Film review: Godzilla (12A, 123 min)

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Reducing the Pacific to rubble

In Steven Spielberg’s box-office behemoth Jurassic Park, geneticists arrogantly believe they can tame Mother Nature with cutting-edge science.

“Life finds a way,” warns Jeff Goldblum’s fatalistic chaos mathematician.

These wise words and Spielberg’s entire 1993 blockbuster provide the guiding light for Gareth Edwards’s bombastic resurrection of cinema’s iconic reptile.

The Warwickshire-born director harks back to Ishiro Honda’s groundbreaking 1954 film Gojira, which reflected Japanese society’s fears in the aftermath of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In Edwards’s film, the titular 355-feet tall creature boasts familiar dorsal fins, lumbering gait and fiery radioactive breath, and is securely tethered to timely concerns about the environmental consequences of nuclear power.

A mine in the Philippine jungle collapses, exposing the remains of two seemingly fossilised and highly radioactive creatures.

One of the monsters hatches and runs amok, and despite the best efforts of Dr Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and his colleague Dr Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins), its mate also escapes confinement.

US Navy Admiral William Stenz (David Strathairn) co-ordinates the response and sends his men into battle including Lieutenant Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), whose parents (Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche) worked at the Janjira nuclear plant, where one creature began its rampage.

Meanwhile in San Francisco, Ford’s wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) prepares to evacuate with their four-year-old son Sam (Carson Bolde).

When military might fails to halt the devastation and hope dims, alpha predator Godzilla emerges from the deep...

Edwards’s picture opens with a helicopter ride that could have been airlifted from Jurassic Park and continues with the Spielbergean nods including theme park ride-style action sequences and children in peril.

Godzilla is a technically accomplished hunk of large-scale monster-mashing.

You can see every cent of the rumoured 160 million dollar budget and the director makes good use of the 3D format by reflecting carnage in mirrors and glass.

Chilling images of Cranston and Taylor-Johnson entering a Japanese quarantine zone and a tender moment between the two M.U.T.O.s (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms) explicitly reference Edwards’s low budget debut, Monsters.

The director manages to convey the titular reptile’s feelings in the midst of battle.

Human emotions are much harder to unearth.

Taylor-Johnson is a bland all-American hero and heavyweights Cranston and Binoche don’t have sufficient screen time to deliver the wallop we crave.

Ken Watanabe - or Obi-Wan Watanabe as he should be renamed - is reduced to philosophising about our failings (“The arrogance of man is thinking nature is [in] our control, and not the other way round”) and sounding the bell on a final round showdown between Godzilla and his adversaries.

“Let them fight!” he growls.

And fight they do, reducing the Pacific coast to rubble in a titanic tussle of computer-generated sound and fury that should take a large bite out of the UK box office, much like Spielberg’s T-Rex.

Action/Sci-Fi/Thriller/Romance. Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Sally Hawkins, Carson Bolde, David Strathairn, Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche. Director: Gareth Edwards.