I have no problem with this version of Godzilla basically being a big tease, offering mostly glimpses of the titular character as opposed to in-your-face full blown action. Its a problem with modern movies and all their CGI that we generally see too much. Little is left to the imagination these days, and sometimes less is more. The power of the original Alien, for instance, is that we see so little of the monster. It was likely something enforced on the film-makers because of the limitations they were under, but it worked to improve the film and is one of the reasons it stands the test of time so well. A modern Alien film would just go nuts showing the creature in all sorts of grisly detail, but I don’t think it would make the film any better.
Godzilla is a huge epic movie with lots and lots of CGI destruction, but it often limits how much we see of Godzilla itself, preferring to show what he/it leaves in its wake (I always wonder if I should I refer to Godzilla as ‘it’ rather than ‘he’), focusing much of the time on the effects he has on the environment as if he is a force of nature. This approach has frustrated many viewers but I think its refreshing. The problem is that the film struggles to fill the gap left by not focusing purely on the title character: the human supporting cast suffers somewhat in a fairly mediocre plot that, by being oddly formulaic, is at odds with the challenging approach of not focusing wholly on the creature itself. Its certainly a part of the script that deserved a little more work and focus. Its frustrating to see some of the fine cast fairly wasted as if they were in your usual effects-driven blockbuster, because it really isn’t that kind of film- its trying to be more sophisticated than that but unfortunately the end result is pretty much the same: by the last hour the carnage is colossal and the human characters are left floundering in its CGI wake. It isn’t the dramatic work it wants to be or should be. But it does have an impressive sense of scale, and many of the shots are breathtakingly good in the way they demonstrate the sheer size and power of the film’s monsters*. There is a beauty in all the destruction, so much so its odd to consider all the thousands of human deaths it represents; there is an odd dichotomy there.
Its commendable that the studio and producers intend to wait for director Gareth Edwards to become available for the sequel (Edwards sidelined for a year or two by a Star Wars project) rather than rush into it with another director at the helm. It will be fascinating to see where Edwards goes with the next film. I would imagine that it will be a better picture, simply as it will not be so hamstrung as this first film was with having to set everything up, but perhaps also it will be able to better serve the human cast as well. In a way, this film is indeed a big tease, but not simply in how it shows the title character- its actually teasing a better film that this should have been but hopefully the next will be. I don’t always look forward to sequels, I’d sooner films be better standalone pieces, but in this case I’ll make an exception. Roll on Godzilla 2.
*This is one of those films that I regret not seeing at the cinema. It looks gorgeous on Blu-ray but there is no way a home tv screen can approximate what this film must have looked like projected on a big theatrical screen. Must have been quite an experience.