The thing about Gareth Edwards’ version is that it really does not care about its story. As far as the narrative goes, it comes to its audience and says, “hey, this is a film about three huge monsters destroying everything, so shut the fuck up and watch.” There are plot holes everywhere, characters are as one dimensional as they can be, some shoddy attempt at relating Godzilla to the atomic regret, and really, the ending is a mess. The pacing, while more or less consistent, is mostly disjointed, and the emotional impact of the story rarely follows through.
But it’s the visual direction that carries the film. Most of the shots involving towering monsters wrecking havoc are shot at human-level–be it on the ground, in the building, in helicopter–regardless whether there is a diegetic reasoning behind such placement (there is only one explicitly diegetic, character-bound POV-shot in the entire film, if I recall correctly). By doing so, Edwards amplifies the force of nature that the titular monster and his adversaries bring to fullest potential: they are huge and awe-inspiring, and that impression is universal for all humans. While the beginning seves as a workable drama setup only, it’s the late-middle part of the film that graces us with a memorable aesthetic spectacle, crafting a scene that is almost equal to the eerieness of its soundtrack by Ligati. Edwards uses not the movement (sometimes he does, but usually not the main technique) but the placement of the camera and the lighting–CGI or otherwise–to get the atmosphere spot on.
It’s too dark to see everything, but to be honest, I like the apocalyptic feel that directorial choice brought. Compared to Fury, another 2014 film that really pushed the grim apocalyptic visual direction, Edwards’ work is more coherent: the balance between red fire and grey darkness, as well as the ominous nature of fog/dust clouds, are sufficiently linked back to the entire point of the film which is the post-nuclear disaster in (gigantic) flesh. Granted, Godzilla‘s task of creating a huge monster is far less of a conceptually complicated one compared to Fury‘s (ultimately failed/only partially successful) attempt to bring the darkness of war in post-Apocalypse Now war films, but that does not mean one cannot be impressed by Edwards’ visual consistency. Moreover, Edwards really understands how to create tension through exaggerated shadow and light here, like that scene in Nevada nuclear waste management site where a beam of light in a dark room instantly signals danger without any action, and it is these kinds of visual cues placed at the right time and right place that holds the film together.
So as a disaster film, Edwards’ direction shines through. As anything else however, that’s a whole other story.