When a Japanese nuclear power plant is mysteriously destroyed there are signs that secrets are being kept as to the true nature of what happened. When family man Ford Brody discovers that something ancient has been awakened and seeks to cause massive destruction, he tries to protect his loved ones. But when even the military can’t handle the scale of the problem, humanity receives an unexpected and unlikely saviour from something far older than the human race, and far more deadly.
Godzilla (2014) – Director: Gareth Edwards
Running Length: 123 mins
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston
Genre: Action, Science-Fiction, Disaster
After first roaring onto screens in the 1950s, the nuclear ‘King of the Monsters’, Godzilla, has been brawling around skyscrapers for decades. However, the last major outing was the critically mauled Hollywood attempt in 1998. Steering clear of the garish foghorn approach to action, this 2014 attempt instead delivers a faithful homage to the b-movie bonanzas of old by aptly demonstrating that when less is more, the more can be humongous.
What Godzilla gets right is knowing exactly what you have come to see, and then coyly withholding it from you. The first act introduces a family torn apart, leading with a slow pace into our first big monster appearance; a huge insect-like creature later referred to as a MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism). The second act keeps teasing with snippets of beasts battling in cities by virtue of news reports and background action but denying the full on monster punch up we’re dying to see. And then just when you are ready to stomp out of the cinema in frustration, the third act unleashes a two-on-one titanic fight with roaring, shrieking and skyscraper destruction aplenty. Coupled with a soundtrack that revels in 50s style schlock, Godzilla’s action sequences doff a large cap to its origins and is all the better for it.
Plot and character, however, are indistinct. Despite a strong opening with an impossible decision (and an excellent star turn from Bryan Cranston), as Godzilla unfurls it becomes clear that Taylor-Johnson, as a young father separated from his wife and son, exists to move the settings from one backdrop to another. The family core we are supposed to care about fails to add a human dimension to the action, and Ken Watanabe is wasted by being reduced to exposition and awed-staring only. Regardless, Godzilla’s tack of focusing on people fleeing – whilst somewhere in the background a gigantic mega-ton scrap is felling the city – lends to a superb sense of separation. The action ramps up to a satisfying climax and, by honouring its past instead of snobbishly assuming it can do better (like the 1998 version), Godzilla tramples criticism and succeeds with gusto.
IS ‘GODZILLA’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?
The opening is emotionally very intense. After being introduced to a father, mother and son, a disaster in a nuclear power plant leaves one family member running for their life. Another has to make the decision as to whether to close the blast doors or not. This leads to a highly charged conversation through a porthole window with both characters extremely distressed. Other background characters are shown to be terrified and they panic.
There are some occasional instances of bad language. Two different characters say a moderate curse word and one other character yells a mildly blasphemous exclamation of surprise.
There are many instances of background characters dying and the total death count is fairly high. However, there is never any injury or detail shown and there is also no suffering. The first big action sequence shows a tentacle lash out suddenly and hit someone although the camera cuts away instantly. A cable car with several people trapped inside is dragged over a ledge. We see the people banging on a window before disappearing from view. Another man is crushed underfoot quickly. A major character is mortally injured and, after an emotional farewell, is later seen being zipped up in a body bag. Another character mourns, but this is not lingered on beyond the next 5 or 10 minutes.
A plane crashes and explodes and the resulting fireball consumes several soldiers but the camera cuts away before any detail is shown. Shortly after, a large tsunami sweeps through some city streets. The wave passes quickly but when two minor characters run into a glass walled building we see the wave hit into the pedestrians and wash them away. The wave then ends and there is no suffering shown. Train tracks on a high bridge are destroyed and a train car is torn in half, which then tilts off the tracks. People scream and fall out of the carriage, presumably being killed in the process.
After an attack on a bridge one character is knocked out. When they come to they are surrounded by bodies of dead soldiers, although we do not see any blood nor do we see their faces.
Throughout the movie there are massive beasts that emit very loud roars and screeches which could upset children sensitive to the very loud sound present in a movie theatre.
CAN I SEE A CLIP?
Godzilla isn’t angled as a children’s film. The tone throughout is intense and swings from family turmoil to disaster epic. However, there is little that is specifically unsuitable. Many background characters die but there is never any detail or prolonged suffering shown. Godzilla’s feel is therefore that of sincere seriousness mixed with over-the-top b-movie monster schlock which will likely appeal more to older children. Godzilla should be suitable for children aged 7 and over, but may of more interest to those aged 10 and above.
- Violence: 2/5 (constant but lacking details or suffering)
- Emotional Distress: 3/5 (the opening scene is emotionally traumatic and this the intensity is sustained for 5 – 10 minutes)
- Fear Factor: 2/5 (the introduction of the MUTO is slow and builds up to it looming over the people whilst screeching loudly, which may scare some children. This will happen several times later so it’s worth keeping an eye on how your child reacts to this scene.
- Sexual Content: 1/5 (some passionate, but brief kissing and flirting)
- Bad Language: 2/5 (rare but moderate)
- Dialogue: 3/5 (the opening scene features dialogue that may upset and distress due to the horribleness of the situation and because it relates to a family)
- Other notes: Deals with themes of nuclear consequences, mass hysteria, large-scale destruction and the power of nature
Words by Mike Record