By putting Gareth Edwards at the helm and giving him enough cash to depict the levelling of at least three major cities, you can tell just from sitting through the first hour of this movie that Legendary Pictures have planted the seeds to expand the journey of this giant lizard into his own fully-fledged franchise.
Without giving too much away, this movie puts a heavy amount of emphasis into setting up and exploring the relationships of its very human cast. The centrepiece of the movie is the importance of family. When the time comes for the destruction to finally begin after about forty-minutes of character setup, we witness the devastation take place through the eyes of those we have come to know and therefore can already sympathise with. That said, Ken Watanabe’s role in this film consists of very dramatically pulling the same bewildered facial expression right until the credits roll. For a man so capable of acting in a range of roles (just check him out in Inception), it was just a little underwhelming to have him reduced to the dramatic-stare-with-mouth-slightly-open guy. And Johnson’s character Ford, whilst never once unlikeable, plays a little into the action hero archetype. However, he is given enough to do for it to never become a problem as far as being entertained goes. Cranston's minimalist role is also a little disappointing, as he has such screen presence (a result of his work on Breaking Bad no doubt) that his acting talents in this film really outshine the others. It's a real shame we didn't get to see more of that.
The initial reveal of Godzilla earlier in the film is done so, as the trailers have depicted, through cleverly orchestrated smoke-and-mirrors, with a reptilian tail swishing past a skyscraper here and a shadow emerging in a dust storm there. Edwards understands that less is more and that by showing only bits at first, by drip-feeding only glimpses of the Godzilla monster to us, the audience has time to come to terms with just how colossal the threat is to mankind. Actual scenes featuring everyone’s favourite radioactive lizard might be few and far between, but his scenes are the most memorable ones because they are so hypnotic. Take it from me that the trailers you have seen have been intentionally misleading. Godzilla therefore makes for a refreshing and unpredictable ride throughout.
It’s very, very difficult to discuss without spoiling it but I will say that the film – to me – actually played out like a sequel should have. It feels like there’s a whole other movie which should have taken place before it as many of the characters are already aware of the monster’s existence in the world and have been for over fifty years, which distinguishes this film from many other modern monster movies (where the monster appears for the first time on-screen). I imagine therefore that the missing ‘first’ film would have played out a little like Captain America: The First Avenger, in a similar setting but with less cheese in the tone. Whilst this is certainly not a criticism, as Godzilla wastes no time in simply nose-diving straight into the mythology (ditching the origin story as it were), it would be nice to maybe get more than just a snapshot of the events which took place prior to the film, which might be possible now since a sequel has already been confirmed by Legendary Pictures.