I chuckled several times during Saturday night’s sold-out public premiere of Gareth Edwards‘ Godzilla (Warner Bros., 5.16) at Le Grand Rex in Paris. And three or four times I laughed out loud, which is saying something considering that my legs were aching due to the cramped balcony seating. For me, chuckling and laughing at a monster film is a thumbs-up reaction. It means I’m having a fairly good time, which Godzilla definitely provided until the finale. Overall it left me feeling cranked up and a bit surprised in a “wait…what?” sense of the term and yet taken care of for the most part. It’s not a great monster film but a very good one, I feel. Or at least until the end. It’s a hell of a lot better that the 1998 Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin version, I can tell you that.
The best blow-your-socks-off sequence, I feel, comes around the middle — a monster- attack-on-Honolulu sequence that includes a big tsunami crashing and racing through the streets and wreaking all kind of non-consequential, eye-popping destruction — ten if not twenty times what this city suffered through when Michael Bay staged his Japanese aerial attack in Pearl Harbor (’00). The swelling wave effects are pretty damned persuasive, I must say. In fact nearly every damned visual effect seems at least above average. On a purely technical level Godzilla is one hell of a ride.
And I loved, loved, loved seeing Las Vegas get levelled all to hell. Like the original 1954 version that started the franchise, Edwards’ Godzilla is supposed to be a metaphor about nature’s wrath pushing back against man’s industrial arrogance and technological excess. It therefore seemed fitting if not delightful that the “worst money-grubbing place in the world” (which I’ve never had any love for, unlike Ben Affleck and a million other guys who actually worship the place) should be one of the cities to pay the price. I laughed and almost cheered when I realized what was happening to this overdeveloped shithole. Eat it, Steve Wynn! Maybe you’ve been crushed to death under the rubble of your own hotel. Just desserts, asshole!
And I liked the fact Edwards tones Godzilla down for most of its running time. Over and over he uses suggestion — visual and aural hints and implications — instead of blatant show-and-tells. He deserves admiration for delaying Godzilla’s first big MCU roar until the two-thirds mark and also holding back on the trademark fire-breathing until the big super-finale, in which San Francisco gets it but good.