I’ve seen a lot of crappy movies in my day…And this isn’t one of them!
As far as I’m concerned, this movie is at least as good as Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim (2013), if not better. It’s very well-written, and it has a very dark and serious tone. It’s not goofy like the crappy 1970s Godzilla flicks or the 1998 CGI cartoon by Roland Emmerich. And speaking of CGI, the computer graphics in this film are absolutely superb; in fact, they’re the best I’ve ever seen. I will always prefer to see Godzilla played by a man in a rubber suit, and I think the filmmakers at Toho were especially capable of pulling that off quite nicely. But in spite of that, Godzilla himself looks (and sounds!) pretty goddamn cool in this movie. Furthermore, I like the way this film treats Godzilla and the other monsters that appear (!) as natural disasters. It’s all written and executed in such a way that I can imagine seeing something like this actually being reported on CNN. I also thought the nuclear angle was handled extremely well, to the point that things got really fucking intense toward the end. In fact, there were many sequences in this film that were so intense, I felt like my skeleton was going to pop right out of my skin!
That’s pretty much everything I can say concerning what I like about this movie without giving away any spoilers. But I would like to address the two biggest complaints some people seem to have. These complaints are that (1) it takes almost the entire movie for Godzilla to come into the spotlight and kick some ass, and (2) the human characters aren’t interesting enough to keep the story going by themselves. Here are my responses to these arguments:
First, I actually like the way Godzilla isn’t fully revealed until the climax. Edwards shows us just enough of the big G at just the right times to build the appropriate amount of suspense, and when we finally do get to see the King of the Monsters in action, the payoff is really fucking enormous (no pun intended). And besides, how long does it take to get to the real monster mayhem in undisputed classics like King Kong vs. Godzilla or Mothra vs. Godzilla? Damn near forever, to be honest; King Kong and Godzilla only fight twice, first at the middle of the movie (and only for a few minutes) and then at the end. The same exact thing happens in Mothra vs. Godzilla. Do I think that’s a problem? No, but I’m admittedly biased when it comes to these movies. I understand that other people may not care to sit through 60 minutes of suspenseful build-up before the final 30 minutes of monster mayhem, but if you’re a Godzilla fan and you don’t like that, then in my opinion you’re like a fish that hates the water. This sort of thing is just par for the course in these films and anyone who expects something different is just asking to be disappointed.
Secondly, I think the human characters are more than suitable enough for this kind of film. What do people want, a goddamn Shakespeare play in a Godzilla movie? Having less-than-fully-developed human characters is yet another basic ingredient of these films. Can anyone tell me the names of all the characters in King Kong vs. Godzilla without actually looking them up on IMDB? No, and that’s because these films aren’t really about the people. The people are just there for us to see through their eyes and to provide us with exposition whenever we need it. Furthermore, I generally hate disaster movies that focus on developing only a handful of human characters (with a few exceptions), because doing this implies that “everything will be all right” so long as those particular characters survive. As long as Tom Cruise and his kids are okay by the end of Steven Spielberg’s version of The War of the Worlds (2005), who cares how the rest of the human race is doing? No, it’s my opinion that a truly effective disaster film will show us that its central characters are no more memorable or important than anyone else. They could be anybody, and what’s happening isn’t just happening to them. That’s the difference between movies that are about people and movies that are about events, and Godzilla movies fall into the latter category by definition.
Again, if you don’t like this sort of thing, don’t blame Gareth Edwards; he’s just following the tradition to which these films have adhered since the 1950s. (And in my opinion, he follows it perfectly.) I’ll admit that I’m also judging his film in comparison to the 1998 piece-o-shit with Matthew Broderick, and that perhaps I’m not being entirely objective. But then again, I don’t think the people criticizing Edwards are being entirely objective either. It’ll be interesting to see what the critical response is in Japan when the movie is finally released there in June. I’m willing to bet that Japanese audiences (and critics) will just love it.