Remember 'Jaws'? Remember the way you only got to see little glimpses of the shark or just the remains of his victims for nearly half the movie? Instead, you got to meet half the town first and all the main characters while fear and paranoia slowly spread across the whole community, and when the great white guy finally did make his entrance - boy, what an impact he had.
Now, that was 40 years ago - but would it be possible to make that kind of movie today? To show restraint despite a budget of 160+ million dollars and all the latest state of the art CGI-effects the blockbuster factory has to offer?
As it turns out, it's not quite possible; at least not as far as this latest version of 'Godzilla' is concerned - but that's probably not for lack of trying on director Gareth Edwards' part. The young director ('Monsters') has stated many times that 'Jaws' was a huge inspiration for him on this movie, and it is hardly a coincidence that the (human) hero in 'Godzilla' shares the same name with the hero in Spielberg's masterpiece (they're both called Brody).
Edwards made it very clear that he wanted to take an "old school" approach - and as far as the beautiful, haunting build-up of the first half of the movie is concerned, he actually succeeds. The atmosphere of mystery and dread is tangible; the human element is there, the acting and the dialogues are solid, and the production design is breathtaking (especially the apocalyptic images of an evacuated city in Japan which was left to decay for 15 years, overgrown with plants and with packs of wild dogs running in the streets).
The "muto" design - when we do get a first glimpse at a creature - is otherworldly and frightening (as good monsters should be), but as the movie progresses into the second half and the creature-action increases, the quality of the pacing, the dialogues and the acting inexplicably decreases. The movie sadly starts to feel flat, and although there is one great creature scene after another, and although those scenes get more and more intense as the storyline steers towards the inevitable showdown, it's hard to stay invested in the human side of the story.
After the first act (when there was actually still some real acting required from the actors), there are virtually no interesting moments anymore when the human protagonists interact, let alone lingering scenes where the characters get to talk long enough to one another to even try to build such a thing as chemistry. So when the finale does arrive (which looks absolutely beautiful, by the way), you admire its epic scale, but since there is nobody to care about, it's hard to feel thrilled.Sure, you kind of root for Godzilla, but since you only just met the guy, you don't feel too much attached.
Ultimately - despite a great build-up and a fantastic looking finale - 'Godzilla' is a valid effort but only rarely a thrilling one. Unlike in 'Jaws', there are no interesting human characters here who could help create the kind of tension-heavy atmosphere or sense of impending doom the way Chief Brody, Hooper and Quint could 40 years ago.
Trying to show restraint alone is not enough to create a sense of wonder the way seventies cinema did - you also need the kind of character-driven scenes where someone says: "We're gonna need a bigger boat!"
Favorite films: IMDb.com/list/mkjOKvqlSBs/
Lesser-Known Masterpieces: imdb.com/list/ls070242495/
Favorite Low-Budget and B-Movies: imdb.com/list/ls054808375/
Favorite TV-Shows reviewed: imdb.com/list/ls075552387/