Let me start off by saying that I am bit biased since I am a Godzilla fan and have been genuinely excited to see this movie, so there may be some flaws that I am willing to overlook but the key word is some. Gareth Edwards has done a great job of creating buzz for this film and his casting choices were solid. The overall sense of hopelessness was hampered by subpar human elements which I explore further into the review. As I watched the film, I started to feel that Godzilla was more a co-star in his own film instead of the lead. The focus shifted from the humans to Godzilla then back to the humans more times then I would have liked. The military came off as complete morons when faced with the skyscraper-toppling monsters. Who decides it's smart to nuke creatures that feed on radiation? Somehow these geniuses had more screen time than the title character. Miltary “genius” is common place in Godzilla films but the idiocy here was beyond laughable.
Let's start talking looks as the overall design of Godzilla was well done and while more modern, it maintained a lot of elements from previous Godzilla designs which was good to see. The MUTO antagonist designs were sadly lacking, with an appearance similar to the Cloverfield monster. I felt the film needed a creature with bit more presence alongside Godzilla but they served as serviceable fodder. I am not talking King Ghidorah but at least something with a bit more punch on screen.
The human element of the film had moments of great screen presence and moments where I prayed Godzilla would step on the actors as they delivered their mediocre dialogue. Bryan Cranston delivered a solid performance and his scenes in the beginning were probably the highlight of the film. The same can said for scenes with Ken Watanabe, even though he somehow became a monster expert between act one and two. I think these two veteran actors could have told a better story instead of Aaron Taylor Johnson. Aaron Taylor Johnson was the weak link which surprised me since he was solid in Kick-Ass but I guess the right costars bring the best out of you and in Kick-Ass, Chloe Grace Moretz seemed to steal the show as did Nicholas Cage. Johnson was the unofficial human hero but more often then not he seemed to be the victim of circumstance who relied on the wrong place, wrong time narrative too much. There were moments where you were supposed to “root” for his character and I honestly couldn't bring myself to care about him. The same could be said for Elizabeth Olsen who fluctuated between hysteria and shaky anime eyes and really added nothing to the overall plot except playing the mother of a kid who for some reason looked like an old man. If this is the chemistry we have to expect from Johnson and Olsen in Avengers: Age of Ultron I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried.
Now, a lot of my colleagues and kaiju fans have been debating if Godzilla was better than Pacific Rim and I honestly think it's tough to call . Pacific Rim had some excellent creature effects and a decent narrative that made you care about the humans, plus the important parts being the Jaegers and Kaiju got ample screen time. The problem with Pacific Rim was that it felt like a kid playing with his toys for 90 minutes, which if the film had gone longer would have made me enjoy it less. Lastly, Pacific Rim did not take itself seriously and knew exactly what it was. Godzilla started off strong then slowed down considerably in the second act but sped to the finish in the third act which limited Godzilla's screen time. The moments when Godzilla was on screen he looked amazing and the fight with the MUTO's were as violent as you would expect albeit rushed to bring the film to a close.
One question I got a lot was if Godzilla unleashed his trademark atomic breath and I can say that he did use it and it played a great part in the film's climax. The first time it was used it came with a what I can best describe as a super meter comprised of Godzilla's spikes and it was seen more as the fights with the MUTO's raged on all the way to the end.
There was a very cool easter egg relating to Mothra Edwards included in the film that I found to be a nice touch and I recommend looking for it if you go to see the film a second time.
Now comes the “fun” part which as a fan can be both a gift and a curse. Did I enjoy I film? The short answer is yes because it had all the cool things that I was looking for as a Godzilla fan but I did feel Godzilla was underutilized. I would have welcomed more scenes with Godzilla and less with Aaron Taylor Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen. The influence from Edwards' Monsters film is definitely apparent. I rewatched that movie recently and a lot of elements of that film were at play in Godzilla . If the film would have focused on Godzilla's alpha predator moniker a bit more it would have added more depth to the story and probably up the enjoyment factor. As a summer blockbuster, Godzilla embodies the mantra and has the record-breaking totals to back it up. I recommend you see it in IMAX and while the 3D is something you'll be stuck with, it really did not do much for the overall film. Let's hope the human element issues get remedied in the sequel which has already been given the green light. Welcome back King of the Monsters!