Review: Monster mauling for towering giant Godzilla
The latest blockbusting adaptation of the Japanese classic can only be described as Godawful, says Andrew Johnston.
For a character that has towered over cinemagoers for some 60 years, Hollywood has had little luck with Godzilla. A planned 1980s film was abandoned due to budget concerns, while 1998's Roland Emmerich-directed version was a critical disaster. Now, the Americans are having another go, but alas, Godzilla 2014 is another monster disappointment.
Director Gareth Edwards' indie debut Monsters was a superb piece of work, but here he has bitten off more than he can chew.
The demands of a fun, summer blockbuster seem beyond the Nuneaton-born 39-year-old. The main problem is the sombre tone.
Godzilla apes the murky visuals and serious approach of the Dark Knight trilogy and Man of Steel, but there are some characters that are just 'undarkenable'. Batman suits the milieu and Superman just about gets away with it, but a 350ft fire-breathing lizard? Not so much.
The Japanese Godzilla series has endured because of its lightness of touch, an awareness of its own inherent absurdity and an understanding that the monsters are the stars, all of which escapes Edwards. Men in rubber suits clattering into model skyscrapers would be preferable to Godzilla 2014's interminable scenes of Aaron Taylor-Johnson furrowing his brow, or swaggering about in a leather jacket.
Brit Taylor-Johnson heads Godzilla's cast as Ford Brody, a US Army bomb-disposal expert, whose mother (Juliette Binoche) is killed in a nuclear power plant disaster and whose father has spent the past 15 years trying to prove it was no accident.
Cranston and Binoche have zero chemistry, but they're a match made in heaven compared to Taylor-Johnson and screen wife Elizabeth Olsen, a nurse (natch) who spends most of the film on the other end of a phone (natch).
Elsewhere, the likes of Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins and David Strathairn complete the least appealing ensemble since the Star Wars prequels as they suck all the energy out of proceedings.
It doesn't help that Godzilla's human characters are jaw-droppingly boring. Sure, all the great creature features ration out the monster's appearances, but here, after yet more of Hawkins's exposition-babbling scientist or Strathairn's sub-Leslie Nielsen, straight-faced military man, we're begging for Godzilla to show up and start smashing stuff.
Indeed, the oversized iguana seems like an afterthought in his own film. Most of the monster action concerns a duo of new beastly behemoths known as MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Objects), which are like enormous robot moths. They're decent enough, but it's not really who we've come to see.
The original 1954 Godzilla has inspired countless movies over the years, from Jurassic Park to Cloverfield and Pacific Rim. Godzilla 2014 in turn rips off these flicks, with none of their visual, or storytelling style.
Godzilla's other main influence seems to be Sky News, with practically every major catastrophe of the past 15 years referenced, beginning with the recent Japanese nuclear meltdown and working its way through a tsunami, planes flying into buildings, planes crashing into the ocean and a ship capsizing.
If the script had anything to say beyond a few half-hearted lines about mankind's scientific arrogance, it might be excusable to portray such incidents, but it's just tasteless.
On the positive side, Alexandre Desplat's doom-laden score is effective and there a few ostentatious moments.
But none of it is enough to save this mess of clunky dialogue, poorly edited action sequences, computer-generated carnage and nonexistent 3D. In a word? Godawful.