In 1954, the original Godzila movie was about the bad effects of radiation. Made 9 years after the atomic bomb hit Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of WWII, it had a very serious tone. Future follow-ups would be campy and less serious, featuring WWE-style grudge matches between Godzilla and another monster (Mothra, Rodan, Mechagodzilla etc.). They had camp value, but few (if any) of the sequels captured the serious tone of the original.
The new Godzilla successfully combines the serious tone of the original with the 'wow' factor of having Godzilla fight another monster. In some of the Japanese Godzilla movies, Godzilla would destroy Tokyo and in others, another monster would destroy Tokyo and Godzilla would save it. This is one of the latter, where Godzilla is the hero. Unlike the 1998 Matthew Broderick American reboot, which I call 'Ferris Bueler vs. Godzilla', the human characters are interesting, so that the story can build up to when Godzilla or the other monster makes his entrance. And a great entrance the King of Monsters makes.
Bryan Cranston plays a scientist who loses his wife during an accident in a nuclear power plant that they both worked at. Grief-stricken, years later, he is obsessively looking into the events of that day, particularly an EMP-like energy that was detected that fateful day that he could not pinpoint what it was. His obsessive behavior worries his soldier son (Aaron-Taylor Johnson). When Dr. Widower (not his real name) detects it again, he discovers, not Godzilla, but a grasshopper-like monster called MUTO. His name, an acronym for Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism, is a touch of the fun science-y stuff that made the best old-school Godzilla movies great, but it's not as ridiculous as the explanations in some of the campier films, which, to be fair, were translated from Japanese. And we have an Asian scientist, played by the fake R'as Al Ghul from Batman Begins (Ken Watanabe) who pronounces Godzilla the right way. "Gojira!"
But the soldier son is the main (human) character. He is involved with finding out what is happening and stopping part of the larger threat. We see his relationship with his wife (not his sister, that's a movie for next year) played by Michelle Tanner's real-life sister Elizabeth Olsen and long for soldier boy to survive so that they can be together again. ('Avengers' fans will get the sister joke.) I disagree with reviews that said that the human characters were boring, but I agree with those same people that the fights between Godzilla and MUTO shouldhave been longer. It might have been a budget thing, but the monster vs. monster battles provide the epic scale and just the right touch of humor. The awesome entrance that G-zilla makes (and one other moment) caused the theatre audience that I was sitting with to applaud. I don't applaud at movies, but it was quite moving.
So, a story that was interesting enough to build up to when you actually see the monsters. Great fight sequences that don't quite hit you in the face the way 'Pacific Rim' did. And a nice touch of elements that made the old Godzilla movies great, including a scene where the soldier and Godzilla give each other knowing glances and sort of "bond" after they save each others lives. Again, not as corny as him winking at Japanese children, but moving and fun nonetheless.
I give this movie 4 roars out of 5.