“Godzilla,” directed by Gareth Edwards for Legendary Entertainment, stomps into movie theaters this weekend, poised to blow fans away with his atomic breath. (Do they make Godzilla-sized toothbrushes? The big guy could probably use some mouthwash at least.) Reviews are in for the reboot of the classic creature film, with critics praising the action, the mysterious way the monsters are revealed, and, of course, the King of Monsters himself.
However, reviews are less kind when it comes to the humans at the heart of “Godzilla.” Only Bryan Cranston’s character, engineer Joe Brody, has received uniform praise. The rest, unfortunately, appear to fall flat — but for some critics, those thinly-rendered characters are small potatoes compared to the meat of everything “Godzilla” gets right.
Read on for our review round-up:
“The topheavy plot kicks in when Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and his partner, Dr. Graham (Sally Hawkins), chopper into a Filipino mine, where they discover a pod containing a MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) and evidence of another MUTO that has escaped. In Tokyo, engineer Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) and his scientist wife, Sandra (Juliette Binoche), work in a nuclear plant whose product is mother’s milk to the MUTO. Cue the tremors. Start the explosions.
“Jump ahead 15 years to Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Joe’s son, an explosives expert working for the Navy in the person of Admiral Stenz (David Strathairn). Ford thinks Daddy is crazy, preferring to spend time in San Francisco with his nurse wife, Elle (Elizabeth Olsen), and their young son, Sam (Carson Bolde). And then, at Honolulu Airport, Godzilla shows up on a rampage.” — Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
A Monster-Sized Mystery
“The way the film is structured, and the way Gareth Edwards chooses to shoot things, it’s all about giving us an eye-level view of these events. There are big things happening, and the Brodys intersect those events in a way that makes them suitable entry points for us as an audience. There is a larger event unfolding, and it takes some time before things start to make sense. The film is structured like a mystery up until a certain point, and even then, don’t expect to see Godzilla for a while.” — Drew McWeeny, HitFix.com
The King of Monsters
“When Godzilla first lumbers on screen to hunt the MUTOs and ‘restore balance,’ he feels both nostalgically familiar and excitingly new. As big as a Sheraton and with a shriek that rumbles your insides, he appears beefier and meaner than you remember. But looks can be deceiving. Godzilla is humanity’s only hope for destroying the MUTOs. Or as Watanabe’s Dr. Serizawa says, ‘Let them fight!’ And fight they do, in an epic clash that turns the Bay Area to rubble.” — Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly
“‘Godzilla’ makes a critical mistake when it shifts POV. The movie has sold itself as being Bryan Cranston’s movie — his motivations are easily the most multi-faceted of any single character — and when it attempts an admittedly ballsy POV pass, the picture drops the baton. Its second crucial error is having Aaron Taylor-Johnson take over the movie from Cranston. Compared to Cranston, he is wooden, dull, and uncommanding, and the movie begins to deaden with his lead weight (the emotional and dramatic transference the movie tries to give Taylor-Johnson simply doesn’t resonate like Cranston’s lead). Thus, as the countdown to the ensemble’s collaborative efforts to stop these monsters from destroying the world begins, one has to struggle to care because the lead is so generic.” — Rodrigo Perez, ThePlaylist.com
The Final Word
“‘Godzilla,’ the 2014 version from relative newcomer Gareth Edwards, is just about as good as a big fat summer tentpole movie gets these days. It’s fun, scary and awe-inspiring in just the right places. Some of the acting is dull and the dialogue isn’t exactly dripping with nuance, but these concerns are secondary. The set pieces are marvelous, the special effects are terrific and great care has gone into keeping the visual storytelling fresh.” — Jordan Hoffman, ScreenCrush.com
“Godzilla” is in theaters now.