By Sam Adams | Criticwire May 11, 2014 at 4:39AM
And lo, it was 1 a.m. on the East Coast of American, and the "Godzilla" embargo did break, and the reviews.. were astonishingly good, actually. While critics are by no means unanimous -- some, unsurprisingly, find Gareth Edwards' re-re-reboot to be thin on character and on a reason for existing -- more than a few are calling it the best summer blockbuster in years. Considering its immediate predecessor, 1998's Roland Emmerich-directed remake, was such a foreordained critical dud that it came preloaded with low-blow attacks on Siskel & Ebert, that's quite an improvement. Here's what they're saying.
Reviews of 2014's "Godzillla"
Jordan Hoffman, ScreenCrush
Just about as good as a big fat summer tentpole movie gets these days. It’s fun, scary and awe-inspiring in just the right places. Some of the acting is dull and the dialogue isn’t exactly dripping with nuance, but these concerns are secondary. The set pieces are marvelous, the special effects are terrific and great care has gone into keeping the visual storytelling fresh.
Mark Adams, Screen International
In only his second film -- a massive leap in scale a budget from his cult debut film, the ultra-low budget fantasy "Monsters" -- British director Gareth Edwards proves to be a phenomenally safe and confident pair of hands, and has come up with an epic adventure that balances human determination and courage to fight back against the odds with the traditional monster slugging-it-out dynamics of the original films.
Robbie Collin, Telegraph
Tsunamis, earthquakes, rising tides, nuclear meltdowns: these are the very recognisable 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.
Matt Donato, We Got This Covered
Literal chills were shooting down my spine as Godzilla appeared for the first time, similar to "Jurassic Park'"s Tyrannosaurus Rex reveal that wowed audiences in 1993. The fanboy in me rejoiced, the cinema fan in me wanted to graciously applaud, and the nerd in me wanted to hug Gareth Edwards, who captures everything that Toho's Godzilla represented.
Kris Tapley, HitFix
I went into it fairly cold, having only really watched (or at least focused on) that second trailer, and I was leveled by the handling of the material. This is the blockbuster movie event of the summer to me so far, and I'd be surprised if something tops it over the next few months.
Roth Cornet, IGN
The hype-machine may have done a disservice to the project, but rather than fall apart under the weight of 350 foot expectations, "Godzilla" strikes a remarkably balanced tone. The film blends sequences rich with heartbreak, visceral thrills, fear, surprisingly whimsical humor, better-than-a-cage-match fights, and awe-inspiring visuals.
Adam Lee Davies, Little White Lies
Get yourself ready for a top-down cavalcade of sublime post-historic fury that melds the Darwinian majesty of "Jaws" to the feral, DNAtheistic chaos of "Jurassic Park" amid the painterly, mystic awe of "Close Encounters."
Ryan Lamble, Den of Geek
There’s a real artistry to the way the scenes are composed, with unusual camera angles and captivating shifts in perspective. The sequence often repeated in trailers, where a group of soldiers leaps from an aeroplane to the ghostly howls of Gy Ligeti's Requiem, is one example of this, and there are dozens of others throughout the film: here, what looks like a part of the landscape could just as easily be a giant monster.
Drew McWeeny, HitFix
Scripted by Max Boenstein, working from a story by Dave Callaham, this new film is the first time since arguably "Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster" that they've tried to actually deal with something on a subtextual level in addition to also creating a large-scale monster mayhem movie, and while I don't think the film is completely successful, there is so much that's interesting and exciting about it that it feels like a brand new day for Toho's greatest icon.
Edward Douglas, Coming Soon
Fans of Guillermo del Toro's own Godzilla-inspired "Pacific Rim" might wonder what sets this movie apart, the most noticeable difference being the lack of any sort of humor or comic relief to take away from the serious nature of monsters razing everything in their path and potentially killing thousands of people while doing so.
Evan Dickson, Bloody Disgusting
Gareth Edwards' direction is never less than decent and often borders on being truly impressive and the cast is fantastic (though Bryan Cranston is turned up to 11 throughout all of his scenes, sometimes uncomfortably so). But the script (credited to Max Borenstein but Frankensteined together by around half a dozen writers) is painful. I mean that almost literally. Throughout the bulk of the film's running time I was shifting in my seat, sort of aghast at some of the decisions (or non-decisions) that were being made.
Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter
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.
Emma Dibdib, Digital Spy
Edwards' textured, haunting debut "Monsters" embodied everything shoestring sci-fi filmmaking does at its best, coupling resourceful scares with an essentially human story. His priorities here are inevitably shifted, with a studio budget and six decades of franchise history to honor, but it's disappointing nonetheless that the human story in Edwards' "Godzilla" falls so completely by the wayside.
Scott Mendelson, Forbes
It has wonderful visuals and some terrific beats, yet has little-to-no story with woefully thin and passive characters. When the film is showing off its monster mayhem and destruction, it’s a corker. But it really doesn’t tell a story and abandons pretty much all human interaction once the monsters shows up.
Jonathan Hatfull, Sci-Fi Now
While it does occasionally stumble, this is a superior summer blockbuster that pays tribute to its heritage while delivering stunning action sequences. It might tread a little too cautiously, but by God, "Godzilla" has a mighty roar.
Peter Debruge, Variety
Godzilla movies, like wrestling matches, are ultimately judged by the quality of the mayhem, and Edwards excels at blowing things up. Though some of the first visual effects we see onscreen (the Filipino mine, the Japanese nuclear plant) look phony, especially projected in post-converted 3D, the creature effects are terrific, using phosphorescent accents to make the monsters look even more menacing after dark.
James Rocchi, Film.com
The best thing about this new "Godzilla" is that it spares no expense or effort to deliver big, burly IMAX-ified action. The worst thing about this new "Godzilla" is how that's the best thing about it.
William Bibbiani, Crave Online
The first half of "Godzilla" is human, suspenseful and dramatic, and the second half segues -- albeit a little awkwardly -- into a series of breathtaking monster brawls that are simultaneously a little ridiculous and also tons of melodramatic fun.
Germain Lussier, Slashfilm
One third better than you expect it to be, one third what you expected it to be and a third completely underwhelming. Thankfully, Edwards arranges those uneven pieces in a way that, while the first two don’t always work so well, the ending makes up for it and then some.
Rodrigo Perez, the Playlist
Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures' "Godzilla" reimagining demonstrates early on that it has an excellent grasp and understanding of character, emotional stakes and human value. Which is perhaps why their "Godzilla" -- an initially character-rich movie about relatable ordinary humans in extraordinary circumstances -- is ultimately so frustrating as the movie inadvertently turns its back on those core principles.
Jordan Raup, Film Stage
Where last summer's similarly themed kaiju tentpole "Pacific Rim" so monumentally failed at building a convincing world outside of the whiz-bang effects, Edwards makes sure every calculated moment pushes the story forward, successfully melding real-word practicality with otherworldly creature-filled pandemonium.
Eric Kohn, Indiewire
Naturally, "Godzilla" must deliver on the promise of its title, and even with its nighttime workarounds, it doesn't entirely disappoint. A lengthy pan upwards of the 30-story figure capably foregrounds his hulking presence. Once it gets there, however, "Godzilla" becomes the very movie it consciously avoids -- a spectacle in which the people barely matter at all.
Richard Corliss, 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.
Geoffrey Macnab, Independent
It's all fun in its own (by now) very far-fetched way but reinforces the sense that Godzilla movies will never fully be able to transcend their own innate, cheesy preposterousness.
Alonso Duralde, the Wrap
When Godzilla all too infrequently gets to be on screen to do his thing, "Godzilla" hits that monster-movie sweet spot with the kind of action that kaiju fans have come to crave. Most of the time, however, this feels like a retread of "World War Z," with a handsome American trotting the globe in the hopes of quelling an international crisis.
Paul MacInnes, Guardian
The result is a clash between massive, lovingly recreated reptiles and the appetites of a corporate vampire squid. The squid wins.