Godzilla – Film Review

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The history of Godzilla goes back to 1954 when a Japanese film was released featuring a fire breathing dinosaur-like colossus rampaging its way through Tokyo. The film was a huge hit and acted as a scathing morality tale about the horrors that the country suffered during Atomic bombings in World War II.

Sadly my personal history of Godzilla only goes back to 1998 when an American film was released featuring a giant T-Rex that somehow manages to hide in downtown Manhattan. The film was negatively received and a potential trilogy was abandoned. This iteration was perfect for the ten-year-old me who saw the film in the cinema but subsequent viewing revealed it for the astonishing Matthew Broderick starring mess it was. This particular Godzilla was just a bit of fun, some light entertainment for a Sunday afternoon in front of the TV but nothing more than that.

The history of 2014’s Godzilla goes back to 2010 when British visual effects whiz Gareth Edwards released his debut feature as writer and director; Monsters. The film was a small story about two people trying to get back to America from Mexico in a time when the American border has been turned into a quarantine zone filled with extraterrestrial creatures. Working on a micro-budget, and creating his own visual effects, Edwards demonstrated a great visual eye and an ability to put characters first ahead of relying on the, admittedly excellent, CGI beasts. The question going into Godzilla is whether Edwards can learn from Roland Emmerich’s mistakes and make a film worthy of the 1954 original utlising the talents he showcased in Monsters.

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On most fronts Edwards’ Godzilla is hugely successful. The sheer scale, bulk, and scope of both the monster and its setting is frankly jaw-dropping. Godzilla is big. I mean BIG. Seriously though, Godzilla is BIG. The press notes alone were over 40 pages long; everything about this film is done on a bigger scale than I have seen in a cinema before. In what is a film with a relatively serious tone the only laughter I allowed myself (aside from a few amusingly convenient plot contrivances) was when I just had to giggle at the spectacle of what I was seeing on screen. It was just plain ridiculous. Ridiculous and sublime. And BIG. As the chaos got more and more chaotic I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself and shake my head in disbelief – a wonderful thing to be able to do at the cinema I’m sure you will agree.

With Godzilla as his second film Edwards is displaying some serious chops when it comes to a striking visual. While initially being coy about showing us the titular creature he is sure to give us our eyeful of monolithic prehistoric riotous beast before the film is done. When we aren’t feasting on creature visuals the film is littered with gorgeous photography filled with gloomy smoke, looming shadows, and this film’s signature red hue. While the 1998 Godzilla was a lumbering mess this is a gorgeous piece of cinema with endless treats for the eyes that need to be seen on the big screen. While I’m not going to be plugging the IMAX or 3D experience I really do think that this is a film that deserves a large cinema screen with loud speakers surrounding you.

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All that Godzilla lacks, something Monsters had in spades, is intimacy. While we follow the action through the experiences of a soldier (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and his family (Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, and Juliette Binoche) the characters are rarely seen together so their disparate experiences don’t tie together in a satisfying way. The superb cast list is rounded out by Sally Hawkins and Ken Watanabe as Godzilla experts but they too feel a little underserved. The fact that I didn’t care who lived and who died is definitely a flaw but at the end of the day this is a story on a global scale with a large monster as its star. If you want a more intimate story about a big beasty might I suggest both Cloverfield and The Host? Both are films that take their stories down a notch to give a real human experience amongst the madness of a monster movie.

Godzilla is a big and beautiful film that knows what it needs to deliver to impress its audience. Special effects can so often leave me numb and disconnected but Edwards has a way of dealing with fantastical scenes to make them seem real and grounded. Both Godzilla and Godzilla have a real heft to them and the idea of a gargantuan creature and its effect on mankind is taken as seriously as is possible.

When the film was over my heart was pounding and I let out a quiet “bloody hell”. For well crafted spectacle you can’t do much better than Godzilla. There is room alongside the smaller, independant fare to enjoy big meaty blockbusters and I only wish they were all as good as this was.

Godzilla is in UK cinemas from today.

Submarine – DVD Review

Film
It’s no secret that we love Submarine, and it will take an impressive batch of films in the next five months for it not to reach our top 10 of 2011. This tale of a teenage boy dealing with his parent’s troubled marriage and struggling with a first love is as near perfect as any film this year. Richard Ayoade’s direction is stunning, unpolished and creates frame after frame of gorgeous visuals.

The cast all seem to understand the tone of the film perfectly, from Yasmin Paige and Craig Roberts as the awkward young couple, to Sally Hawkins and Noah Taylor as the awkward parents on the verge of breakdown. Only Paddy Considine gives a slightly misjudged performance as a marginally too broad mystic healer.

Submarine is a must-see and for me, a vital addition to my DVD collection.

Extras
The DVD has a fair few added features including a commentary with director Richard Ayoade, author of the Submarine novel Joe Dunthorne and director of photography Erik Wilson, cast and crew Q&As, music video, deleted scenes and interviews. The Q&As are taken from the film’s appearances at various film festivals and mostly consist of Ayoade being completely endearing and self-effacing while avoiding answering any serious question directly.

There is also a full version of Through The Prism with Graham T. Purvis, essentially a long performance from Paddy Considine in character and to camera, and footage from a test shoot which shows just how well planned and considered Ayoade’s style was. With such a low-budget we are sadly lacking any form of a making-of documentary.

This is an essential release and is out on DVD and Blu-ray right now. You won’t regret it.

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Submarine – Review

Submarine is pretty great.

Here we have a British film that is not gritty, involves zero gangsters and is not a bland romantic comedy. Instead we have a story of a young boy worried because his parents haven’t had their dimmer switch down halfway for months and who is forced into a relationship by a girl at school, who then dictates what he writes about her in his diary.

Submarine is written and directed by Richard Ayoade (Moss from The IT Crowd), and both are done in a playful way which show a love for film and a real raw talent.

The two young leads Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige carry the film well, easily matching the more established supporting cast which includes Paddy Considine and Sally Hawkins.

Submarine is a fun and effortless watch that does not lack in heart. It has no UK release yet but when it does I suggest you go and try not to smile.