Godzilla is a Kaiju movie that mostly centers around the Brody family, bomb disposal officer Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), his father Joe (Bryan Cranston) and his wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen), who have to navigate the emergence of the biggest version of Godzilla that has been put on screen so far.
With this one, I want to get the negatives out of the way first.
Characterwise, this movie sadly stays very much on the surface, even though it puts a lot of focus on its human characters in the first two acts. There was promise there, but most of the set up dramatic tension gets dropped almost completely by the time the showdown rolls around. The most impressive characterwork is done by Bryan Cranston, whose estranged father and obsessed scientist gets the most powerful arc. Regrettably, there is much less of him than everyone who has ever watched an episode of Breaking Bad wishes.
The story is also lacking in a lot of parts. There is a lot of convenience and just plain riddiculous improbability going on here. The earlier you begin to suspend some major disbelief, the better. Interestingly enough, the Monster aspect of this movie is really easy to believe. It seems like they spend most of the time writing this movie getting that part right
It is those two vestiges of its B-Movie origins, clashing with its serious "Dark Knight" aspirations in tone and atmosphere, that hold this movie back. Back from what, you ask?
From being one of the coolest movies I have ever seen, obviously.
The Kaiju aspect of this movie is damn near perfect, which is due to Gareth Evans, director of only one other movie, the wonderful "Monsters", a low budget movie that Evans edited and did the effects on in his bedroom. It is a bold choice of director, but it is perfect for this. Evans knows how to make giant monsters feel like real animals instead of just city-smashing CGI-creatures. "Monsters" featured some heavy romantic involvement, not just between its human characters, but also between monsters. That spirit carries over and gives Godzilla his very own character. One scene in particular makes you see something that feels a lot like regret in this 355-foot lizard that wrecks cities in passing.
Another more surprising talent of Gareth Evans is that he is amazing at filming 3D. Usually, I always regret paying the extra money. Only a few movies so far made me feel that it was well spent. This one did. More than that, I wish I had seen it in IMAX. Evans gives us the two things a good 3D experience needs. First, there is perspective, We see the action in mirrors, through windows, over the backs of soldiers. This makes the depth that 3D offers more prominent. Second, there are no frenzied fast cuts here. When we see something, we get the time to take it in. A lot of Directors these days seem to hide sloppy or lazy stuntwork and action, afraid that if we get to see what's really happening, we would be underwhelmed. There is none of that here.
One more thing, some like it, some didn't, when I said that a movie called Godzilla revolves around the Ford family and not around Godzilla, that was no joke. For being its titular character, Godzilla is not in the movie as much as most people wanted. The big throwdown that everyones waiting for only happens in the third act and the movie teases it to an insane degree. There is a bait-and-switch in the middle that angered some people, but the payoff in the third act is completely worth it.
Finally, the marketing for this movie has to be applauded. In a time where a movie like Amazing Spider-Man 2 gets spoiled completely by its marketing campaign, this one hides everything that matters. It's refreshing to see that something like that is still possible.
In the end, watch this movie, it is a ride that you will not forget anytime soon. Just remember, despite the Nolanesque atmosphere, there is no Nolanesque story here.
Also, if you want a second opinion, check out good old Cinemartians late review over here.