Another year, another monster movie as the granddaddy of city stomping beasties returns to cinemas. Following 1997’s well-intentioned but ludicrous antics, 2014’s reboot is, like most modern action movies A Somewhat Serious Endeavour.
This means trying to portray the events depicted in the film (namely the emergence of an Everest-sized reptile hellbent on trashing any urban settlement unfortunate enough to lay in its path) with all the poe-faced concentration its various players can muster - you know as if it were really happening.
Which is absolutely fine.
Except - except - that Gareth Edwards seem to have made a teeny, weeny bit of a hash of it.
I don’t mind ‘Fatzilla’, which is really a fitting nod to the original Godzilla’s design aesthetic. Nor do I mind the by now obligatory man-with-family-in-peril storyline (at one point they even shoehorn in a surrogate son - you know, because it’s impossible for a human adult to care about anything unless there’s a child in danger) as Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s bomb disposal expert jet-sets across the globe trying to save various members of his family.
But dagnabit - I paid my £14 to see Godzilla stomping the f*** out of a major global metropolis, so anything other than some heavy duty, kaiju-inflicted barnstorming was always going to be considered a breach of the Trade Description Act.
Frustratingly then, Godzilla turns out to be almost all tickle and no proverbial slap for most of its two hour run time. It’s tricky to go into details without blurting out spoilers, but honestly - all they had to do was point the camera (or rather the CGI software) at the giant lizard and unleash hell.
Instead, we’re treated to Edwards’ brand of monster movie-making - slowburn and people focused, as he fails to shake off the guerilla movie-making indie sensibilities that made Monsters such a breakthrough. Cue a string of emotionally flaccid scenes as everyone onscreen desperately tries to inject some feeling into the dreary dialogue, punctuated by violent clashes that, fogged in debris, lack rhythm and climax (ahem). For all the character acting, the scripting is weak, and an epic waste of a great cast (Elizabeth Olsen is particularly unlucky to stumble into what must be one of the worst female parts of the decade).
And while the movie may deliberately nod to Godzilla’s origins, the result is often less homage and more annoyingly predictable (I spent a lot of time amusing myself by predicting exactly when a monstrous limb was going to come crashing through various ceilings onto unsuspecting crowds). More annoyingly, there’s a familiar anti-military and anti-science whiff to the whole enterprise as the former prove themselves repeatedly, rankly incompetent, while the latter turn out to be possessed of fewer clues than a headless chicken.
The science is particularly irritating, conjuring up memories of 2012’s infamous ‘neutrinos are mutating!’ brand of quackery (note to movie makers - if the science doesn’t exist, don’t make it up - if we’re willing to cough up £15 to see a monster movie, we probably aren’t desperate for an explanation).
By the end of the film, my boredom at the mawkish frootloopery of the final scenes was interrupted only by a bewilderment at the Godzilla-sized plotholes, which were more visible than the eponymous creature. Fans of the originals may find it a fascinating tribute, but I could have done with a little less contemplation, and a lot more wanton destruction.