‘Godzilla’ elevates giant-monster genre

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Tyler Neal, Staff Writer

This is kind of a hard movie to talk about, for a couple reasons.

For one, it’s way more enjoyable if you go into the film knowing nothing at all, like I did. The reveals carry way more impact if you didn’t already read what they are and how they’re going to happen.

Also, I’m a lifelong fan of giant-monster movies. I’ve been watching them for about as long as I can remember; they’re my favorite genre of movie. So while certain elements of this film will seem like basic elements of the genre to me (a nearly all-Asian research team speaking English in a Japanese nuclear reactor, shoehorned-in human subplots, a parade of characters who exist purely to die), to others, they would be seen simply as signs of a bad film or as hang-ups to Godzilla punching things.

But this not a movie about Godzilla punching buildings in their stupid building faces for 90 minutes. This isn’t even really a movie about Godzilla, at least in that he isn’t the main character. This is a movie about humans, and how humans respond to chaos and disaster that just so happens to be caused by a giant radioactive lizard.

It’s also one of the best big-budget films I’ve seen in years.

There are three factors that make this film as good as it is. The first is the plot and how they handle Godzilla, but as I said, it’s way better if one goes into it blind. What I will say is that the screenwriters really had a strong understanding of what makes Godzilla work both as a character and as a movie that the writers of, say, the 1998 American Godzilla film did not.

The second factor is the absolutely brilliant direction. Gareth Edwards has only ever made one other movie before this, 2010’s Monsters, but he handles the camera with the skill of a 40+ film veteran, knowing just when to cut away so as to keep everything interesting.

The film manages to strike a really nice balance between not overusing the monster and keeping things interesting, to the point where by the time Godzilla actually shows up (which is about halfway through the movie) you’re already hooked in. A rock-solid performance from Bryan Cranston certainly doesn’t hurt, either.

The third factor is no doubt the scale and the cinematography. They used CG well. Godzilla actually looked massive and threatening instead of silly, and the atmosphere was so threatening and hopeless that it almost felt like a scene straight out of a Lovecraft novel.

The cinematography was brilliant, with the fight scenes all crisp and sharp so that you can actually see what was going on. Remember that one scene in the trailer? The one where the soldiers shot the flare up to reveal Godzilla’s leg? Imagine half a movie filled with scenes at least as cool as that.

It won’t be for everybody. Some people won’t like the human characters, or the constant teasing of the monster, or just the idea of a giant monster movie. But I encourage you to at least go see it and experience the spectacle for yourself.

4.25/5 stars