Godzilla, who celebrates his 60th birthday this year, is not only one of the most enduring icons of Japanese pop culture but one of the most celebrated monsters of movie geekdom. But the “king of monsters” has never really been given the royal treatment by Hollywood. Godzilla’s debut in Ishiro Honda’s seminal 1954 Toho Studios film Gojira was followed up by a steady stream of b-movies and kids stuff until finally getting the big Hollywood treatment in 1998’s craptacular Godzilla by Roland Emmerich. After that disastrous turn, Godzilla has lain dormant in Hollywood, until now.
Legendary Pictures’ eponymous Godzilla is Hollywood’s latest attempt to bring the monster to the big screen. Boasting special effects by WETA Digital, an impressive cast of actors and directed by Gareth Edwards (best known for his low budget indie film Monsters) this latest incarnation of Godzilla gave fans plenty to be excited about and was one of the most anticipated movies of the summer. The good news is, the latest Godzilla movie is not nearly as bad as Emmerich’s 1998 Godzilla. The bad news is, when Godzilla isn’t on screen, this movie is pretty boring.
Without spoiling the movie, the first twenty minutes, highlighting Bryan Cranston and Juliet Binoche, dramatically reveal the existence of two Cloverfield-ish looking monsters called “MUTOs” and that revelation ultimately sets up the return of Godzilla. Sounds good so far right? After this solid opening, it takes about another 30 minutes for Godzilla’s first appearance and and it’s only after about 90 minute mark that we finally get to see some monster fighting and building stomping.
Lead actors Aaron Taylor Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen really don’t have anything to do in this movie other than occupying the time between monster scenes. Veteran supporting actors David Straithairn and Ken Watanabe are also wasted in their roles in what basically amount to “army guy”and “science guy” parts. For most of the movie, everyone is just left waiting to see what happens when Godzilla touches down in San Francisco.
Godzilla does redeem itself when the monster finally does make landfall in San Francisco, and audiences get exactly what they came for, a pretty amazing three way monster fight between Godzilla and the MUTOs. But other than watching the impressive CGI spectacle, it’s really hard to be invested in anything that is happening. Ironically, the thing that was great about Edwards’ first film Monsters is what is most missing in Godzilla, there just aren’t any believable connections between the characters and the story.
Fans have always dreamed of how cool it would be to see Godzilla on the big screen using the best special effects available. There is no doubt that this movie delivers the most realized and believable version of Godzilla to date. If the human characters were given that same level of detail, this movie would have been epic.