Short version, no spoilers? The slow burn of the new Godzilla movie would have been totally effective for me IF the payoff at the end was more amazing.
Basically, you're given an hour and a half of exposition from a couple of characters you care next to nothing for and then given a few shots of giant monsters pushing each other. And I don't mean awesome, low angle shots of monsters being thrown through buildings. I mean eye level wide shots of two monsters literally pushing each other like third graders.
That was pretty much the movie for me. Spoiler time.
The new Godzilla movie, directed by Gareth Edwards (who directed 2010's Monsters) starts off with some WWII footage of the eponymous monster being studied in the Pacific back in the days of nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll. After the titles are done, we jump to 1999 where Dr.Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) is called to the Philippines to where a humongous fossil is found along with some kind of open pod.
Cut over to Janjira Nuclear Plant (somewhere near Tokyo, I guess), where Joe and Sandra Brody (Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche) are preparing for a day at work. Joe has found some odd readings and asks his wife to go down to the basement and check on the sensors. Unknown to them, the readings are caused by the thing that came out of the pod, which burrowed to Japan from the Philippines, attracted by the radiation of the reactor.
As you can imagine, shenanigans ensue and if you've watched the trailers, you know Binoche bites it with Cranston looking on. The plant collapses as the monster surfaces and the military evacuates everyone and locks down everything for miles around the site. Joe survives and haunted by the death of his wife, tries to find out what really happened.
Then there's another jump and we're with his son 15 years later. Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) gets a call that his dad's been arrested and goes to Japan to bail him out. After some earnest "I'm not crazy," Ford agrees to help his dad break into the quarantine zone and grab his data from the day the plant imploded so that he can compare it to similar readings he's been getting recently. They meet up with Dr.Serizawa who has been studying the creature's cocoon at the site.
Notice I haven't mentioned Godzilla size those opening titles? That's cause this creature isn't Godzilla. It's a parasite that killed something like Godzilla back sometime before there were people in the Philippines. Now it's pissed. It sets off an EMP with it's foot (that's right, it's got a built-in EMP) and the plant goes dead again,
Everyone runs screaming and the US Military comes to the rescue. But then another one of these Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms (MOTU) shows up in Nevada at the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste facility where one Philippine pods was taken for study. Oh, shit.
Now they've got two MOTUs, a male and female, converging on San Francisco so they can meet up and have many many babies and repopulate the Earth. Now we finally hear about Godzilla, who is apparently something that first showed up in the record in WWII. The Bikini Atoll tests weren't tests. They were attempts to kill it. He shrugged it off and disappeared. But Dr.Serizawa has a hunch that Godzilla can restore balance to the force.
What follows is the aforementioned pushing fight, interspersed with various ineffectual human attempts at doing anything at all that will have the slightest effect on any of these three monsters.
Look, I liked Edwards' Monsters well enough. It was a pretty fine character study, more about the people and relationships rather than the actual monsters that they were trying to escape. But when you finally saw those monsters, it was pretty sweet.
I like slow burn movies. Movies that take awhile to set up the tone, the scene, the characters, and then slap you in the face with the payoff at the end, making you go, "DAMN, that was fucking amazing!" This isn't one of those movies. Edwards has managed to recreate the monster disaster feel he had in his first feature, with the events shown from ground level and from a human perspective, but there's no "DAMN!" moment until the very end, and it's not enough. There was plenty of action, but the fights had no pacing to them, there was no choreography to the exchanges. They just fell flat in the background.
I can't help but compare it to Pacific Rim, where "FUCK YEAH!" was the order of the day. Rocket Elbow! Blazing Sword! Boob Missiles! It was points like that that really made that movie for me. In this one Godzilla uses his Atomic Breath attack exactly twice, and the first was a complete throwaway moment. Without any monster action to justify all this human screen time, the film just died.
There's also the "science" behind the monsters. I use quotes because we all know this is a work of fiction. Treat it as a comic book, which doesn't always follow real world rules, but needs to establish a certain tone. This movie does establish pretty early on that we are working with "real world" science. These aren't extraterrestrial or deus ex machina monsters that just show up. These are "prehistoric" monsters that have been dormant for eons feeding off the earth's radiation nearer the core.
That doesn't fly with me. One, they were said to have evolved when the earth's radiation was far higher, which would imply a time before humans and most other animal species (since we wouldn't be suited for that environment). But that means they would have evolved and burrowed deep way before we were running things. This implies that they would not have been found on the Pacific islands in the film since most are volcanic in nature and not around back in those days. If they traveled there afterwards, then how did no one see them? If the parasites killed the other Godzilla there, how did no one see that?
There are a few more points like that during the film that stuck with me, but the one I can't get over though is EMP attack. How does a prehistoric parasite evolve that kind of a defense mechanism? What would it use it on back in the day? No humans, no electronics. What does it use it on in today's world anyway? Nothing phases it anyway, so what the hell does it care. It's been pointed out to me that Godzilla's got his Atomic Breath, but then I buy that. That's legitimately devastating against his natural enemies, as evidence by him throwing it up in the last one's mouth. Legit defense mechanism. The EMP of the MOTUs does fuck all against Godzilla, or any other "prehistoric" creature that it may have come across before.
In the end, it's just a movie that took itself too seriously. I could have done with half of the back story and better fights. As it is, the time spent on the exposition is totally not worth the pay off at the end.
And for god's sake, if you're going to pay Ken Watanabe to act, get him to do SOMETHING rather than stare off into the distance, dumbfounded.