We weren’t expecting that: Godzilla

Godzilla-2014OUR MOST up-to-date remake of the classic monster flick had Legendary Pictures keeping its plot quite heavily under wraps. But yes, I know that you can find out almost anything nowadays thanks to the internet. On the face of it though, the posters, trailer and press releases gave off a certain image that the film tears down pretty quickly. It’s not like this kind of secrecy is anything revolutionary; if you cast your mind back to Wes Craven’s Scream, every poster had Drew Barrymore’s face on it, only for her to be killed off very early on. This shock factor that’s achieved by dishonest advertising is always useful with films like this, especially here when people will be certain they’ve seen it all… and they will have, they just won’t expect to be shown this particular version again. But before we get to all those spoilers, let me first talk a little more generally about Gareth Edwards’ piece.

The pretty repetitive music is more in the way than anything, but who cares when you’ve got Godzilla’s mighty roar to pierce your eardrums as it blasts through those cinema speakers? The gimmick of 3D was definitely not needed either, with little to no moments of “wow that almost hit me,” not that I wanted them anyway. However, I loved Seamus McGarvey’s work with the cinematography, especially when all those army guys jumped out of the plane. The red mist from their ankle-flare things contrasted beautifully with the grey dust of destruction clouding the rest of the screen. He also used a couple of ‘ambiguous space’ shots (fancy name for showing everyone’s reflections rather than actually their faces) which, along with a few more fancy camera work and CGI, made everything feel a little more proper and well made than some of the older films.

Drawn in

Now, back to the spoilers – stop reading here if you haven’t seen the film yet – I mentioned earlier. Similarly to Craven’s move in Scream, Edward’s apparent front-man for the film, Joe – played by Breaking Bad’s Brian Cranston – is killed off along with his wife in a heart breaking initial story line. However, by this point, you’ve already been drawn in enough that when his son, played by Kick Ass’s Aaron Taylor-Johnson steps up to the mark, you’re more than happy to see him through and root for him just as much. On my trip down to the cinema, our taxi driver explained his expectations for the film as “a human interest story with a monster in it, just like the rest of ‘em” and he wasn’t wrong. However, I think that’s a good thing, especially for this film. Adding too much to the original details would have spoiled an otherwise great film, and so I think focusing on keeping the originals alive through this was the best way to go about it.

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They achieved a few nifty throw-backs to the older ones too, with Ken Wanabe’s stereotypically Japanese pronunciation of Godzilla; “Gojira”, the name of the first film. The reference to nature’s strength over man was another good point, as the films were originally created to show Godzilla as the embodiment of the dangers of nuclear weapons and energy. As for the ‘human interest’ elements, I enjoyed those too. The relationships and personal elements added character to a film that is essentially a big lizard attacking a city, as did the other two surprises I will come to in a second. I found myself mind-numbingly enjoying the fight scenes and destruction, but in tears in other, more human scenes. Wanabe’s character, Dr Ichiro, showing his stopped watch – it stopped at the time of the Hiroshima disaster and has belonged to his father – added both human empathy and another throw-back to the original ideas, so that didn’t go amiss either.

Misleading advertising

Finally, I want to talk about the biggest shock, for me anyway, of this film thanks to its misleading advertising. Cranston’s short-lived lead wasn’t the only thing I didn’t expect; I didn’t see the two huge flying-spider-insect-monsters and their thousands of possible babies coming either. And I definitely didn’t think Godzilla was going to be the almost-hero of the story, but damn am I glad he was. When the spore began to hatch, I honestly expected baby-zilla to appear, so when a spider’s leg popped out, I finally clocked on to the amazing fight scenes bound to follow. Essentially, as us humans are so useless, we had to rely on our big friendly monster to destroy our growing insect problem. Not without trying though, I should add, as did I mention we’re also against the clock to destroy a nuke we’d set to go off? Yeah, there’s that. The film definitely tries to outdo itself, but that doesn’t necessarily make it bad as all these elements fit together very well on screen, and there wasn’t a part of the story I didn’t want to immediately get back to enjoying. So after a long fight with these other critters, Godzilla suddenly pulls his sonic-beam/breath out of the bag and I felt myself wanting to cheer for him. It was as though waiting so long to add the final important detail to the mix made it that bit more special when they finally did.

So, if you’re wondering what kind of Godzilla movie this is, it’s a ‘Godzilla saves the city’ version. However, he does destroy the entire of San Francisco while doing it, so take your pick of storylines. In the end, he has restored balance to the earth, and after one final roar, which I interpreted as a “you’re welcome”, he swims off into the depths of the ocean, soon to return for the upcoming Godzilla 2.

Check out the Commodore listing here, to find out when Godzilla is showing in Aberystwyth.