Four years ago Gareth Edwards directed a film called Monsters, which was about a journalist escourting a woman to the safe zone in the U.S. after an alien invasion. The film was made for a very modest budget but looked like it was made for a massive one. It was hailed by critics and took on a loyal cult following. I hated it and thought it was boring; granted, that might have been because I watched it on my iPhone on a plane but I feel like I got enough sense of it to know it wasn't for me. But Edwards impressed the right people with it because they gave him that massive budget to see what he could do to blow new blue, misty fire into Godzilla.
As much as I like monster movies, Godzilla never did much for me. I understand that they're not well-made and that's part of their charm. However, liking something because it's ironic or mastering the hipster art of appreciating things because they're bad was a skill I didn't aquire till a few years ago. That being said, this version of Godzilla is pretty good. The anticipation was high on the Internet, primarily from ardent loyalists to the canon, but after a slew of impressive trailers, even people like me got goosebumps. That might have worked against it.
See, nothing is sadder than when a trailer is better than the movie and that's what we have here. If you want to make a shallow monster/disaster film, that's totally fine with me. I forget them the second after I see it but I enjoy them while I'm watching. But the trailers promised more than that and Edwards had the reputation to deliver. Combine that with the casting of Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad, Drive), Ken Wantanabe (The Last Samurai, Batman Begins) and Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine, An Education), all of which have won awards, I expect a script that is more than chaos. It isn't.
That's why someone like Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Savages, the Kick-Ass movies) is the lead. He's not a bad actor but he's not a good one either. He's someone you would expect to see in a movie like Godzilla, much like Shia LaBeouf before he mistook himself for something important. He, along with the gorgeous Elizabeth Olsen (Marcy Martha Mae Marlene, Oldboy), play the same husband/wife team you see in every disaster film. That's because Godzilla, at its core, is nothing new and nothing different.
Make no mistake however that the imagery that Edwards shows is pretty spectacular and fun. A lot of time and cash was spent making the destruction of San Francisco and Las Vegas look as real as possible and they succeed. I wish I could tell you why the destruction scenes are more than just a giant lizard pushing buildings over but that would spoil one of the most pleasant surprises for a lot of people. In what is shaping up to be a rather bland summer so far, Godzilla is a nice appetizer for what will hopefully be the main courses of Hollywood blockbusters still to come.