May 15, 2014 1:59 pm

What the critics are saying: ‘Godzilla’

ABOVE: Watch the trailer for Godzilla.

TORONTO — The highly anticipated Godzilla has roared into theatres, bringing the monster from Japanese filmmaker Ishirō Honda’s 1954 original to a new generation.

More sophisticated (and less cheesy) than Roland Emmerich’s 1998 version starring Matthew Broderick, British director Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla was primarily shot in B.C. beginning last March.

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It stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass), Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Elizabeth Olsen (Silent House) and Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai).

In this reboot, the titular creature awakens to fight a pair of Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms — dubbed MUTOs — that are threatening humanity.

Godzilla will crush the competition on its opening weekend — but does it have legs? Will it be the first blockbuster of the summer movie season or will it sink into the waters from where it came? Here’s a look at what some critics thought of it.

Bruce Kirkland of QMI Agency decided Godzilla is a good movie. “Just not the great one that fans of the mutant monster were hoping for,” he added.

Kirkland complained about the murkiness of the 3D version of the movie and took issue with the lack of screen time given to Godzilla.

“There is too much of the people on-screen and not enough of one of our favourite movie monsters of all time,” he wrote.

Rafer Guzman of Newsday agreed.

“The iconic movie monster feels diminished in this multimillion-dollar disappointment,” Guzman opined. “For starters, Godzilla barely appears in Godzilla.”

Calling the characters “even thinner than the plot,” Guzman questioned some of Edwards’ directing choices.

“[He] repeatedly cuts away from the action — a confoundingly strange decision in a Godzilla movie. Seriously, what else are we paying to see?”

At Film Journal International, Ethan Alter opined that “by deliberately limiting the audience’s view of the star attraction for so much of the film, Edwards creates a vacuum that the flesh-and-blood actors are required to fill and the results are mixed at best.”

He complained about the movie’s “flat writing, poor characterizations, and the absence of any compelling human drama amidst the carnage.”

READ MORE: What the critics said about other recent movies

Mark Hughes of Forbes also bemoaned the lack of Godzilla in Godzilla.

“The movie title might make you think this movie is going to be about Godzilla, or at least that he’s the main monster in the movie. Yeah, well, don’t let that fool you,” he wrote.

“Godzilla makes two guest-appearances, one in a brief but admittedly effecting tease sequence in Hawaii (where you see him about as much as you saw him in the trailers) and the other at the climax. I understand the theory behind saving Godzilla’s big moment for the grand finale, except that the finale isn’t quite so ‘grand,’ and Godzilla is the main reason we all show up to watch this movie in the first place.”

At the Chicago Tribune, Michael Phillips had a different take, singling out “the smartly considered step of not over-exploiting its star.”

He wrote: “Is there enough Godzilla in Godzilla? Folks, there is. There is just enough.”

Phillips was more disappointed with one of the humans in the film.

“There are weaknesses, starting and ending with Taylor-Johnson, who’s dull in a crucial but dull role,” he said.

Dull is a word also used by The Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw.

“Aaron Taylor-Johnson, so likable in the Kick-Ass films, is here dull and slow-moving beefcake,” he opined.

“The ultimate movie monster loses all its potent satire and symbolism in this exasperating remake – and the humans here are fantastically dull, too,” he declared.

Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly echoed Bradshaw.

“[Edwards] doesn’t seem too interested in his actors — they’re more plodding than their reptilian costars and you don’t care about a single one of them,” he wrote.

Nashawaty was impressed, though, with the computer-generated parts.

“Edwards does know how to fashion some serious monster mayhem,” he wrote. “And the thrill of the film is getting the chance to fetishize their sheer size and physicality as they rip through power lines and demolish buildings with their lashing tails. In its handful of moments like these, Godzilla almost makes you feel like a kid again.”

At the Sydney Morning Herald, Jake Wilson said audiences will go home satisfied after the “spectacular” climax.

“This is fortunate, because otherwise the film is a bit of a mess,” he added.

Wilson said the script is “filled with clumsy exposition” and the human characters are “dull.”

Joe Neumaier of the New York Daily News complained Godzilla offers “mostly hot air from a lot of serious actors slumming it.”

He wrote: “Once Godzilla’s on the scene, the battles between the giants are fun, up to a point. They eventually get dull ­— and respectable actors go B-movie bad.”

Neumaier called the CGI monster “honorable” but lamented “he ends up a supporting player in his own, underwhelming movie.”

A.V. Club reviewer A.A. Dowd praised Godzilla as “a marvel of state-of-the-art craftsmanship, looking bigger and bulkier than he ever has before and shaking the whole theatre with his timeless, metallic bellow.”

Dowd seemed to suggest the movie be taken with a grain of salt.

“As pure popcorn entertainment, Godzilla delivers plenty of goosebumps,” Dowd wrote.

“Size may not be the only thing that matters, but it counts for something in a mega-budget blockbuster.”

© Shaw Media, 2014

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