I want to hit on the performances first. Bryan Cranston delivers as we have seen in the past with his surprising role. He establishes what starts off to be a strong story arc on the human side of things, but due to a major plot twist that places Aaron Taylor Johnson’s Ford Brody into the main human role, and Johnson’s just okay performance the arc weakens and while it is still entertaining, still leaves something to be desired. Ken Wantanbe, a series veteran, who plays a scientist familiar with the monster (the film pays great homage to the great King Kaiju movies that come before) and his role is both engaging and entertaining as he delivers the origin and background of the monsters, and convinced that they are nature’s way of balancing itself, delivers one of the most memorable lines, “Let them fight.” Finally, Elizabeth Olson clearly knows what she is doing. Every moment she was on-screen, her presence demanded attention and while she is clearly very talented and gives one of the best performances of the movie, there wasn’t much for her character to do, other than play worried wife.
The pacing of the movie was perfect, giving us small glimpses and teases of the monsters before finally unveiling the true majesty of the beasts. This rings true for the Muto, and while the build up to it was great, the biggest chill inducing moment is when the audience finally sees Godzilla’s huge foot stomping through an airport. Here is where we first see the monster, and the payoff is absolutely incredible. The immense size of Godzilla dwarfs the towering skyscrapers in his way, and brings a sense of terror and awe to the big screen. The film is structurally similar to its 1954 counterpart, and the respect the filmmaker’s have for the source material is apparent despite some changes in the mythology. The feel of the movie is a breath of fresh air from the rapid fire action of traditional summer blockbusters, but never feels slow or dragging.
Although the human element slightly drops the ball, the fantastical monster fights more than make up for it. Watching the giant beasts go at it against the bleak city backdrop is fascinating and can easily capture the attention of any movie goer. They are thrilling, fast paced, and fun. There was even one part during the final battle that made me throw my hands up in the air and yell with excitement.
The only other place where the movie falls short is the ending. While our human characters have been reunited and most everything on their end returns to normal, the city is left to deal with the aftermath of the huge battle. There are a few elements here that I can’t go into for fear of divulging too much plot information, but left me unable to suspend my disbelief, and to be able to keep suspension of disbelief during a monster movie is not a hard thing to do. Some elements of the ending just felt way too cheesy and unbelievable, but things like that are expected in a movie like this.
Overall, Godzilla is able to capture the look, feel, and excitement of a huge summer blockbuster movie, while still keeping the fantastical feel of the Monster B-movie, and it balances the two near perfectly. With a sequel already announced, Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla origin story has done a wonderful job of establishing the lore and scale of a new universe for the King Kaiju to destroy.