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‘Godzilla’ Early Reviews: Is Japan’s Biggest Export Better Than Ever?

Famous movie monster hopes to trample the box office this weekend, but not before critics stomp all over it for a number of flaws — none of which seem to include the mean, green monster itself

“Godzilla” hopes to trample the box office this weekend, but not before critics stomp all over it for a number of flaws — none of which seem to include the mean, green monster itself.

With 21 reviews counted so far on Rotten Tomatoes, the Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. co-production appears to be an audience pleaser with 86 percent of reviews being declared “fresh.” That doesn’t mean director Gareth Edwards‘ take on the King of Monsters doesn’t have issues.

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Sixteen years after Roland Emmerich‘s version turned New York City into a nest for its offspring, TheWrap‘s Alonso Duralde was delighted when the 350-foot lizard hit the screen to destroy San Francisco. He just didn’t want to wait an hour for that to happen.

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

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The handsome American is played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson (“Kick-Ass”), while Bryan Cranston plays the young soldier’s scientist father. Juliette Binoche plays his scientist mother, Elizabeth Olsen plays his wife, and Ken Watanabe plays the Japanese man who claims to understand the titular creature — and two more Mother Nature has let loose on society.

Even with all of the human relationships and conflict unfolding as disaster strikes, Time Out critic Tom Huddleston argues it isn’t enough to fill the void left on screen when Godzilla isn’t there.

“If all you need for a good time is full-on shots of wondrously realized CGI creatures turning to the camera and giving an almighty spit-flecked roar, you’re in luck. But those hoping this ‘Godzilla’ might have brains as well as bulk could be disappointed,” Huddleston wrote. “The script is derivative and lacks humor, and the characterization is weak: actors like Sally Hawkins and Ken Watanabe have little to do, while a bland Taylor-Johnson is miscast as the square-jawed hero. It’s fun to watch scaly, skyscraper-sized behemoths lay waste to civilization, but a bit more human drama would be welcome.”

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The Guardian’s Paul MacInnes was also impressed by the special effects and monster mayhem, but agreed the roster of supporting talent doesn’t add anything to the “predictable” formula that Hollywood has relied on for decades.

“So while many people might want to go to the cinema to see Godzilla, what they get instead is a load of homosapiens desperately trying to put a human face on the drama. They don’t really succeed,” MacInnes wrote. “A line of actual acting talent – from Bryan Cranston to Sally Hawkins, Juliette Binoche and Ken Watanabe – is reduced to a series of B-movie tropes.”

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Film.com critic James Rocchi argues that doesn’t really matter, though, as Godzilla is all “Godzilla” really needs.

“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,” Rocchi wrote. “Don’t misunderstand me: for thrills and spills and rock-‘em, sock-‘em monster-fighting action, this is a must-see.”