Godzilla stomps his way back into theaters this Friday. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
Godzilla stomps his way back into theaters this Friday. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
Arts Rancho Santa Fe

Film review: Not the same old stomping grounds for ‘Godzilla’

A seamless fusion of human emotion and gigantic monster spectacle, “Godzilla” unleashes its unmistakable fury to stake its claim as the first “must-see” event of the summer.

Humanity’s courage and perseverance are put to the test when titanic forces of nature render their defenses useless.

In response to these shocking events, Godzilla arises from the oceans and sets out to restore balance to the planet.

Admittedly, the film takes its time to establish the characters we’re following and the magnitude of the situation they’re facing.

But rest assured, this approach proves beneficial in the long run, because everything keeps getting better and better by the minute after a bit of a slow start. As soon as the ground rules are in place, it’s one moment of sheer excitement after another.

Under the levelheaded direction of Gareth Edwards (2010’s “Monsters”), the escalating intensity and tension raise the stakes for the key players as they struggle to respond to and understand the crisis at hand.

And as the omnipresent suspense continues to build up, the film delivers the goods at just the right moment when Godzilla reveals himself to the audience, setting the stage for plenty of fascinating battles.

By the way, there are some really cool monster designs (namely, the fearsome Muto beasts, a.k.a. Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism), courtesy of the digital effects teams who worked on this project.

Their greatest achievement, however, is Godzilla, whose overall appearance should please both followers awaiting his return and newcomers who didn’t like Hollywood’s 1998 reimagining of the legendary Japanese leviathan.

The words “immense” and “devastating” perfectly illustrate the scale of the action sequences occurring in Japan, Hawaii and ultimately, California.

Of course, the battles between Godzilla and the Mutos are the main attraction, but the human-centric scenes are equally thrilling, the most obvious example being the climactic HALO jump.

I have to hand it to Edwards for knowing what his idea of attention-grabbing set pieces should look like.

Even with the widespread destruction and mayhem, however, Edwards doesn’t take his eyes off the human element, which never gets ignored and provides the film with a foundation to keep it grounded.

He clearly cares about what happens to his characters; they’re just as relevant as the gigantic monsters wreaking havoc across the globe.

And given the talented international cast he has selected, his efforts pay off in the end.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson carries this action-packed adventure with a multi-dimensional sense of responsibility, achieving a strong balance between serving his country and looking out for his family. As his wife and a nurse, Elizabeth Olsen imbues her character with a convincing combination of warmth and desperation.

Bryan Cranston, who portrays Taylor-Johnson’s father, succeeds in painting a compelling portrait of a man obsessed with discovering the truth.

Ken Watanabe delivers an insightful performance as the leading scientist whose motivation does not consist of mere scientific curiosity.

The brilliant Sally Hawkins, who plays his colleague, demonstrates an eloquent understanding of the catastrophe that humanity faces. David Strathairn is suitably assertive in his role of the admiral supervising the entire operation.

Last but not least, what about Godzilla?

Well, there were numerous times when the audience and I applauded key instances where Godzilla demonstrated his iconic power, such as his earsplitting roar and signature atomic breath.

And it amazes me just how much expression he radiates in a physical manner, whether he is on the move or engaged in combat.

All those details seen in his eyes, nose, mouth, arms, legs, torso, and even tail indicate that he isn’t just a visual effects product; he is a character in his own right.

So does the undisputed king of the monsters deserve the undivided attention of moviegoing audiences? Absolutely, I say.


MPAA rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence.

Run time: 2 hours and 3 minutes

Playing: In general release

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