This weekend, Godzilla made a fire-breathingly triumphant return to the big screen. With amazing effects, thrilling suspense, and a final battle that just screams "AMAZING," Godzilla has earned an estimated $98 million opening weekend.
However, not everybody agrees. A common complaint with the film circulating online is that the movie's titular monster is mostly saved towards the latter half of the film, and does not have enough fight scenes.
In the past two days, I've read lines like "where's Godzilla?" "they should have called it 'Waiting for Godzilla'" and "Godzilla is barely in his own movie," more times than I could count.
Even professional critics have taken aim at this perceived flaw. Christopher Orr of The Atlantic said: "The only thing that can cut (Godzilla) down to size is being relegated to a supporting role in his very own movie."
"It's shocking to note how little screen time Godzilla receives, and when he finally enters into a battle royale with the Mutos, it almost feels like the picture has been handed over to an extra," said Matt Brunson of Creative Loathing.
Dennis Schwartz of Ozus' World Movie Reviews also stated: "Most of the film was killing time for the monster fight at the climax."
In an interview with ScreenCrush, director Gareth Edwards was asked to address the movie's pacing. Here's what he said:
"When we sat down, we talked about what kind of movie we were thinking about and we talked about ‘Jurassic Park,’ ‘Jaws’ and a lot of Spielberg movies like ‘Close Encounters’. Also, ‘Alien’ and ‘King Kong’. And, they all have one thing in common: it’s about an hour into the movie before you see the creature. Because our benchmark films had taken that approach, no one ever really got nervous. And, to be honest, we sat and watched those movies that give it to you straight away and don’t let up until you leave, and…you just get tired. Quite easily you reach a brick wall and you get what I call “CGI fatigue.” Where you can’t care anymore about anything. When everything is cranked up to 11, you just can’t care anymore. So, that was always the consideration. To try and build slowly and tease and pull the audience in, and then when they get it, it’ll be more powerful."
Personally, I absolutely agree with Edwards' statement. Audiences these days seem to be used to giant spectacles of effects and action like The Avengers and Pacific Rim. I almost wonder if people forgot what made films like Jaws and Jurassic Park so great. The monsters were developed, and the human characters played an important role to anchor the film's thrills. Constant monster fights for two hours would certainly get stale and repetitive after all. While I admit the teasing can be a bit frustrating, Godzilla makes a bold move in subverting the expectations of the modern audience by slowly building up to a big payoff. And I'll be darned if that final battle wasn't worth the wait.