minted Godzilla.