Cary, NC — Godzilla, King of the Monsters! Or so says a news blurb featured in Godzilla, the latest big screen incarnation of the giant lizard.
It’s one of many small touches that second time director Gareth Edwards and crew get right. Even despite a near fatally boring first act, Godzilla is a great throwback to the original 1950s and 60s films and delivers some epic monster battles that will please even non-fans of the beloved green guy.
There’s a lot to like in Godzilla, but first I want to talk about what I really, really didn’t like.
The first 30 minutes or so of the movie are boring. Totally boring. Filled with unnecessary back story, the film feels obligated to stretch out a mystery that which everybody in the already audience knows. Godzilla. The answer is Godzilla. Get to it already!
What’s even more tragic, is that the great Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) is utterly wasted here. Cranston does everything he can to make every second he has on screen count, but the truth is the movie doesn’t really have anything for him to do (the same could be said of the rest of the cast, but more on that later). In fact, Cranston’s entire part could have been cut out and the movie would be better for it. Again, not Cranston’s fault in any way, just poor plot development by the filmmakers.
Great Slow Burn and Lots of Tension
Ok, now that that’s out of the way, what about the good stuff? Well, it’s really good! Once we get past all that boring and obvious back story, director Edwards starts a nice slow burn for the rest of the film, slowly elevating the tension and teasing the audience with fleeting glimpses of the monster we all know and love.
In fact, it’s pretty safe to say that Edwards owes quite a bit to JAWS, especially in the way that he slowly reveals his monster, and to a lesser extent Jurassic Park. Both of those films make you believe that what you’re seeing is real, and Edwards is able to do the same with Godzilla and the two monsters he has come to fight.
Now of course Godzilla isn’t as great as either of those Spielberg classics, but if you’re going to borrow from someone, borrow from Spielberg.
I mentioned earlier that like Cranston, the rest of the cast aren’t given much to do aside from acting as the audience surrogate. To be fair, the movie is called Godzilla, and it’s clear that the director is much more interested in his monsters than his humans.
But credit has to be given to Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai, Batman Begins) who plays a Japanese scientist that has been searching for Godzilla for years.
Watanabe seems to be the only actor who understands exactly what kind of movie he is in. His performance is one giant nod to the history of the franchise, with his character somehow being the only one who knows that Godzilla is a force of nature. A force of nature that has come to restore the balance by beating down the two monsters that are trying to re-populate the earth with their young.
He knows that Godzilla is the good guy, and that we need to stay out of his way and let him do his thing. It’s a really great performance in the grand tradition of Godzilla films.
As For Godzilla himself? Couldn’t Be Better.
After all that, what about Godzilla himself? Well he’s big, he’s tough, and he’s still a lizard. Ok, seriously, Godzilla is nothing short of awe-inspiring here. Even with all the teasing the director does, he makes sure to deliver the goods and then some.
The battles between Godzilla and the two MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms) as they’re called here, are nothing short of epic. All the creatures are given a sense of scale and weight that’s so gigantic I had trouble keeping my jaw from dropping.
Godzilla in particular feels like an actual character. There are moments when you can visibly see how tired he is, yet he fights on, because he’s the only one who can. It’s another small touch that helps make Godzilla as enjoyable as it is.
Make no mistake, Godzilla really is King of the Monsters, and director Edwards makes sure of it.
Worth Seeing, Despite Shaky Start!
With a boring and unnecessary beginning, the filmmakers more than make up for it in the end. The second act brilliantly builds tension and teases the titular character to great effect and then lets him loose for the epic finale.
So, is Godzilla worth a trip to the theatre? Most definitely. See it, and see it big!
Jordan Hunt covers the movies for CaryCitizen. Read more Movie Reviews.