Godzilla (12A)

Running time: 123 minutes

Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Sally Hawkins, Carson Bolde, David Strathairn, Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche.

Director: Gareth Edwards.

Released: May 15 (UK & Ireland)

THE king of the monsters returns to the big screen in what could almost be classed as a revenge attack for Hollywood’s previous attempt to tell his story.

While there is a worryingly similar opening credits sequence, the campy romp of 16 years ago is ruthlessly chewed up and quickly spat out by director Gareth Edwards’ stunning reboot.

And it is stunning. A visual effects artist in his own right, Edwards has captured the enormity of Godzilla spectacularly. This is not least through brilliant 3D work, which is used for more than just having objects fly at the audience faces.

Here it allows for a greater depth of field, where tiny and terrified humans are blended perfectly onscreen with the gigantic and ferocious monsters. It’s a breath-taking effect that illustrates both the scale of the creatures and the destruction left in their wake.

This Godzilla makes his predecessor look like one of the ill-conceived mini-Zillas that merrily chased Matthew Broderick around a football stadium.

However, despite the big boy getting his name in the title, it’s a human family who are the stars of the show. Years after the loss of his wife to what was labelled an ‘earthquake’ at a Japanese nuclear power plant, scientist Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) obsesses about renewed unusual seismic activity.

His fears are dismissed by his son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who is trying to move on with his own wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) and young son.

When Joe’s conspiracy theories are proved catastrophically correct, Ford must do ‘whatever it takes’ to protect his family from the walking natural disasters.

Cranston soaks up the audience whenever he is onscreen. However, it falls to Taylor-Johnson to carry most of the film and while the young Brit convinces as a US military explosives expert, he is not given too much to do other than jump, fall, get back up, repeat.

Olsen has even less to do as his wife, looking after their son and waiting anxiously to see if her husband is still alive. There’s nothing very interesting about this very normal family unit, nor any of the other supporting characters, and when a film is two hours long it would help if there was. 

It’s here that Edwards’ penchant for realism (see his film Monsters) collides with a blockbuster property such as Godzilla. In a tent-pole release such as this audiences appreciate the odd moment of levity and larger than life characters.

Like last year’s city-smashing Superman reboot Man of Steel, this is a re-imagining of a much-loved franchise that’s guilty of losing all sense of fun by trying to be taken too seriously.

Roland Emmerich’s 1998 version of Godzilla may have been a failed Saturday Night Live skit by comparison, but it did at least try to entertain with humour as well as big action set-pieces.

While Edwards skilfully builds the tension from the start, the relentless (albeit epic) carnage eventually begins to drag en route to the big finale - but it’s a titanic monster-on-monster smack down that is definitely worth the wait.

Mark Brennan