Early reviews are in for Gareth Edwards’ monster reboot “Godzilla,” which premiered in the UK over the weekend and slams into US theaters on Friday, May 16. Critics are hot-and-cold for this one, whose helmer shed his indie roots (2010’s “Monsters”) to the tune of $160 million.
Big-budget success story or noble failure? The pundits weigh in, below. (Our coverage is here. Trailer below as well.)
Toh! columnist Bill Desowitz admires it:
Director Gareth Edwards (“Monsters”) has admirably returned to the Toho roots of “Godzilla” 60 years on and made the Kaiju myth as relevent as ever, even adding a humanistic twist. Drawing on the recent Fukushima Daiichi nuclear powerplant disaster as inspiration (what if it wasn’t an act of nature?), and utilizing the best that CG animation has to offer, Edwards delivers the thrilling monster goods along with a sense of melancholy. Of course, the only actor not upstaged by Goldzilla and his MUTO adversaries is the always reliable Bryan Cranston as the troubled scientist.
“Godzilla” almost has a fan in The Hollywood Reporter:
The king of movie monsters has grown bigger than ever — in size as well as in the budget, resources and zealous seriousness devoted to his exploits — in this grandiose celebration of his 60th birthday. Even older than James Bond and with more films to his credit, Godzilla has never before been accorded the sort of lavish respect that the talented young English director Gareth Edwards bestows upon him here, and it’s almost too much; as if he were an elderly stage star being deferentially treated, the title character barely shows up until the second act.
Indiewire’s Eric Kohn admires the film’s bravery:
The project’s intentions are rendered in similar shades of ambiguity: Is it a layered form of big budget artistry under the guise of simpler concerns—or a typical CGI-heavy tentpole with some modicum of ingenuity? Edwards certainly displays a penchant for working against the expectations of crass product. That valiant struggle casts the battle of art and commerce in a curious spotlight: Like Godzilla himself, the movie’s substance is simultaneously alien and familiar.
The Playlist says “Godzilla” has character problems.
“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).
Variety isn’t crazy about the film’s slow burn:
Godzilla movies, like wrestling matches, are ultimately judged by the quality of the mayhem, and Edwards excels at blowing things up. Though some of the first visual effects we see onscreen (the Filipino mine, the Japanese nuclear plant) look phony, especially projected in post-converted 3D, the creature effects are terrific, using phosphorescent accents — glowing gold for the MUTOs, blue fire for Godzilla — to make the monsters look even more menacing after dark. And though the film banishes most of their fighting to the background, basing their movement on motion-captured performers represents an inspired way of updating the lo-fi, B-movie tradition in which audiences charitably forgot that they were cheering for a guy in a rubber suit stomping through a cardboard city.
The special effects are terrific, with the creatures being slowly revealed and getting more and more awesome as they start doing what monsters are supposed to do — destroy things. Beautifully shot by Seamus McGarvey (who oversaw New York getting pulverised in “The Avengers”) and with stunning production design and an evocative score from Alexandre Desplat, “Godzilla” turns out to be an enthralling action romp – one that never outstays its welcome, has some stunning 3-D moments and actually leaves you wanting more.