I just got out of a screening for Godzilla, and the film definitely has merits, but in my opinion it absolutely does not live up to expectations. Now most of this post is probably going to upset anyone who enjoyed the film, but this is my opinion immediately following the movie. Warning, spoiler heavy, especially towards the end.
First of all, this didn't seem like a Godzilla movie to me. I grew up watching a few Showa series films, and a couple Heisei films. At the time, Godzilla films weren't really readily available to me, so I pretty much rewatched the few I had repeatedly. The ones that really stick out are Terror of Mechagodzilla, Godzilla VS Monster Zero, Godzilla VS the Sea Monster, and Godzilla VS Megalon. I wasn't expecting this to be anything like any of the ones I watched as a kid, as some of those are awful, just truly awful.
I did, however, expect Godzilla to be in it! It would be a major exaggeration to say Godzilla isn't in much of the movie, and I'm sure if I went back and added up the screen time for Godzilla in older titles, it's probably pretty on par, but it really seemed like the filmmakers were intentionally keeping Godzilla off screen. There were multiple times in the film where Godzilla is about to do battle with one of the monsters, and the filmmakers cut away. Some of that was undoubtedly to give more meaning to the scene were we actually get to see him, but even then, it didn't feel like much. Don't get me wrong though, I'm grateful we got another monster.
The monster itself didn't impress me much either. I was very hard to please with everything on this movie. In case you missed it, the monster is called MUTO, which stands for Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism. It probably was best to go this route instead of picking an iconic monster, as they should test the waters before going all out, but there just didn't seem to be anything special about this monster. Honestly it kind of reminded me of the creature from Cloverfield and Super 8. In the film, there are two of these creatures, one male, one female, which makes perfect sense. There is one near Japan, and one in Nevada, and they are trying to meet up and reproduce. No problems there, seems like more motive than most monsters in previous Godzilla films.
Godzilla himself was pretty great. He looked good, he sounded good, and his atomic breath was pretty sweet. All jokes aside, he did seem a little fat. I know the Japanese audience thought he looked fat, and he does. I think it's mainly that he doesn't have a neck. His size is much different than it was in previous films as well. He's MASSIVE. I mean, he's Godzilla, so it makes sense, but seriously he is so much bigger than previous films. I've obviously only seen it once, Godzilla towers over pretty all the buildings, then at once point one falls onto him. Maybe he's on his knees at the time? I wasn't paying enough attention. Not a huge concern, Godzilla looks great when they actually showed him. I will say I was okay with them just giving glimpses for a while, it just built excitement to actually see him, but eventually it got old, and when we did finally see him it didn't feel like anything special.
As with many other Godzilla titles, this was more about the people than the monster, which is fine, but I could not have cared less about 99% of the people. Cranston did a great job, and I genuinely cared what happened to him. After he died, I just could not care for Aaron Taylor Johnson. He's typically a great actor, but I could not handle him in this role. He just wasn't convincing. But hey, I'm not going to a Godzilla film for the human story, right? If there had been less human story, it wouldn't have been a problem, but most the movie follows Johnson, but there honestly isn't a tremendous amount of story. It felt like there were huge gaps of the film where nothing really happened.
Finally, there were just to many "WTF?" moments in this movie to take it too seriously. It's Godzilla, so I'm not saying it has to be perfect, or even close to perfect. I can suspend belief for two hours for a giant, mutated, radioactive lizard, but there are some things I can't just ignore. The biggest complaint is the nuclear storage facility in Nevada. They fly out to this facility, and begin checking every single container for this monster. Did they not see the GIANT HOLE IN THE SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN?! It even had a trail leading directly to Las Vegas. An absolutely massive trail going from an absolutely massive hole in the side of a nuclear storage facility. Was that not a red flag from the beginning?! Also, when we first see MUTO, his claws are literally shaking the ground as he walks. That makes sense, he's huge. Later in the film, the female one SNEAKS UP ON THE MILITARY. They just don't see or hear it coming. Sure, it was foggy and there are artillery fire in the distance, but come on! There are so many little things like this that bothered me, but I won't list them all, it will just sound like I'm tearing this movie apart for no reason (which I am). Towards the end of the film, they have to get a nuclear bomb out of San Francisco in 27 minutes. Some soldiers carry it all the way to the port, and that takes 14 minutes somehow, then our hero starts a boat and put it on auto-pilot, aiming it towards the ocean. A tiny little boat makes it far enough into the ocean that the residual blast doesn't effect the coast in FIVE MINUTES. It's like the ending to The Dark Knight Rises, but somehow worse.
If you stuck with this article this long, you are probably convinced that I'm just tearing it apart to tear it apart. I kind of am, I wasn't pleased with it. I kept waiting for it to get better, and it never really did. I think the general public is going to love it, it's a very well done, entertaining movie, it's just not a good Godzilla movie. It's a reboot, so it can be it's own thing, I get that, but it just doesn't feel the same. All that being said, I'm not sure I would have been happy with it even if it was perfect, my expectations were just far too high. I'll stick with Japanese made Godzilla titles from now on.