Godzilla, film review: 'Fun but innately cheesy'

3.00

The question the entertaining new Godzilla movie can never quite resolve is how much cheese it should serve up with its monsters.

In the early scenes, in which husband and wife team of scientists Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche investigate strange tremors beneath the ground at the Janjira Nuclear Plant, the cheesiness is kept to an absolute minimum.

The opening credits - black and white archive footage of nuclear explosions - are full of foreboding. This is the first Godzilla since the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011. Its imagery of earthquakes, tidal waves and nuclear meltdown has a grimly topical resonance as a consequence.

British director Gareth Edwards, whose previous film was the micro-budget Monsters, shows extraordinary visual flair in his depiction of devastated cities and ravaged countryside. He pays exhaustive attention to sound editing, providing a mini-symphony of rumbles, shrieks, high pitched electrical whines and prehistoric courtship cries.

Cranston and Binoche don’t have a huge amount of screen time together but they bring an emotional intensity to the film that you simply don’t expect in a summer blockbuster.

The cracks in the film only really begin to emerge once Godzilla takes to the screen alongside his antagonists, the Mutos (huge creatures that look like a cross between pterodactyls and cockroaches.)

For all the loving care and digital wizardry that has gone into creating the 355ft tall monster, Godzilla here still looks as if he has just escaped from such low budget Ray Harryhausen movie shooting in somebody’s garden nearby.

Godzilla rises from the water in the new 3D movie Godzilla rises from the water in the new 3D movie

Once he is on the scene and fellow creatures the Mutos are wreaking havoc everywhere from Hawaii to San Francisco, the cheesiness becomes overwhelming.

Edwards has assembled a top notch cast but gives them the kind of dialogue that would barely pass muster in a Jerry Zucker spoof.

The brilliant character actor David Strathairn looks as if he is imitating Leslie Nielsen in his performance as a square-jawed, ultra-earnest US navy admiral not accustomed to tussling with monsters.

As a young scientist, part of the Monarch team that has long been on Godzilla's tail (so as to speak), Sally Hawkins recites lines about Godzilla's place "at the top of a primeval eco system" with admirable conviction - but that doesn't hide their absurdity.

As her older colleague, Ken Watanabe looks suitably anguished every time a tower is pulled down or a forest flattened or the electricity short circuits yet again. 

The Statue of Liberty gets thoroughly Godzilla'd (Pic: Warner Bros)

Godzilla's status takes some time to determine. Early on, he is a force of destruction. Latterly, whatever devastation he leaves in his wake, he is seen as helping to restore nature's balance.

Against such sizable, scene-stealing and scene-wrecking opposition, the ostensible hero Aaron Taylor-Johnsen has a thankless task. He plays Ford Brody, the son of scientists Cranston and Binoche, belatedly following up on their work.

He has a wife (Olsen) and kid he hasn't seen in years thanks to his Navy duties but the filmmakers don't allow him much time to forge the familial bonds. Instead, he is whisked away to Japan in pursuit of The King Of The Monsters.

Midway through, the filmmakers seem to stop worrying about Godzilla's darker themes and instead concentrate on making an old fashioned, Irwin Allen style disaster movie, complete with buses stranded on toppling bridges, abandoned kids, collapsing skyscrapers, sinking ships and runaway trains.

It's all fun in its own (by now) very far-fetched way but reinforces the sense that Godzilla movies will never fully be able to transcend their own innate, cheesy preposterousness.

Arts and Entertainment

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Metallica are heading for the Main Stage at Reading and Leeds Festivals next summer

Music

Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain's daughter Frances Bean Cobain is making a new documentary about his life

Music

Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp

TV Jungle security stepped up after murder and 'suspicious death' near to camp

Arts and Entertainment
TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tvThe two new contestants will join the 'I'm A Celebrity' camp after Gemma Collins' surprise exit
News
The late Jimmy Ruffin, pictured in 1974
people
News
Northern Uproar, pictured in 1996
people

Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the new Paddington bear review

Review: Paddingtonfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Tony stares at the 'Daddy Big Ears' drawing his abducted son Oliver drew for him in The Missing
tvReview: But we're no closer to the truth in 'The Missing'
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
    Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

    24-Hour party person

    Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
    Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

    A taste for rebellion

    US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
    Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

    Colouring books for adults

    How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
    Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
    Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

    Call me Ed Mozart

    Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
    10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
    Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
    'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

    'I am a paedophile'

    Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
    Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

    From a lost deposit to victory

    Green Party on the march in Bristol
    Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

    Winter blunderlands

    Putting the grot into grotto
    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

    London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital