‘Godzilla’ Early Reviews: A Mixed Bag of Destruction

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New Godzilla Poster and Clear Monster Image Godzilla Early Reviews: A Mixed Bag of Destruction
2014 marks the 60th anniversary of Ishirô Hondo’s original Gojira, the Japanese monster-movie classic which spawned 27 sequels, countless imitators and knock-offs, and a still-loathed 1998 American remake directed by Independence Day‘s Roland Emmerich. The latest Hollywood rendering of everyone’s favorite giant death-lizard, Godzilla opens May 16th and is directed by Gareth Edwards, who makes a wholesale jump from the acclaimed low-budget indie Monsters to a big-budget reboot with an impressive ensemble cast.

Godzilla is one of the titles we’ve been looking forward to for some time, with a series of strong trailers and preview clips gradually revealing more and more of the titular beast and the additional “MUTOS” that menace our human cast, which includes Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Ken Watanabe (Inception), Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass 2) and Elizabeth Olsen (Oldboy).

Some early audience reactions suggested that the film takes its time in revealing the big attraction, but were overall mostly positive. We now have an early batch of critics’ reviews, and the overall consensus is decidedly mixed.

The following spoiler-free excerpt perhaps sums up the majority of the criticisms – slam-bang action and destruction, with the human drama falling short (click the links for the full reviews):

Film.com

The best thing about this new ‘Godzilla’ is that it spares no expense or effort to deliver big, burly IMAX-ified action. Godzilla and diverse other radioactive giant creatures feud, flail at and fight each other and lay waste to huge cities as part of their combat here, and it’s all amazingly shot. The worst thing about this new ‘Godzilla’ is how that’s the best thing about it.

Godzilla Extended Trailer Still 1024x558 Godzilla Early Reviews: A Mixed Bag of Destruction

To be fair, no one should walk into a movie called Godzilla expecting a Downton Abbey-level chamber drama, but several reviews emphasize how the film struggles to balance the human characters with the destruction on display.

For instance:

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 Wrap

Director Gareth Edwards (Monsters) gets the money shots right, but neither he nor screenwriter Max Borenstein (working from a story by David Callaham) make the human characters interesting enough to get us through two mostly Godzilla-free acts.

So far, only one early Godzilla review is an outright pan of the movie, and the critic finds nothing redeeming about the experience:

Time

We have an iconic monster, but what’s he to do? And: How can we get audiences to care about the humans fleeing from him? The final film doesn’t answer those questions, doesn’t fill the two-hour running time. It’s a concept lacking a magnetic story, a package without a product.

Godzilla Roar Godzilla Early Reviews: A Mixed Bag of Destruction

On the other end of the spectrum, several other reviews praise Edwards for lifting Godzilla past that terrible Emmerich remake and delivering on the level of scale and spectacle the monster-movie crowd is expecting, with even some subtext thrown in:

Hitfix

For better or for worse, depending on how you like the end result, Edwards has made a film that stands apart from how pretty much anyone else would have handled this, and I like that he remembered how important “awe” is to something that hopes to be “awesome.”

The Telegraph

‘Godzilla’ 2014 embodies a roughly equivalent present-day fear: that the planet, exhausted by its ill-treatment at humankind’s hands, is about to start wiping the slate clean. Tsunamis, earthquakes, rising tides, nuclear meltdowns: these are the very recognizable threats posed by this new monster. The result is a summer blockbuster that’s not just thrilling, but that orchestrates its thrills with such rare diligence, you want to yelp with glee.

Cinema Blend

‘Godzilla’ is everything you want out of a summer movie. It’s got a world and story so big that it demands to be seen on the biggest screen.

Still, even when an overall positive review notes the technical mastery on display, the attempt by screenwriter Max Borenstein (with a story credit to Dave Callaham and additional work from David S. Goyer and Frank Darabont) to connect the apocalyptic destruction on display with the human characters on the front line was unsatisfying:

THR

Superbly made but burdened by some dull human characters enacted by an interesting international cast who can’t do much with them, this new ‘Godzilla’ is smart, self-aware, eye-popping and arguably in need of a double shot of cheeky wit.

Bryan Cranston and Aaron Taylor Johnson in Godzilla1 Godzilla Early Reviews: A Mixed Bag of Destruction

Bryan Cranston and Aaron Taylor-Johnson in ‘Godzilla’ (2014).

The most recent popcorn movie standard we have to measure Godzilla against is last summer’s Pacific Rim, which earned similarly mixed reviews (read ours here), and for many of the same reasons. Gareth Edwards’ film is very similar on the surface, but has that brand name and decidedly darker tone going for it. Many of these critics agree that box office success is almost a given, but the main problem persists: if an audience cannot connect with a human cast, will they care about all the monster fights, no matter how expertly executed?

Are you disappointed by the early critical response to Godzilla? Still looking forward to it or didn’t care in the first place? Sound off in the comments below (and watch for Screen Rant’s official review when the film opens in U.S. theaters)!

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Godzilla roars its way into theaters on May 16, 2014.

Source: See the links above.

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  1. I saw it at the Hollywood Premiere and it was amazing! Very strong performances by Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins. Okay performances by Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen. The visual effects are amazing. Godzilla, when he does show up, steals the show. It’s fun thrill ride of a movie. See it on IMAX or go home!

  2. I think this movie is gonna be kinda fun!

  3. Generally reviews are immaterial because they’re personal and everyone’s tastes are different.

    If the subject matter, director, specific actor appeal to you then go watch if they don’t then don’t.

    American Hustle – won a couple of Oscars, the critics love it etc. – I see trailers and ads and think MEH! cause it’s just doesn’t grab me.

    Pacific Rim – Rabidly adored by a select group, enjoyed by most but panned by others. Me, I love it cause it’s got stuff in it that interests me so I forgive it’s little flaws.

    Occasionally you’ll get something that is just universally awesome, a Shawshank, Green Mile or a Godfellas but I bet there are still peps who aren’t too keen on these recognised classics.

    By all means if you’re on the fence about a movie gauge popular opinion. I’m not sure about ASM2, due to the reviews think I’ll wait for the rental.

    However if it’s something that your excited about seeing….. just go see it, chances are any little issues you’d let side that someone else will cite as a deal-breaker.

    • +1 and u should go see ASM2…

  4. @screenrant Godzilla is currently at 84% in Rotten Tomatoes. How can that mean ” A mixed bag of Destruction”?

    • My thoughts exactly.

  5. These critics just lost credibility to me. You don’t judge a monster movie by its human characters.

    • +1’000,000

  6. I am curious where these critics were when iron man 3 released! general movie goers doesn’t care about their opinion overall. they just go to watch. if the film entertained they are happy and go again. if dissapoint not going again. whatever,this film deserve to cross 600 million atleast. critics enjoy iron man 3,thor the dark world etc. and not enjoy man of steel,godzilla like film. f*ck their opinion! every persons own taste,opinion is more important.

  7. Godzilla vs. Justice League . I would pay good money to see that movie. Make it happen WB!

  8. To be fair, most of the reviews are saying negative things about the human cast, and not Godzilla itself. Everyone’s saying that Godzilla is epic. I’d like to remind people that the movie is called ”Godzilla”. Honestly, all the reviews i’ve read here doesn’t deter me from going to see the movie, because i couldn’t care about the humans (only in this film), all i care about is seeing Godzilla rip MUTOs the apart!

  9. Over 86 % positive reviews at Rotten Tomatoes is hardly a mixed bag

  10. U see Godzilla for about 30 minutes in this film. Another poster mentioned the original Godzilla film u only saw about 17 min so u get more Godzilla in this film. The slow buildup is done really well.Good Plot/Story. Lots of Suspense. The Fighting between the monsters was outstanding.

  11. As much as I would like to connect with the human cast of this movie, let’s face it folks, it’s a Godzilla movie. We want to connect with Godzilla more than the people, right? :-)

  12. I notice they are comparing the deficiencies of the “human story” that dogged Pacific Rim. I still find that funny since people flock to the Transformers series that has human character stories that are pure low-brow sitcom fare. Nobody remembers anybody from any of the original Godzilla movies because they are always just background noise and tools for exposition.

    • Throwing the Transformers movies under the bus isn’t going to make this Godzilla movie suck any less. Special effects don’t make a bad movie good. Not in Transformers, not in Godzilla.

      • Have you seen it?

  13. Well, after reading the “critic’s reviews” of Godzilla, its exactly as I expected to read from them. Especially what Time supposedly wrote. The one thing that everyone always needs to remember, is that for some bizarre reason critics get paid to review movies and give an opinion which is supposed to help the general audience decide if they want to venture out to see a certain film. That doesn’t happen any more.

    IN this case as with films of fantasy genre, Unless the movie is steeped with dramatic laden story of a personal nature concerning different members of a household cheating on each other or in dire need of intervention, Critics can’t stand to see a movie that only has just enough human drama leading into collateral damage and ultimate destruction.

    We keep reading about “The Human Story” in these reviews. Thru the years, after watching so many films of Godzilla and other various Japanese movie monsters, I’m totally convinced that Toho studios, didn’t really care about a human story aside of the first “Gojira” film and maybe Godzilla raids again. Toho threw in different children and witty newspaper reporters to add more comic relief than drama, and yet not once while growing up and watching my favorite monsters go rampaging did I particularly care about any of the inhabitants of the films, If they got stepped on, who cared, right?

    Watching trailer after trailer anxiously of Godzilla 2014, I saw more human drama in those brief pieces of footage than in any regular Godzilla movie. So right now, I already know what I’m in for. I know I’m going to see a great movie with good human interaction by great actors but mostly I’m going to see Godzilla done right, rampaging as he should, in America made as real as possible. What more can any one ask for.

    Human Interaction, that will be on the bottom of Godzilla’s foot.

    • Agreed, during the Showa series the humans, or non-monster cast members we’re usually aliens or otherwise antagonists controlling Godzilla’s opponents.

      As things moved into the Heisei series they became the government agents and scientists researching Godzilla.

      Dunno about things from the Millennium series as I’m not full up to speed with those.

      Regardless, with the exceptions of Gojira and Godzilla 1985, the drama has never been provided from the non-monster cast relationships only how they currently relate to Godzilla and whomever he’s laying the smack down on.

      Seeing this one on Sunday and I couldn’t careless about the inter-human relationships…. I’m interested in how they all relate to Godzilla (savour, monster, killer, adversary etc.) but that’s it.

      After all it is all about the G-Man. [ROAR!!!!!!]

    • So basically, just because most of the Japanese Godzilla movies sucked, that means we should forgive the American CGI version for sucking too and not having a decent story? The whole point of film critics is to see beyond that sort of bias.

      • Correction, that WAS the whole point of film critics. Basically we are all film critics, we just don’t get paid for it, and not all film critics agree with each other. So I will admit that there are times when certain critics like David Edelstein on Sunday Morning CBS really seems to be on with most of his reviews, but over all they seem to have this thing about wanting to see films that are overly dramatic. So if they are here to see beyond the bias, it really depends who you listen too. If one opposes a film and tells you don’t waste your money and the other critic says he had a great time and definitely go see it. Who do you listen too? That doesn’t help us on bit unless you only listen to one review.

        IF you don’t like Godzilla, then you will probably say most of the Japanese Godzilla movies suck. You have no idea how decent or not the story is. But everything I have seen and read indicates that this is going to be a real fun movie. We don’t have to forgive the American CGI version, And truly what you said doesn’t make sense. But I think everyone that is into Godzilla is going to see something they haven’t seen yet.

        AS Toho rebooted the Godzilla series for a third time, they did use plots that were a little more cerebral. But the idea of being a Godzilla fan was watching the Big guy rampage and fight other monsters. None of us ever wanted to see him lose. The same thing will hold true for this Godzilla. If you like Godzilla, you’ll be totally stoked for it, if not then go watch a comedy and don’t worry your head over it

  14. Relax guys!just wait until you see the movie. I’m telling you all you’re in for a treat! Don’t get so worked up over the reviews. These guys watch movies all the time and some don’t fully understand the nature of the Kaiju genre.

    • I totally agree with that. Since Toho has stopped making them, Godzilla is a rarity.

  15. Aaron plz be more positive. I may be a 15 year old who wears Js but i think you do not understand most jokes

  16. It seems to me to me that it will have to measure up to Pacific Rim, and that movie was awesome. I can’t see a happy ending in a Godzilla story, it is all about how we are destroying the world just by being our disgusting, ignorant human selves. Pacific Rim was great because there was a clear evil to root against. We killed it and won, cue the mandatory kiss, fade to black, everyone goes home happy.

  17. Saw it tonight at an advanced screening. I agree with the critics, the human drama failed. Maybe next time less humans? More kaijus! This Godzilla was awesome though. His roars were chilling and the mutos creeped me out so much! Watch it in 3D if you can.

  18. Caught a screening yesterday evening…

    As a Godzilla fan, I was entertained. You can always have more screen time for him and the other kaiju – but I get what needed to happen with this offering. I was really hoping for it to out “pacific rim” Pacific Rim in terms of action – but it didn’t.

    My wife on the other hand – not a godzilla at all – LOVED the movie. So really, the movie did it’s job, appealed to those outside of the franchise to give an entertaining experience.

    With that said, I think that IF there are sequels to this movie – those are going to be what we have been waiting for…

  19. This movie is a crap! I rather watch Jurassic Park again..

  20. Uh…mixed bag? What a load. I’ve seen more positive reviews. I hate articles such as this.

  21. I think most people are using Rotten Tomatoes to determine whether this movie is more positive that negative (or mixed). However, Rotten Tomatoes’s “tomatometer” is based on whether the movie is “fresh” or “rotten”. There aren’t any explicit ratings for the site. The reason why, in my opinion, this article is claiming that so far it’s a “mixed bag” is because sites like Metacritic, sites more clearly categorize each review submitted by a critic as “positive”, “mixed”, or “negative” and not “fresh” or “rotten”, really do have a lot of mixed reviews submitted. I hope that explanation clears some of the air.

    As of right now Godzilla holds a 77% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 60% on Metacritic. And honestly I feel that it’s because critics are hesitant on giving positive reviews, because Godzilla’s a monster movie. But it actually might be because the reviews are seriously mixed. I read on several reviews that point out the movie has flaws in character development. Then I read on several other reviews that the movie is flawed in sporting less Godzilla than it should.

    TLDR: For what it is, the movie’s great. Alexandre Desplat’s score is atmospheric and tense. It really captures, or sets, the tone of the film. The movie’s shot well too. Seamus McGarvey’s cinematography is stellar, again following the atmosphere of the film. Gareth Edwards has made the best, in my opinion, Godzilla movie to-date. He’s true to his word when he said if the original film makers in 1954 had the technology capable, the two movies would be very similar. The original Gojira suffered from character development as well, but for it’s time the subplot of the film really captivated moviegoers and critics alike. Godzilla 2014 has a nuclear subplot as well, it may be a tad hard to assume but it’s there. I’ll be surprised if Godzilla isn’t nominated for Best Original Score, Best Achievement in Cinematography, and VFX. It’s a well made movie, but suffers from a weak script.

    • Just realized my TLDR is longer than what precedes it…whoops.

  22. So does Godzilla have nuclear breath like the original. Also how many monsters does Godzilla face off with?

  23. You ask: “if an audience cannot connect with a human cast, will they care about all the monster fights, no matter how expertly executed?”

    The answer is YES. If ever there is a franchise that does not the usual “human interest” stories… i.e. the soldier desperately trying to return to his family, the crazed scientist, the other scientist who’s all zen about the thing…feh… This show was about MONSTERS destroying things. The scenes of Godzilla with the fleet made this old Squid happy, as did all the destruction. And Godzilla’s fire effect was awesome.

    Godzilla movies need a script/plot the same way porno movies do…