Watching a lot of movies in a wide range of sizes and genres is the most effective way for filmgoers to be able to detect the difference between ones that are skating by on uninspired functionality and those crafted on a stimulatingly higher level. From the very beginning, Gareth Edwards' "Godzilla" roots itself firmly in the latter camp and proceeds to masterfully up the ante for the next two rapturous hours. It is a summer blockbuster of a special, rarer breed, one with veritable chills, terrifyingly majestic sights, breathlessly constructed action sequences, tautly eloquent storytelling, and an overall sense of wonder and imagination too often missing from big-budget, inevitably prefabricated studio moviemaking. Edwards, who made a name for himself by innovatively creating out of his own home the virtually seamless special effects for his debut feature, 2010's micro-budgeted sci-fi thriller/romance "Monsters," has now been given a $160-million sandbox in which to play. Besides savvily ensuring the finished film looks even more expensive than that lofty price tag, he keys right into the soul and spirit of the original 1954 Japanese classic and its successive installments while paving a fresh, separate, newly modern trail. Helmed by a quixotic director who is undeniably and irrefutably the real deal, "Godzilla" has what it takes to stand the test of time in the same way much of Steven Spielberg's most popular entertainments (e.g., 1975's "Jaws," 1982's "E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial," 1993's "Jurassic Park") have.
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