Godzilla has divided those I know into camps of those saying “That. Was. AWESOME.” versus those who let out a disappointed, “Meh.”
Count me as an inhabitant of Camp Awesome.
Many are dinging the movie for withholding the big guy until about half way through the film. Too much talking, not enough giant monster action. Implausible story full of holes. For me, though, all of that is what made me love it (along with some beautifully composed cinematography).
I recall a time when movies weren’t 120 minutes of frenetic action seasoned with snippets of exposition that you could follow or not and even if you didn’t who cares because EXPLOSION! The tone of the film, with its growing mysterious menace, reminded me of some obvious comparisons like Jaws but also films like Them! and Close Encounters which hid their “monsters” until the right moment. Those decisions were made by the filmmakers because they were limited in what they could do. Either the shark didn’t work or the aliens were a bunch of toddlers, the limitations made the end product better. Today filmmakers have virtually no limits in what they can present on screen and end up taking it too damned far in most cases (yes, Peter Jackson, I’m talking about you). Are they making movies or video games (answer: both). I think as an entry into the “giant monsters fighting one another” genre of filmmaking, Godzilla ranks among the best I’ve seen. It’s been a really long time since I saw any of the original Godzilla movies, but this one felt like my recollections from childhood.
And when the monsters finally do start fighting, holy smokes but do they. A friend of mine says the word “epic” gets thrown around a lot (and he’s right) but this smack-down really was that in every sense. The final denouement of the fight is just so damned satisfying that if you weren’t cheering and stomping your feet when it happen, you shouldn’t bother yourself going to any summer movies because this is what the hell they’re all about.
Stylistically, I thought this film was simply gorgeous. It reminded me of the big, bold, and assured sweep of a Spielberg or Abrams picture (for better or worse — I vote better). The scenes were beautifully and intricately assembled, from the crawling Philippine mine to the abandoned city around the Janjira nuclear plant to the foggy railroad trestle to, of course, the utter destruction of San Francisco (oh, sorry — SPOILERS!).
Of course, there were plot holes. Of course. But the suspension of disbelief required to accept a skyscraper-sized ray-beam breathing multimillion-year-old lizard and a couple of equally gargantuan nuclear chomping dino-insect whatevers was sufficient to look past a few logical holes in the story (like how come it took 15 years for the guy bug thing to gestate but the three-times-the-size female version was able to pop out on the other side of the world in no time and with apparently nobody noticing until it was picking its teeth with Vegas’ version of the Eiffel Tower?). Because the film was so pretty to look at and Godzilla so awesomely rendered, those issues weren’t that big a deal to me. They were no worse than I expected, anyway.
I’m sure I’ll see this movie again and when I do I’ll find more little issues and flaws. As it is with every movie. But, as fas as delivering on what I think Godzilla should and needs to deliver, this Godzilla scores across the board.