OFF the back of low-budget creature-fest Monsters, director Gareth Edwards was handed the reins — and many millions of dollars — to helm the Godzilla franchise's latest installment, bringing it firmly into the present day with believable, grounded effects and an eye for making each shot beautiful.
The film opens in the Philippines, 1999, where a construction site has collapsed into a cavernous opening.
There a mysterious, alien-like organic structure is found, which scientists believe is the hatch-point of a pair of MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms).
Tracks lead from the cavern to the sea . . . signs of a MUTO on the move to Japan.
In Japan are the Brody family: parents Joe (Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston) and Sandra (Juliette Binoche, Chocolat) and young son Ford.
Forward 15 years and a trespassing arrest sees Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Kick-Ass) travel to Japan to bail his father out, before all hell breaks loose.
One of the MUTOs that had been lying dormant in Japan awakens in a rage, and soon the whole world is on alert as the inconceivably large being traverses the globe.
Soon, another MUTO wakes, and humanity's straits become even more dire.
Edwards, in keeping a serious, dramatic tone for his Godzilla film, missed an incredible opportunity to amusingly kill off the likes of Celine Dion or Elton John in a Vegas cameo as the MUTOs' devastation trail passes through the casino city.
One of Godzilla's many strengths is its restraint in showing the titular behemoth.
More than half the film passes before viewers are treated to a glimpse of the monster in his full, 355-feet-tall form.
Films like Godzilla are not intended to be thought about too hard — the true discriminator between brilliant and terrible monster films is the quality of the visuals.
Audiences have to believe that these giant creatures can appear from the ocean's depths and obliterate the city, the battles have to be visceral, and of a scale worthy of the name Godzilla.
Edwards achieves this, and what he brings to the film is a sense of beauty, framing the monsters in such a way that it is not simply the guilty pleasure of seeing three giant monster-things going toe-to-toe, but it's also beautiful.
Smoky city streets, careful lighting and an appropriate regard for human life make Godzilla a quality film.
Godzilla is in cinemas now, and is rated M.