Movie review: Godzilla

By Russell Baillie

There's a moment in this thumpingly entertaining retooling of Godzilla that shows you just how much things have changed - and how much things stay the same.

Sixty years ago, Godzilla was a man in a rubber suit stomping through a diorama. In this exercise of pure digital monster muscle, there's a scene where the big monster takes a breath in mid-mayhem. It's a grunt with a resigned look in its eye.

But we've seen that expression before - on the face of King Kong and on Caesar in Rise of the Planet of Apes. Andy Serkis - is that you in there? Yes it is, taking his motion capture thing to even greater heights. The big guy is really some piece of work.

Video: Watch the new Godzilla trailer

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It's true that after a smart start the film contrives some dumb things to help keep up the peril points. Mostly they involve bridges. School buses behind roadblocks on the Golden Gate? Hasn't anyone seen any other recent disaster movies involving that particular landmark? Transporting nuclear weapons by train across a viaduct? Ditto.

Ah well. This is still a big leap from the awfully cutesy Godzilla vs Manhattan Roland Emmerich delivered in 1998.

It also comes neatly paced and sounding almost better than it looks - the creature stuff is good but the extra murkiness of 3D doesn't add to the experience. But there's something nicely played about the structure of this movie. It starts out with increasingly panicked humans - like Bryan Cranston's nuclear boffin, and monster hunters Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins - but takes its own good time to meet Godzilla at eye level.

Sure there are the usual disaster movies' tearful partings and anxieties involving young Taylor-Johnson's US navy guy (the estranged son of Cranston's character) his civilian nurse wife (Olsen) and son. It's a pity that Taylor-Johnson's character seems to have less personality than the giant creatures - yes it's not just the one - he has to help eradicate. And that Hawkins' character has the role of explaining everything to everybody while Watanabe looks gravely concerned. But at least he doesn't have Cranston's problem - that the film's vast budget didn't extend to a decent hairpiece.

But this Godzilla manages to rise above its human flaws, and become the massive modern monster movie it needs to be. It will be too loud and too silly for some, but it comes recommended to anyone who's enjoyed the big beastie's 60-year stomp through movie history.


Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe
Director: Gareth Edwards
Rating: M (violence)
Running time: 123 mins
Verdict: A return to form for the classic movie mega-monster

- TimeOut

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