'Godzilla': The reviews are in...
When I watched Godzilla Thursday with an enthusiastic late-night audience, the crowd broke out in spontaneous applause during two specific moments. The first was when Ken Watanabe’s scientist mentioned the legendary creature’s name for the first time. And the second came when Godzilla unleashed one of his most famous weapons on a nasty rival beastie. The audience went home happy — much happier than in 1998, when Godzilla invaded New York in Roland Emmerich’s stinker.
This time around, it’s director Gareth Edwards at the controls, a massive promotion from his low-budget Monsters debut. Breaking Bad‘s Bryan Cranston and Oscar-winner Juliette Binoche play a married couple who work at a Japanese nuclear plant in 1999. Something goes wrong, people die, and 15 years later, Cranston is a raving lunatic who thinks the government is hiding something in the quarantined area surrounding the radioactive accident. His son (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is now a soldier, with a pretty wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and son in San Francisco. But when the ground begins to shake again, no one is prepared for the creatures that have awakened from their slumber. Two Alien-looking MUTOs — Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms — wreck havoc on nuclear installations, and man’s only hope is… Godzilla. “When Godzilla first lumbers on screen to hunt the MUTOs and ‘restore balance,’ he feels both nostalgically familiar and excitingly new,” writes EW’s film critic Chris Nashawaty. “As big as a Sheraton and with a shriek that rumbles your insides, he appears beefier and meaner than you remember.”
Read Nashawaty’s entire review, as well as a round-up of other notable critics, below.
Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly)
“[Edwards] doesn’t seem too interested in his actors — they’re more plodding than their reptilian costars and you don’t care about a single one of them — but Edwards does know how to fashion some serious monster mayhem.”
A.O. Scott (New York Times)
“It is at once bloated and efficient, executed with tremendous discipline and intelligence and conceived with not too much of either. Appreciation of a movie like this requires an almost morbid degree of connoisseurship, which may, in practice, be hard to distinguish from bored acquiescence.”
Matt Zoller Seitz (RogerEbert.com) ▲
“Godzilla represents some sort of high water mark (pun intended) in Hollywood’s nearly 40-year crusade to turn once-disreputable genre films into pop art that demands our contemplation, if only because of the wit and skill that its army of technicians lavished on each frame.”
Rene Rodriguez (Miami Herald)
“By raising your expectations and making you anticipate the star’s entrance, Edwards ramps up the excitement, so the payoff is even bigger. Here, finally, is a giant monster movie made in the anything-goes CGI era still capable of making your jaw drop.”
Richard Corliss (TIME)
“The title character looks imposing, in the CGI work of Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital sorcerers, but the movie is often so dark, using a palette of gray and brown, as if coasted in rust, that he’s hard to see. (The sound effects do most of the scary work.)”
Betsy Sharkey (Los Angeles Times)
“Given his size, it’s terrifying, and great fun, to watch him working out his anger issues. And as he does, Godzilla begins to click. San Francisco takes the biggest hit, and the destruction is a thing of beauty. A shout out to special effects supervisor Jim Rygiel. A three-time Oscar winner for … the Lord of the Rings trilogy, he does Godzilla proud.”
Eric Kohn (IndieWire)
“Edwards’ Godzilla has its fair share of plot holes and questionable twists, but just as the reptilian beast keeps battling ahead, the movie attempts to wrestle outrageous material into something worthy of serious consideration.”
Peter Debruge (Variety)
“Edwards seems to have miscalculated our investment in his cast, simultaneously underestimating how satisfying some good old-fashioned monster-on-MUTO action can be. The hero of any Godzilla movie is — or should always be — Godzilla, and this one presents the mighty dino as a sort of scaly Shane…”
Todd McCarthy (The Hollywood Reporter)
“Aside from Cranston, who’s all charged up as the overwrought scientist who pries open the authorities’ deeply hidden secrets, most of the other distinguished castmembers are a welcome presence but haven’t much to play.”
Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle)
“It’s too vague to ask an audience to care about the fate of humanity, but every Godzilla movie must have at least two people you absolutely, positively do not want to see get stepped on. This has no one. Taylor-Johnson’s idea of playing a military guy is to have a stone face, and all Olsen gets to do is fret.”
David Edelstein (New York)
“I confess that, however much I enjoyed the boffo finale, I was taken aback by the upbeat slant. The 1954 Japanese Gojira was made when the trauma of the A-bomb was fresh [and] remains the most somber giant-monster picture ever made. … Edwards and Co.’s reassuring message is tone-deaf to our own time.”
Overall Metacritic rating (1-100): 61
Rotten Tomatoes: 74 percent
Length: 123 minutes
Director: Gareth Edwards
Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe
Distributor: Warner Bros.