Movie review – Godzilla: Supersized creature feature

2014-05-18 15:00

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Three #Trending critics went to watch Godzilla. They offer three different opinions on the return of the mother of all monsters

Gayle Edmunds 

The creature feature is back! Not that it’s been gone for that long. Godzilla has been slumbering since the 1990s, when he was briefly resurrected to storm Manhattan.

This reimagining of Godzilla is better in every way. Where the monster was a projection of the human race’s arrogance and stupidity in the nuclear age, he now rises from the deep to save us from ourselves.

The last lines of the original 1954 film were: “If we continue conducting nuclear tests, it’s possible another Godzilla might appear somewhere in the world again.”

Guess what? He does, after the scientific community nurtures a weird prehistoric egg that eats a Japanese nuclear reactor and becomes a nasty monster.

Bryan Cranston is the mad scientist and Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass) is his son Ford, who thinks his dad is nuts.

Ken Watanabe is the Japanese scientist who expects our salvation lies in the gargantuan lizard-like jaws of Godzilla. Sally Hawkins is his sidekick.

Gareth Edwards is a relative newcomer to the director’s chair, but he is an experienced special-effects guy and it shows.

The CGI is spectacular, the 3D works well and the creatures are impressive as they lay waste to landmarks – in San Francisco, for a change.

Godzilla gets a thumbs up as solid horror entertainment – a few jump-out-of-your seat moments as well as plenty of whizz-bang effects. Lovers of the likes of King Kong and Pacific Rim will lap this up.

Gugulethu Mhlungu

Godzilla is back – and bigger. Literally. He is nearly three times the size he was in the 1954 original and Japanese fans have complained he is fat. And they are correct.

A growth spurt was necessary because buildings have grown taller since 1954 and Godzilla needs to appear threatening to a skyscraper.

Godzilla was born out of Japan’s post-Hiroshima fear of nuclear power and Gareth Edwards’ version stays faithful to such concerns. This time, however, Godzilla is the embodiment of the US’ anxiety around nuclear weaponry. Extremely scary, but arguably of some benefit to humankind.

The danger of nuclear weaponry is further explored through the pair of Mutos – which sounds suitably Japanese, but is actually an acronym for Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Objects.

The two Mutos were born in the 1950s near sites of atomic testing: the male in Japan in 1954, as collateral damage from a deep-sea mission by the USS Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine; and the female in Nevada, where the government tested its H-bombs.

References abound to other nuclear events.

Even more complicated is that the Mutos have a taste for radiation. In fact, you learn they have been feeding off radiation from a nearby nuclear reactor when they finally wreak havoc in 2014.

This means the plan to detonate a nuclear weapon as a means of killing them could backfire dreadfully, which leaves the US at the mercy of Godzilla, its biggest threat, to destroy the Mutos.

So our saviour turns out to be the scariest weapon we have.

Grethe Koen

Godzilla made me feel like a kid again, a gleeful, screaming child discovering the awesome and terrifying monster for the first time.

Every time the god-monster roared, I shrank into my seat. Every time the enemy Muto monsters screeched into the scene, my palms clammed up.

It’s a loud, gigantic and thrilling romp – which is what it was intended to be. Bring on the blockbuster.

But stop right there. We have a problem. Unfortunately, that thrill doesn’t extend to the humans.

In typical Hollywood fashion, the monsters have better-developed personalities than the people. Bryan Cranston is easily the most captivating of the humans. But, spoiler alert, he doesn’t last terribly long.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson is your typical blue-eyed American hero – saving the day in time for dinner with his pretty nurse wife Elle Brody (Elizabeth Olsen), who does little more than cry, scream and run.

Ken Watanabe is a welcome break from the American stock. And, considering Godzilla is a Japanese concept, vital to the film’s authenticity.

I would have liked to see more Japanese characters besides the nameless cannon fodder who get killed during the nuclear reactor meltdown. But when has Hollywood ever been a beacon of diversity on screen (or off screen, for that matter)?

At the end of the day, are we really watching Godzilla, where a 150m-tall monster slams a radiation-eating parasitic Muto into a skyscraper, for the character development? No.

Godzilla hits where it matters – and that’s on ear-ripping sound effects, megadestruction and fantastic CGI.

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