For all of its thrills and explosions, summer movie season tends to be light on risk-taking. That’s why “Godzilla” stands out.
While a giant monster film might not sound like the most novel proposition, how director Gareth Edwards presents the legendary lizard is utterly unlike anything else in the world of modern blockbusters.
Now that the press embargo on “Godzilla” reactions is up, I’ve collected some of my non-spoiler thoughts: things you need to know before checking out the film later this week.
1. You Should See It
Perhaps more than any summer movie this year, “Godzilla” deserves to be seen regardless of what you’re hearing from friends and critics.
There will be plenty of reviews with widely different opinions on what works and what doesn’t. I happened to really enjoy “Godzilla,” but even talking to a few other journalists, reactions have varied. But keep reading to find out why I think it’s a must-see.
2. It’s Not Like Other Summer Movies… No, I Mean It
The choices director Gareth Edwards made that — in my opinion — really make “Godzilla” something special are calls that you won’t see made by other filmmakers directing other potential blockbusters.
In fact, some of the creative decisions that Edwards hangs his movie on fly in the face of conventional big-budget wisdom. It’s only on reflection that you realize what he and Legendary pulled off.
3. The Movie Lives Up to the Trailer…
The very smart promotional campaign for “Godzilla” was a major factor in raising audience expectations for this movie.
The trailers and TV spots were ominous, moody, surprisingly human and light on actual footage of Godzilla himself. All of these descriptions apply doubly for the actual film. Edwards, in his second feature, has a grasp on tone that would earn praises even if it was coming from a master like Spielberg, whose films “Jurassic Park” and “Jaws” serve as key points of reference.
4. …But It’s Really Much Better Than the Trailer
You’ve watched all the previews, right? And you’ve scoured each glimpse at footage for clues about what the larger story might be?
Well, I have some news for you: You’ve been lied to.
Not in any malicious way, though. Trailers are, at the end of the day, supposed to give an impression of a movie’s tone and appeal. Trailers should never be a preview of each dramatic beat.
To keep several of the film’s most exciting images a secret until you’re in the theater, the trailers for “Godzilla” include altered footage, which make them ultimately less amazing than what you’ll eventually see in the movie. The trailers for “Godzilla” were incredible, but they were handicapping themselves.
Are you beginning to see what I mean when I say that this isn’t your typical summer flick?
5. Edwards Knows When To Play His Hand
During interviews for the film, Edwards has mentioned Spielberg, specifically “Jurassic Park” and its T-Rex, as major inspirations for how he handled Godzilla.
There’s a reason that Gojira, the king of the monsters, barely appears in the trailers. It’s because not showing Godzilla makes you want to see him even more.
Edwards’ expert understanding of set-ups and payoffs makes “Godzilla” not only compulsively watchable, but one of the most entertaining major studio releases in years.
6. It’s Got Serious Acting
I’m not giving too much away saying that Bryan Cranston gets the most meat in terms of his role. Everyone in the cast is uniformly good, but Cranston’s character is the one with the deepest emotional investment in the story.
And the man who was Walter White does not waste it.
Cranston is without question one of the best actors of his generation, and his role gives him the insane opportunity to do what he does best — being relatable and believable at devastating moments — in a “Godzilla” movie. Think about how lucky we all are for a second.
7. You Need To Avoid Spoilers
Now that even your mom knows what a “spoiler alert” is, everyone assumes that they don’t need to be told to be careful about what they read or watch online about upcoming movies. “Godzilla,” however, requires a special warning.
If you read the wrong review or watch the wrong clip, the carefully constructed illusions of the “Godzilla” marketing campaign will fall away, and so will the in-theater surprises.
I’m not talking about twists or backstabs here. I mean that the whole point of the movie is something meant to be discovered as you watch. Spoilers can’t ruin the whole movie entirely, but trust me, you’ll be missing out on a lot of fun.
“Godzilla” opens in theaters on May 16.