I watched Godzilla yesterday, and it was fucking fantastic. Of course, I’m a giant monster fanboy, I pretty much inevitably love anything with giant monsters. I loved this even for a giant monster movie, though. Minor spoilers ahead.
First off, it looked fantastic. The special effects were top notch. I absolutely loved the monsters. Godzilla himself was much more emotive and lifelike than any previous version. (Not being a dude in a suit or a giant iguana helped there). The enemy monsters, the two MUTOs, are terrifying, insect like, and alien, but still actually developed characters- you can actually somewhat read their emotions through body language, just like Big G himself. In my experience, even the best giant monster movies seldom manage to get the creatures to show more than anger, fear, or hunger. There’s an awesome moment during a lull in the big fight where Godzilla just sighs softly, and you can immediately tell how exhausted he is.
The camera-work was also pretty awesome. Unlike most giant monster films, where the camera is generally up above or alongside the action, much of the movie’s POV is from a human perspective. Watching behemoths slam into each other from over the shoulder of one of the characters is pretty damn impressive. (I know, Cloverfield had ground level photography too, and so did a few scenes from Pacific Rim, but Godzilla had a much better mix of camera angles, in my opinion.) The 3D looks great, too, which can be a concern for a lot of movies.
The characters and acting are all pretty excellent. I went in expecting Brian Cranston to steal the show, and he was great, but Ken Watanabe really turned out to be my favorite. All of the performances were pretty solid, even the child actors, which is unusual.
What really stood out to me, though, was the sense of ecology in the movie. In almost every kaiju film ever, the monster is either genetically engineered, a radioactive mutant, an alien weapon, or some other unique individual. Cloverfield is the only one I can think of that even tries to include these things in our ecosystem, and that happens largely just through the background material you don’t even see in the film. The new Godzilla, however, is a primordial being from hundreds of millions of years ago, when the earth was much more radioactive, as are his enemies, the MUTOs, all of whom have been awoken by human activity. Godzilla in this movie really feels like he has his own ecological niche, rather than being an intrusion on the natural order.
I do wish Godzilla had gotten more screen time, but Gareth Edwards maintains a good bit of his approach he used in the indie Kaiju film Monsters- Sometimes it is more effective to show the devastation the giant monsters create, and catch glimpses of them through human perspective than to just show them constantly. Also, Godzilla’s flame seemed just a little thin to me, but it still looked pretty good.
Basically: Go watch it. In IMAX 3D, if you can.