When waking up for his birthday, scientist Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) had no idea this was going to be the day that changes his life. Obsessed by unnatural seismic activity going on, disaster strikes as the nuclear plant where he works in Japan crumbles to the ground, killing his wife (Juliette Binoche) in the process. 15 years later on, we meet his son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who arrives home from serving his country to his wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) and young son, only to pack up and leave again when he finds out his father has been arrested.
Heading back to Japan to bail his father out, Joe is adamant that the same shockwaves he had felt all those years before have come back – and the conspiracy theorist is certain that the government are covering something up. It soon transpires that he’s right, and the secret they’re hiding is that of a ginormous, seemingly infallible monster, and one that had been dormant, dwelling patiently in the ocean for decades – until now. When the hysterical doctor Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) believes that Godzilla is still alive, he predicts that it may be able to restore the balance, and defeat the malevolent creatures that are threatening the human race.
Relentlessly entertaining from the word go, Edwards begins much as he means to carry on, as a fast-paced, unremitting blockbuster that offers the viewer little respite. The special effects are simply incredible in this title too, not only of the creature itself and the breathtaking set-pieces that ensue, but the destruction caused is so shatteringly realistic, as every frame following the monster’s resurgence, offers a harrowing portrayal of society facing complete annihilation, with helpless people running around like ants, and buildings torn to shreds.
The tale has been brought into the real world with a minimum contrivance, and considering this story is about a gigantic monster, it’s handled as naturalistically as the material will allow, as the way the human race reacts to the cataclysmic events is particularly well-judged. Much of that comes down to Edwards ability to find intimacy admit the surreal and grandiose environment, and the immensity of the narrative. His modest background has certainly helped, with his only previous film credit being that of low-budget sci-fi Monsters, and he brings that intricacy to this too, as his sincere depiction of family dynamic and loss is one seldom seen in films of this scale.
That distinct vulnerability of the characters is one that extends to Godzilla too, as there’s a real graciousness to the way the creature moves and glides through the water, and we somehow manage to maintain a level of empathy towards it. Nonetheless, Cranston steals every single scene he is in, as rarely do you see an actor display such raw human emotion in big, Hollywood blockbusters. Conversely, Taylor-Johnson struggles in that very department, and though there’s an authoritative nature about his role, and you certainly put your faith in him – he remains mostly vacant and dispassionate throughout.
Thankfully given the exhilarating, unforgiving nature of this production, any such misgivings can be forgiven, as when you sit back and simply enjoy this picture for what it’s worth, it’s impossible to not become completely immersed in this world and taken with this fantastical tale. So, you may now lower those eyebrows, because this seemingly superfluous reboot, is something of a triumph.