The King of the Monsters is back in "Godzilla," Gareth Edwards' reboot of the iconic kaiju franchise starring Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen. While the big guy isn't getting the full royal welcome, most critics agree that the new "Godzilla" is a solid monster movie that honors its history — and that, yes, it's better than the 1998 version.
The Los Angeles Times' Betsy Sharkey writes, "'Godzilla's' terrifying towering reptile — the latest in a very long line — is one very cool dude. He's a 21st century Godzilla, eco-conscious and with 3-D side effects that are monstrous in all the right ways. Ironically this big, lumbering movie could have used more, not less. More Godzilla without question, and more emotional content for its very good cast too."
Sharkey adds, "Keeping the main monster under wraps, using that tension as a tease, is not a bad idea. But director Gareth Edwards lets it go on too long, allowing too many people problems and those other monsters to get in the way. By the time Godzilla emerges in all his gory glory, you may feel more taunted than teased."
USA Today's Claudia Puig agrees that the movie "has an impressive cast, though few are given the chance to shine. In a movie about a legendary beast, humans — no matter how talented — are secondary to the main event." Fortunately, when Godzilla does finally show up, "It's a riveting spectacle."
Puig adds that "The story honors the legacy of the 1954 classic and its symbolic connection to the atomic devastation of World War II. The retooled story also resonates in contemporary times, with shades of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster hanging over the film."
Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune says that "In one fell swoop, and a pretty swell fell swoop it is, the new 'Godzilla' makes up for the 1998 Godzilla movie." He also says, "While it does indeed take close to an hour for the prehistoric being to get his first full-on, gangway-world-get-off-of-my-runway close-up, director Gareth Edwards lays the expository groundwork nicely and hands the audience what it craves in the second half."
NPR's Ian Buckwalter adds, "What Edwards is really after here is balance, not just of character and meaningful story, but also of spectacle. This is still a big summer tentpole, after all, and Edwards is committed to making a popcorn flick that thrills without sacrificing brain cells."
Other critics have been more measured in their reviews. Tom Russo of the Boston Globe writes, "This latest bid to Hollywoodize a uniquely Japanese icon is an uneven spectacle that can't sustain its solid first-half character moments. But the movie can also flash a surprising, often clever sense of legacy, and is intermittently capable of thrilling us."
While "Godzilla is convincingly rendered here, making for some genuinely electrifying moments," Russo says, "the third-act brawl between Godzilla and the other two kaiju titans is overkill, a case of Edwards's … restraint getting chucked right out."
The New York Times' A.O. Scott says, "This 'Godzilla,' though it surpasses Roland Emmerich's 1998 Hollywood version, remains safely within the bounds of the modern action movie spectacular. It is at once bloated and efficient, executed with tremendous discipline and intelligence and conceived with not too much of either."