5 October 2014 | bob the moo
Although effects and sound are technically impressive, it is quite unsatisfying and superficial
I'm no great fan of summer blockbusters and for sure am resistant to the idea of paying over the odds to sit in a crowded room and be disappointed. This usually sees me picking up with such films when they are cheaper to get on rental and just watch in my own home. With Godzilla I will admit I was tempted to join for the spectacle because in addition to this the film had the appeal of quite a starry cast list in addition to being from Gareth Edwards, the man who famously made Monsters in his bedroom and on the fly. This suggested that perhaps there would be more to it than just effects and big money shots. That said, I had heard negative things and I did approach it with low expectations because after all, it is just a Godzilla movie.
The film does try to create a human story to ground the audience and it casts wisely with Cranston, Binoche, Watanabe, Hawkins and others – all people who have a good presence in front of the camera. I was not to know that so many of the names that drew me to the project would be removed from the film pretty early on – a device that has impact for sure, but doesn't seem particularly brave since one suspects that the reason people like Cranston got onboard was that they were promised a lot for only relatively small parts. This leaves us with Taylor- Johnson and his quest to get home; a quest that never really interested me but at the same time is constantly pushed into the middle of the action no matter what or where it is. This saw my interest in the human side waning as the film progressed, leaving just the action.
On this front the film pushes things as hard as it can. The makers clearly know their action genre because this is a film that understands that soldiers running with guns and speaking in tough military dialogue while music pumps in the background, can grab an audience – so it does it, lots. Considering I didn't care two hoots for them, I was surprised by how much time I spent watching soldiers sweeping areas with guns pointed – it did start to bore after a while. The monsters and their destruction is nicely hinted at first, but eventually the film plays all its cards and we have lots of action and knocking down of buildings. Unfortunately much of it plays out in darkness – something which helps the atmosphere but limits how much can be seen. Technically it looks good and the money is all up on the screen (in the darkness) but it is probably the noise that makes the most impact and even on a lesser system the roars and thuds of the monsters are engagingly meaty.
Unfortunately this is really all that the film does, and it is quite uninvolving and unsatisfying. There is a lot of very good noise and big spectacle, but we have to experience through the human characters who we increasingly do not care about, and when the action really ramps up, it is detached from any sort of reality and I found myself appreciating the technical work rather than getting lost in what could have been dramatic and thrilling. As a blockbuster it probably has enough noise about it to be a distracting two hours if you have a good enough home entertainment value.