"To call Godzilla the Dark Knight of monster movies is a fair description as like Nolan, Edwards has pulled off that tricky Hollywood task of balancing art and commerce, it’s smart, beautiful and breathtakingly entertaining"

"Where did you find this guy?" "He's from France"  Is the kind of dialogue you won't find in Brit director Gareth Edward's take on the grand daddy of all monster movies. 1998 was the last time we saw Godzilla on screen chasing Matthew Broderick and pals around New York, the aforementioned excerpt of dialogue included, so an update has been long due. Thankfully Edwards has veered away from the camp comedy of its predecessor and delivered the The Dark Knight of monster movies.

The story begins in 1991 and Joe Brady (Bryan Cranston) a seismologist living in Japan with his family, heads into work one day to go over some unusual readings. When disaster strikes, the power plant is evacuated and brought to its foundations by an unknown force, killing Brady's wife (Juliette Binoche) in the ensuing destruction.

15 years later we're introduced to Joe's son, Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) now grown up in the army and on leave back home in San Francisco to spend time with his wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and son. However it's not long before Ford is back on a plane and heading to Tokyo to bail his father out of jail for trespassing in the quarantined area, formerly his home. Having spent his life devoted to the events surrounding the 'earthquake' 15 years ago, Joe is convinced the readings he has recently acquired prove the exact same thing is going to happen again.

As it transpires, he's correct and what the government have been hiding all along was the existence of a godly, prehistoric creature that was dormant for many years and now has been awakened. Gulp.

To call Godzilla the Dark Knight of monster movies is a fair description as like Nolan, Edwards has pulled off that tricky Hollywood task of balancing art and commerce, it’s smart, beautiful and breathtakingly entertaining. It’s hard to believe Edwards has only one other feature film under his belt, the 2010 indie/sci-fi flick ‘Monsters’. But seek it out and you’ll soon realise just why he was picked for the role, it’s both a hauntingly stunning art house movie combined with all the aesthetics of a huge Hollywood blockbuster which was in part thanks to Edwards’s background in VFX (he created all of the effects himself, as well as writing, directing and editing).

Casting wise, it’s hard not to get excited at the prospect of Bryan Cranston appearing alongside a giant lizard but his screen time is minimal although the scenes he does appear in just go to show why Cranston is one of the most sought after actors of his generation. Every line through his cracking, gravelly voice is delivered with such heft and emotionality.

Regrettably the film definitely suffers from the lack of his presence elsewhere. Instead we’re given Taylor-Johnson as the young solider caught up in the chaos simply trying to make it back to his family. Sadly Johnson is not up to scratch as a leading man in this film, his character is devoid of any personality and you feel sorry for Olsen who you can see really emotionally invests into her character of the stricken wife and mother all the while Ford is playing the tough, silent solider doing anything and everything to try and get himself killed.

The film is rounded out by some excellent supporting players in the form of Ken Watanabe’s Dr  Ichiro Serizawa and our very own Sally Hawkins (Happy Go Lucky) as Vivian Graham, two scientists who rightfully predict the awakening of Godzilla. Elsewhere David Strathairn as Admirall William Stenz provides the archetypal gruff military commander barking orders from his command centre.

One thing Godzilla does very well is pay the right amount of homage to the Gojira legacy, from the look and design of the creature itself down to the musical score from Alexandre Desplat who has created a soundtrack that feels very much inspired by the old Japanese Godzilla movies, pounding drums and swelling violins all help to build the tension.

Some fans may be disappointed by the lack of screen time with Godzilla, you’ll definitely get close and personal with the creature, but what Edwards film creates is a sense of proportion and scale, it’s a film that very realistically portrays the effect a monster this size would have on the fragile eco system of humanity, wading through buildings and tearing through skyscrapers with the same ease we might knock over a sand castle. It’s the wake of devastation that we focus on, that essentially pits us the ants of civilisation against Godzilla’s giant boot in the sky.

There are a number of directors who could have made this film, but Edwards brings his indie sensibility to the visuals of the film and for that it works so much better. Hand held camera work is a prominent feature in Godzilla which really helps to bolster the realism factor, and there are a number of stand out sequences that push the envelope for disaster films everywhere. Particularly a sequence where a group of military HALO jumpers are dropped into the death and destruction below, their red flares piercing through the dark swirling clouds. As they breach the skyline, Godzilla hoves into view and you truly appreciate this creature for what he is.

Stunning visuals aside, there remain a number of tropes which rear their ugly head, mainly in regard to the American military but considering the genre it would be hard not to squeeze in a few clichéd moments. Despite other flaws elsewhere, the third act largely rendered a mash up of Avengers/Man Of Steel/Transfomers in terms of relentless destruction, all of this can be overlooked because the overall impact of Godzilla is one of awe-inspiring scope (IMAX is recommended), it’s the Godzilla movie we have all been waiting for.