Checked out an IMAX 3D screening of the new Godzilla movie last Thursday night…my initial spoiler-free impressions follow:
Godzilla, and his world and characters that populate it, have an intrinsic connection to Japanese culture, not to mention a particularly dark time in 20th Century history (the original 1954 Godzilla was a clear allegory for the atomic bombs dropped on Japan during the last days of World War II). As a result, I think any attempt by another country to present their take on Godzilla is bound to feel somewhat less genuine, or not quite “the real thing”…just as it would if Japan tried to make a Batman or Friday the 13th film.
This new Godzilla is certainly miles above Roland Emmerich’s embarrassing attempt to Americanize the character back in 1998. Director Gareth Edwards has clearly taken his cue from the Steven Spielberg school of classic blockbuster movie-making, using films like JAws (even one of the main characters is named Brody), Close Encounters of the Third Kind and (naturally) Jurassic Park as his templates. While Edwards is to be commended for wanting to take his time and establish character, the problem is that his characters are, for the most part, not worth investing too much time or emotion in. They aren’t awful characters, just rather bland and uninvolving. But at least they aren’t the annoying cardboard cut-outs that populated Emmerich’s film.
Then again, character depth and development in a Godzilla film is something that should be considered a bonus rather than a pre-requisite. These movies are all about the stomp and the spectacle, and in this regard I think Edwards has pulled-off some pretty stunning set-pieces. A lot of critics have found fault with the film’s sparse sprinkling of action during its first two acts, and while it would have been nice to see a bit more of actual Godzilla action, I found its more relaxed pace to be a nice change in an age when blockbusters are expected to start with a big CGI razzle dazzle and never let-up. And I really liked the way they handled the Godzilla ‘character’, drawing on various past incarnations to create a nice balance of monster and hero. I really liked the design as well - a slight revamp but unmistakably Godzilla. The enormous prehistoric (and nuclear-fed) MUTOs - Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms - look rather generic and unremarkable in comparison, though they do come across as genuinely threatening in a couple of scenes.
While it didn’t quite live up to the promise shown by its terrific and highly-effective trailers, I still found Godzilla to be a pretty entertaining and satisfying attempt to do a classic monster movie, and has a rousing final act that certainly looked pretty grand up there on the giant IMAX screen.
Received a free Godzilla IMAX poster upon entry as well...always nice to see a bit of old-fashioned promotion going on.