ONE I think a large part of the reason it is being so praised is that visually, the movie is absolutely stunning on any number of levels. This is not only with respect to shot framing – certainly Gareth Edwards’ shot choice in this movie is staggeringly good, and on a visual level this is easily the most cunningly-directed blockbuster since probably Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies (which it surpasses). But everything is masterful: the visual pacing and storytelling is on a whole other level, going beyond the reliable competence one hopes to get out of a blockbuster and heading into the realm of art.
TWO From a storytelling standpoint the choice to not really go full-bore with the Major Godzilla Fight Sequence until the very end of the movie is wise for multiple reasons. Firstly, there is the whole building-up-of-anticipation thing, which is always fun and it’s nice to see a movie that’s willing to deny the audience satisfaction until the movie’s actual climax for once. But secondly, here is the truth: after about ten minutes, giant monster fights are boring because there’s only so many things you can do with giant monster fights; one of the reasons Pacific Rim drags at times (and it does drag) is because there are too many giant monster fights in that movie.
THREE Similarly, the script also makes the gutsy choice of killing off Bryan Cranston’s character in the first third of the movie. Post-Breaking Bad this is particularly ballsy; I mean, between the Cranston-heavy trailer and nerds on the internet being all “it’s WALTER WHITE VERSUS GODZILLA” like that would be something anybody would want to see I was expecting plot awfulness. We did not get that, and this was good.
FOUR Of course, all of this is just asking if the movie is well-crafted, which was evident. But now we must ask the question of whether or not it was artistically coherent. Firstly, it is worth noting that my previous suspicions re: the movie’s shifting allegory are partially correct. Although nuclear energy is in part responsible for giant monsters (they feed on radioactivity? Okay whatever), the movie’s central thesis is indeed “man cannot hope to control nature.” Which: okay, fine, it’s not a terrible analogy to use for Godzilla movie purposes, there’s still some nice notes about the hubris of mankind in that, fine and dandy.
FIVE But the problem is that underlying the plot of “man cannot hope to control nature, so here are giant monsters fighting to the death” is a certain lack of anything making sense. Godzilla shows up to kill the other giant monsters why exactly? I mean, you can have Ken Watanabe mutter profound nothings about “restoring the balance” all you like but in the end, Godzilla becomes a giant deus ex machina whose presence is not really satisfactorily explained, and the absence of a coherent reason for Godzilla to exist in a movie where the craft is so evidently thought out in most other respects is… jarring, to say the least.
SIX And then you have the fact that the movie contradicts itself by the Sergeant Kick-Ass On The Ground plotline, because the movie literally says about a dozen times that Man Cannot Hope To Control Nature but then Sergeant Kick-Ass destroys all of the giant monster eggs and provides the crucial distraction needed to draw away one of the giant monsters so Godzilla can kill them one at a time, and this is frankly as annoying as all get out because either Man Cannot Hope To Control Nature or He Can and you kinda have to pick one of them ahead of time and make your movie on that basis, because Man Cannot Hope To Control Nature Except When Needed To For Plot Purposes is dumb.
SEVEN Still, complaints about coherency aside, it’s a fine movie, easily heads (and tails) above most summer blockbusters. And that counts.