It works on so many levels and left me feeling so satisfied and relieved that Hollywood finally got Godzilla right. That’s because of the director of Godzilla, Gareth Edwards. When making this film, he wanted to emulate the mood established with the classic Jaws. First have characters, then present inferred appearances by the monster, then fully reveal the monster in all of its glory. In this movie, we the audience only see parts of Godzilla at first, a fin here, a tail there. But don’t worry, when he’s finally revealed it’s a gasp-inducing moment! It’s a huge payoff. But more than that this really feels like a Godzilla movie or at least how Godzilla was like in his early movies.
This version of Godzilla is a sort of quasi-sequel to the original 1954 classic and it pretends that the sequels that followed never existed. This film sticks to its Japanese origins, which is important and the creature looks and sounds like Godzilla. This Godzilla has his trademark atomic breath, but it’s white hot and his back fins glow before he fires as seen with the recent Japanese films. It’s works for Godzilla and there wasn’t any reason to change it. Gareth Edwards and the other filmmakers understood that it was important to deliver the gargantuan force of nature that defines the monster unlike the ’98 version.
What’s more they embellished the nature of Godzilla by the revelation that he is a part of a group of animals known as alpha predators that existed before dinosaurs and was raised in a primordial Earth bathed in radiation. So it makes sense that he is awakened in the 1950s when mankind started testing nuclear weapons.
That’s just one of the many cool things about Godzilla. There are also the pounding Kaiju fights, which brought out gasps and applause from the audience I saw it with. Even the opening credits are stunning. The credits are supposed to appear like classified documents that are redacted, it helped set the dark, serious tone of the movie, which was best shown with the ominous HALO jump seen in the trailers. Edwards uses for that scene the same eerie chorus heard in 2001: A Space Odyssey and it’s very effective.
The characters themselves are decent and serve their purpose though there aren’t any breakout characters. But that shouldn’t deter anyone from skipping out on Godzilla. It’s a terrific monster movie thanks to its moody tone and its faithful interpretation of the King of the Monsters.
Steven L. Walterson