'Godzilla': What the Critics Are Saying

Gareth Edwards' revival spotlighting the iconic Japanese monster stars Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Wantanabe, Elizabeth Olsen and Sally Hawkins.

Helmed by British director Gareth Edwards, whose feature debuted was the 2010 action indie Monsters, Godzilla stomps into theaters Friday with Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Wantanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Sally Hawkins and more. Box-office tracking suggests that the Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. tentpole may exceed $75 million in its domestic launch.

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Read what top critics are saying about Godzilla:

The Hollywood Reporter's chief film critic Todd McCarthy noted in his review that "Godzilla has never before been accorded the sort of lavish respect that the talented young English director Gareth Edwards bestows upon him here, and it's almost too much; as if he were an elderly stage star being deferentially treated, the title character barely shows up until the second act." The film is "smart, self-aware, eye-popping" thanks to splendid craft and technical contributions, and though it's responsible in "delivering the action goods and bringing it all in at a well-paced two hours, where the film lets down is in the interpersonal scenes with the younger characters, which engage virtually no interest." Johnson's "Ford is a bore, a cookie-cutter beefcake figure interchangeable with any number of roles played in recent years by Channing Tatum, Taylor Kitsch and others … his character here is standard-issue military hunk, [and] Olsen has a thankless role as his often frantic wife."

The New York Times' A.O. Scott said, "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." He appreciated Edwards' "subtlety and indirection to obvious noise and spectacle," as "he seems more interested in showing the aftermath of a calamity than the event itself, and the vistas of trampled cityscapes are frequently more memorable and always more haunting than the chaotic scenes of smashing and flooding that clutter the film's climax." While the human characters may be throwaways, "still, one of the pleasures the movie offers is the thought that actors who have done splendid work elsewhere — Mr. Cranston and Ms. Binoche, and also Sally Hawkins as another scientist — are being paid well for shouting, grimacing and spouting expository claptrap."

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The Los Angeles Times' Betsy Sharkey wrote that "one of Godzilla's appeals has always been the duality of his soul. Though he does destroy a lot of what is in his way, his intent is not evil, rather frustration that the world is so out of whack. Given his size, it's terrifying, and great fun, to watch him working out his anger issues," noting the Oscar-winning work of special effects supervisor Jim Rygiel, as well as cinematographer Seamus McGarvey and veteran production designer Owen Paterson. And she notes that she's "hoping the sequel, and you know it is coming, will actually let Godzilla run wild."

The Boston Globe's Tom Russo said of Godzilla, "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." Of the monster itself, "crafted with motion-capture technology and an aesthetic eye toward tradition, Godzilla is convincingly rendered here, making for some genuinely electrifying moments."

Time magazine's Richard Corliss noted that "Edwards' Godzilla dawdles toward its Doomsday climax; the movie could win a prize for Least Stuff Happening in the First Two-Thirds of an Action Film. 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 coated in rust, that he's hard to see. (The sound effects do most of the scary work.) And he gets little screen time."

Email: Ashley.Lee@THR.com
Twitter: @cashleelee