Re:View – ‘Godzilla 3D’
I finally caught up with this on the big (B-I-I-I-I-G) screen in a deserted Toho Cinema on a thunderously rainy night in Tokyo, the perfect place to watch the big guy kick off against the world. Or rather, not against the world buy against two more monsters; Godzilla’s WWF smackdown unfortunately turns the film into ‘Pacific Rim 2’.
Luckily, director Gareth (‘Monsters’) Edwards turns in such a superior action film (especially when compared to the last laughably inept reboot) that believability is less important than the wow factor. To handle the heavy lifting as far as plot goes – what there is of it – we have Juliette Binoche and Bryan Cranston (not exactly obvious casting, but it works) re-enacting an earlier scene from ‘Star Trek’ as earthquakes send a reactor rogue and take lives.
Nuclear detonation drives this reboot back in line with the original Japanese take (not the Raymond Burr US-recut) so that the great fear through the first half of the film is clearly fallout from the original 1954 fallout, and images of nuclear war, radiation and loss are touched lightly upon, adding gravitas and continuity.
The second act concerns itself with Cranston’s son fifteen years later, the appearance of two irradiated ‘Mutos’ – giant winged ants with claws – and the fear that they will breed. Here the film most resembles Edwards’ earlier ‘Monsters’, with action glimpsed and teased on TV screens, all sensation derived from a human height and perspective (in one brilliant moment, through a closing door), and sequences of shots that conjure up a real sense of mystery and danger. There are set-pieces – on a bridge, in a train – that remind one of ‘Jurassic Park’ in terms of tension and construction. Scientists Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins deliver the techno-gobbledygook in roles which waste their talents while still being examples of smart casting.
The third act delivers the crowd-pleasing knockout – Gojira fighting two monsters while the world watches – and so Big G is the planet’s guardian and everything gets really absurd, especially in his victory moments. But again Edwards saves the day with a clutch of extraordinary touches. A virtual 9/11 recreation, a fleet of airborne soldiers dropped into the clouded terrain against a score which sounds suspiciously like Thomas Ligetti’s ‘Lux Aeterna’ suite from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, and a superb shot of Godzilla retreating into dust and fog.
It’s all far better (and more memorable) than it deserves to be, knocking ‘Pacific Rim’ out of the park and perhaps paving the way for inferior sequels – just like the original. As usual, the 3D adds nothing and is of negligible importance. Although due to the language barrier I seem to have bought my own 3D glasses from Toho Cinemas now.