Boy did I ever pick a great year to start reviewing movies.

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Bringing Godzilla back to modern audiences is no small task. It’s incredibly easy to show us too much of the battling gods, reducing them to goofy slapfighting special effects. If I’d known going in that there was going to be as little monster-on-monster fighting as there was, I would have been worried. Thankfully, this film adheres to the “less is more” school of thought, and makes sure that not a moment of the beast’s screen time is wasted. If you’re not a fan of humans in your Godzilla movies, I’ll warn you upfront that you’ll be seeing just as much of them as in any of the older films. However, the sheer terror of the events permeates the entire plot.

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This isn’t a film that is eager to blow its load. Godzilla doesn’t show up until well into the movie, and even when he finally does show up, it’s mostly in glimpses rather than full-body shots. I was frustrated by this at first, but when a scene showed a television playing news footage of the monsters battling it out in a wide full-body shot, I was suddenly hit with the realization of why this film was working in the first place. So much effort was put into making us feel small and human so that when the monsters are doing their thing, we would feel the full impact. Several times we literally see the monsters through the eyes of the film’s characters, and when we do, it’s absolutely terrifying. I was truly able to put myself in the shoes of the human characters and feel the weight of these events. The film prefers to build up like a symphony before moments that are meant to feel grand and huge, and it makes the moment carry all the more impact when it hits.

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This film also manages to treat its audience with respect as well. Never did I feel as though the film was talking down to us. Several major scenes play out without a single spoken word, depending on the viewer to understand what they’re looking at. I kept expecting someone to point an index finger at the action and explain things for the less observant viewers, but it never came to be. It helped a great deal such incredible actors were cast, as we’re able to read expressions at times when most scripts would have resorted to spoken words. There’s even a scene in which Godzilla himself emotes, albeit briefly, and a faint glimpse of emotion can be seen in his eyes. With the rise of directors like Michael Bay, it’s great to see acting play such a huge role in a gigantic disaster movie. Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson (who apparently has been eating smaller actors to gain his strength, holy fuck is he a beast in this role!) all knocked it out of the park. I can honestly say this is the first time I’ve ever watched a Godzilla movie and didn’t feel that every moment I wasn’t watching giant monsters fighting each other was wasted.

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All in all, Godzilla is a film that would rather show than tell, which is a surprisingly rare and refreshing occurrence when it comes  to disaster films. I can’t recommend it enough, and I truly hope other films of its kind will take a hint from the intelligent, subtle approach used here. It’s massive, it’s epic, and it truly does justice to the king of the monsters.

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