Hearkening back to the slow-burning monster flicks of yesteryear, Gareth Edwards was clearly inspired by classic films like Jaws and Jurassic Park in making Godzilla, with varying degrees of success. You’ll sit through a number of teasers and big poster reveals before settling in for the final apocalyptic showdown between Godzilla and his prey, and watching the titular character rip apart everything in his path is as brilliant as it should be, with great CGI and a boisterous orchestral soundtrack to back it up.
At the same time, the film never seems to hit the same notes as those that it tries to emulate. The tension it tries to replicate never shows up, despite multiple moments in which you know you should be feeling something – fear, terror, awe. Even in IMAX 3D, I never had knots in my stomach the way I did when, for instance, the Tyrannosaurus first appeared on screen in Jurassic Park.
Going into the theater, I appreciated knowing that the trailers for Godzilla were sparse on details, and I was pleasantly surprised by the plot’s development. Unfortunately, much of the film is hampered by a cliched Hollywood love story, and the majority of the film’s “human element” is unnecessary padding that never leads anywhere. If the scene you’re watching has a child as one of its focal points, its probably safe to skip those minutes. It almost seems like they tried too hard to keep Godzilla under wraps, and decided to use as much hammy filler as possible to run up the clock.
In addition, most of the script is either pure Hollywood spiel, or cheesy and ridiculous. Ken Watanabe stumbles through the entire film in a state of utter shock and confusion, Elizabeth Olsen and Carson Bolde have the riveting roles of looking worried for our protagonist, and I’m not entirely sure why Sally Hawkin’s character existed after the first half hour. Even Bryan Cranston (who has a much smaller role than advertised) has painfully subpar lines.
Godzilla (2014) is a straight split down the middle. Monster flicks require big budgets to pay for the CGI, and a big budget means going through the Hollywood system, where it’ll likely be mucked up by cliched, “relatable” storylines that distract from the main attraction. Edward’s attempt at Godzilla is the franchise’s best in a long time, but it still has a ton of flaws that keep it from being great.