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Godzilla

Year: 2014
Production Co: Legendary
Studio: Warner Bros
Director: Gareth Edwards
Writer: Max Borenstein/Max Callaham
Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn, Juliette Binoche

It always seemed a little early to me to be looking at Godzilla again when they announced this movie, and I never really hated Roland Emmerich's 1998 version as much as the popular film press tells you to, but in the wake of Transformers and Pacific Rim, a new breed of studio efforts are realising that big is the new 3D when it comes to tricks that will convince people to come back to cinemas.

I've also never been a Gojira purist, but it's easy to see how Monsters alumni Gareth Edwards is much more reverent to the Toho mythology than Emmerich ever was. The film also proves how good CGI can be when enough development and care is put into it (and how shoddy a lot of it still looks by contrast).

Just like Pacific Rim, Godzilla is about one thing – the very concept of giant monsters. It's the equivalent of looking into the dreams of every eight year old who ever had a King Kong or Decepticon doll and used it to flatten a Lego city, imagining how cool it would look in real life.

Riffing strongly on the 2011 Japanese earthquake, Joe (Bryan Cranston) and his wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche, the first surprisingly indie face to show up in a big studio blockbuster) are nuclear researchers who work in a coastal Japanese reactor when the big one hits.

It's not until 15 years later when Joe is a crackpot conspiracy theorist and their son Ford (Aaron Edwards) is a special forces soldier that we learn the big one was actually a giant insectoid animal the powers that be managed to capture.

Since then it's been immobilised at the ruins of the plant in the abandoned city, but when Ford pays an obligatory visit to his dad, the latter is convinced he holds the final key to what the government is hiding. They break in to discover the huge radioactive creature is about to wake up.

When it does, it busts out of confinement to swim towards America with the navy in hot pursuit, creating several eye-poppingly realistic scenes of destructive havoc in Hawaii and Las Vegas. Only scientist Ishiro (Ken Watanabe) and his assistant (Sally Hawkins) know the answer – awaken Gojira, the legendary giant radioactive lizard the Japanese government spent the 1950s trying to kill – and let it and the MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) fight.

The armed forces have little choice but to track each beast (a third one wakes up and goes on the rampage soon after) and let them converge on San Francisco to duke it out. Only problem is that it's been discovered the analogue nuke the army has tricked one of the MUTOs into carrying not only won't help, as their food source it will make it nearly indestructible.

Ford and his team have to try to get into the battle as the monsters lay waste to the city around them, stop the clock, and let Godzilla do his work.

It's a movie replete with money shots that will send shivers up your spine if you love event cinema, like when Godzilla fires up his radiation beam breath or lets fly his signature roar. Just when you think it can't get any louder or angrier he takes it up a notch, blasting strings of lanterns strung across the street in San Francisco's Chinatown aside in the wake of his mighty voice and rattling you to your core as well. Everything from the first teasers at Comic Con years ago until the release were about just one thing – incredible size, rendered realistically on screen,

The performances are serviceable and the plot is interesting enough. It's not nearly the excuse to lurch from one action sequence to another many blockbusters are, but it's not Shakespeare. You can see a lot of studio focus-grouping involved (who else would decree that the hero and his wife had to be a soldier and nurse – appropriately heroic touchstones to Middle Americans audiences), but Edwards wields the same confidence he showed in the brilliant Monsters, albeit with much more money and presumably interference.

Either way, hats off to him for what must be one of the fastest and well-deserved ascents into the creative Hollywood hierarchy ever. A few years ago he was editing and post producing his own little movie on a laptop, and not long after Godzilla was released it was announced he'd be directing the first standalone Star Wars film of the new era. One say soon his career will dwarf even Godzilla himself.

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