I'm going to preface this by saying there's bound to be spoilers ahead. If that thought bothers you, avert your eyes.
That said, this isn't going to be a review or a recap. Just a few thoughts I took away from my screening of the new Godzilla film. I'll start out by saying that overall I enjoyed the film. It's not a Toho Godzilla film, but it's not the Tri-Star Godzilla either. This Godzilla is kind of it's own monster (ha!) and if you go in with that in mind, and you're a fan of kaiju, you're bound to find something you'll like.
The monsters look great...when you can see them. I'm not 100% in love with the design of Godzilla, but it is growing on me. At the very least, it's clearly in the tradition and completely recognizable as a Godzilla. The movement is great and I especially liked how expressive the face and tail were. I really loved when he had to stop and catch his breath while fighting off the MUTOs. It gave the character a bit of vulnerability that I think worked well. The MUTOs were pretty cool, but I couldn't help be reminded of the Heisei Gamera era Gyaos especially when looking at the male MUTO.
The battles were fun to watch. Loved Godzilla's atomic breath. Loved seeing Honolulu, Las Vegas and San Francisco get destroyed. What I didn't like was the way Gareth Edwards filmed some of the battles. For example, you'd see a big, juicy chunk of action, but it's just reflected in a bus window. Or there's the peep booth window effect where just when things are getting good, a door literally closes and the action fades to black. I'm all for teasing it to add tension, but too often I felt let down that Edwards chose a more artsy shot over directly looking at what's going on.
The human element is kind of a problem as well. For me, the best, most fleshed out character was Joe Brody (played by Bryan Cranson) and he got killed off early in the film. His son, Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is pretty mechanical and barely shows much emotion. The token scientist, Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe,) plays to stereotype, looking shellshocked throughout and warning against using nuclear weapons on the creatures. The military folks are the stereotypical two-dimensional types we see in every kaiju film. Considering the movie focuses so much on the people rather than the monsters, it's surprisingly hard to get very involved in any of their stories. The film touched a bit on the actual human cost of a giant monster battle, which I liked, but, the Heisei Gamera films did it better.
The only other thing I can really think to add at the moment is that this is a pretty dark and serious movie. While Godzilla plays the hero, the mood and tone harkens back to the original Godzilla. It's got a pretty heavy vibe for a film that is based on a pretty silly premise. I think it works, though the sequel ready ending left me a little cold. It'll be interesting to see where Legendary Pictures takes things in that already announced sequel.