After yesterday’s release of the much-anticipated Godzilla vs. Kong trailer, we went back to watch the first instalment into Legendary Pictures’ budding Monsterverse, 2014’s Godzilla.

It’s a movie that’s seen more than its fair share of criticism, and much of it is justified: Aaron Taylor Johnson’s performance is uncharacteristically rigid and the decision to unceremoniously kill off the top-billed star at the half-way mark was bizarre to say the least, but overall, Godzilla achieves exactly what it sets out to do.

First and foremost, let’s just mention the movie’s extensive effects. With not one, but three colossal monsters all facing off with the Earth’s cities as their battleground, Legendary really had to nail those effects. Thankfully, they did. Godzilla looks great from start to finish, and even when there’s no terrifyingly giant beasts on-screen, it’s still a gorgeous, atmospheric movie.

Godzilla‘s action is also spot on. With a slow build that some were none too keen on, the ultimate pay-off is both rewarding and packed with edge-of-your-seat thrills, even if some of them are a little clichéd. The movie has a reasonably slow, but mostly consistent pace that delivers an explosive, triumphant climax that was almost unexpectedly good.

There’s plenty of wonky dialogue and blatant pointless exposition, but as a monster movie, Godzilla is able to work in a way that it rarely gets credit for. There’s human characters who (despite uninspired performances from some of the actors involved) bring some realistic stakes to proceedings, but at the end of the day, the true hero is the titular atomic-beam-breathing monster, and he’s back in spectacular fashion.

One more small note is that Godzilla’s design in this movie is much more faithful to the original Toho monster than the more familiar (to Western audiences at least) 1998 counterpart, which lends the series much more credence in the eyes of the franchise’s die-hard fans.

While it’s certainly not without its disappointing aspects, Godzilla was able to build some excitement for the franchise’s future, and it did so by making an impressive visual statement, which is more than enough to help audiences get past its low points.

Rating: 75%

Summary: Godzilla might be far from perfect, but the thrills and the sheer spectacle more than make up for its shortcomings. It’s entertaining and exciting, with an unexpected amount of heart, and more than worthy of its place in the franchise.