Godzilla 2014 is a force of nature and looks awesome in IMAX 3D

GODZILLA directed by Gareth Edwards, written by Max Borenstein, with Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe and Bryan Cranston. A Warner Bros. release. 123 minutes. Opens Friday (May 16). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNNNN

Holy crap: Godzilla.

Six decades after the “ultimate alpha predator” first made landfall – and after dozens of attempts to capture the full impact of the beast unleashed in Ishiro Honda’s 1954 kaiju classic – the King of the Monsters finally gets a summer movie worthy of his stature.

A major leap forward for Monsters director Gareth Edwards, Godzilla is positively Spielbergian in its storytelling, guided not just by Jaws and Jurassic Park but by Close Encounters Of The Third Kind as well. This is a movie that values wonder as much as horror.

Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen are among the various puny humans sent scurrying by the advent of giant monsters in a world unaccustomed to them. The movie’s prologue, set in 1999 Japan, establishes the colossal stakes and the grim tone. But Godzilla is also exhilarating, shifting between micro and macro views to let us revel in the spectacle of monster action – or teasing us with the promise of same before pivoting away to another aspect of the story.

Godzilla 2014 builds upon the framework of the best recent kaiju movies, The Host and Cloverfield, using their sense of scale and dread to craft an even larger and more powerful experience. It doesn’t hurt that Max Borenstein’s screenplay adheres to my favourite theory of Godzilla: that the big green guy is a force of nature itself, rising up to stomp down any threat large enough to merit his attention. People are just there to bear witness or run like hell.

That’s something previous Godzilla movies have often wrestled with, much as they’ve struggled to give their gargantuan hero agency and a personality. It’s difficult to create people in whom the audience can invest when everyone just wants to see the next kaiju big battle, and it’s hard to make Godzilla himself seem like anything more than an animal.

This Godzilla movie does both. And it’s so damn satisfying, especially in IMAX 3D.

normw@nowtoronto.com | @normwilner

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