Gareth Edward's Godzilla returns to the 1954 roots of the story of the monster. It's based in the Pacific theatre. The evils of nuclear bombs, testing, plants and power are present at the outset and ongoing theme through the film. It's Godzilla battling it out with other nuclear power fuelled behemoths to determine whose king.
The story begins 15 years in the past. A mining company stumbles on a nest of a dormant creature in the Philippines that is awaken by their activity then heads to Japan for the nearest nuclear source for food and energy. That source is the plant where Joe Brody (Brian Cranston) is employed as an engineer. Brody discovers that the plant is displaying unusual seismic activity that spikes causing an apparent meltdown and the death of his wife Sandy (Juliette Binoche).
The plot moves ahead to modern day where Joe's son Ford returns home from his Navy deployment as a bomb tech to his wife and son. A call comes in from Japan, his dad Joe who never recovered from the event at the plant has been opposing the official meltdown story and trespassing in the quarantine zone where the family used to live. The seismic activity has started again and Joe is determined to lean the truth feeling a sense of guilt as he sent his wife and her team in to investigate at the core of the plant 15 years earlier.
Writers Max Borenstein and Dave Callahan take their time telling the story. The original disaster is only evidenced by smoke rolling up the hallways from the core and the silos and reactor containment buildings seen collapsing from a distance. They insert just the right amount of character development scenes first for Joe's family in Japan then Ford's in San Francisco.
Edwards uses a unique shooting style to show the action on the screen. The destruction of buildings and territory is often not shown as it happens. Instead glimpses and flashes of the monsters are shown followed by the opening seconds of destruction. Next up on screen is the aftermath that the visual effects and art department team deliver spot on especially in Honolulu and Las Vegas.
One area where the film falls down a bit it's in the acting department. Aaron Taylor-Johnson deliverers a pedestrian performance as the films central figure Ford Brody. Johnson is at just about all locations in the production but fails to elicit a strong reaction from the viewer. Elizabeth Olsen is better as his wife Elle attempting to hold down her family on the home front unsure where her husband is for the majority of the film. Brian Cranston and Juliette Binoche have supporting roles. The best performance is that of Ken Wantanabe (Dr, Ichiro Serizawa) who has links to the sea dwelling creatures, knows the history of nuclear power and that man often underestimates the power of nature to his own detriment.
The film features two memorable action sequences the first on train tracks that wind through a tunnel then suspended well above the valley below. The scene is more suspenseful than face paced but sound of the monsters as they pass near the army recon team is both deafening and eerily quiet all at the same time.
The other is the halo jump in to the theatre of battling monsters. Starting with the unit The team as the prepare on the bomber, opening of the rear hatch, the wave of solders jumping into the sky the free fall with lights and red smoke emanating from the each solider s kit as they parachute into the rubble filled streets of San Francisco.
Godzilla is a quality reboot of a classic cinematic character. Gareth Edwards had a unique vision for the character that's clearly presented on screen. The piece has a running theme that mankind's reliance on nuclear energy, power and weapons might not be the best course of action. The result of this risky endeavour are monsters forged in the core of the planet coming to the surface to show Mother Nature's displeasure. The film is everything one is looking for in a summer block buster and is one that I can highly recommend.
*** 1/2 out of 4.
Godzilla | Gareth Edwards | U.S.A.| 2014| 123 Minutes.
Tags: Nuclear Power, Meltdown,Army, Navy, Secret Project, Quarantine Zone, Disaster, Philippines, Japan, Honolulu, San Francisco.