Godzilla is back! Opening this weekend, the reboot for The King of the Monsters has brought in $93 million at the box office. For the 60th anniversary of the Japanese original, Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures let loose an IMAX-size summer spectacle that's worth the extra ticket price.
Director Gareth Edwards (Monsters) wisely keeps to the School of Spielberg; teasing the audience for nearly an hour before the big guy arrives. Like Jaws or Jurassic Park, Godzilla is a tightly constructed tensioner that slowly builds to a literal roar of an entrance for the giant lizard. The wonder-filled "you are there" filmmaking, never lets you forget how massive the scale is. Unlike Michael Bay's Transformers movies, Edwards' is only interested in his human actors insomuch as they serves the greater tale of giant monsters tearing up Japan and later, the San Francisco bay. (That's right, we said monsters plural!)
This is a film were smaller moments lead to a Godzilla that is bursting off the screen. With that in mind, here are the ways the 'less is more' approach delivers pure excitement:
1. M.U.T.O. Is the New Kaiju: Though Godzilla is technically seen early on, it's only in glimpses; a big foot stomp, a spiky backside that submerges from the ocean Jaws-like. So we're not bored of the puny human stories, two other monsters make waste of Japan before heading to North America. The U.S. military dub them Massive Unidentified Target Organism. They look like giant staple removers with Cylon eyes. This is what awakens Godzilla. Time to go to work, big guy.
2. Cranston's Role Lingers Just Enough: The trailers and TV spots show Joe Brody (Cranston) as the man out to uncover that the government has been hiding something quite big for decades. His determination is what eventually leads to his son's (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) call to arms as a bomb specialist. Cranston cranks up the conspiracy theories to eleven and beyond. He might not be onscreen a lot, but every seismic rumble, every way the military starts to see a "pattern" is because of Mr. Brody.
3. "Let Them Fight" Said Just Once: Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Wantanabe) and his partner Vivienne (Sally Hawkins) urge the military to treat Godzilla like a natural phenomenon. Speaking for geeks everywhere he knows mankind needs to get out of the way. It's clobbering time.
4. Limited POV Works Great: Do not mistake the "you are there" approach to clumsy found-footage nonsense. The intention is to mostly see Godzilla and his foes from the point of view of the soldiers who skydive thousands of feet above, the nurse (Olsen) that sees her hospital ripped apart, and so on. One of the best moments has Brody's son in the dead of night hiding on a bridge while a M.U.T.O. sniffs him out. The POV gives the spectacle a thoughtful, almost serene quality.
5. Godzilla's Screen Time Is Worth the Wait: This is a two-hour film that doesn't really give the titular creature his screen time until the last act. It's all good though. Fans will cheer when his blue beam of death lights up his tail and rains down on the M.U.T.O.s. Visually, this is the most muscular Godzilla ever. A brief cameo by a tiny , familiar beast hints at a possible spin-off. Yes, please.