By Richard Corliss
May 15, 2014

Sometimes, the perfect version of a two-hour movie is its two-minute trailer. The teasers for Godzilla, the Hollywood update of a Japanese monster movie dating back to 1954, revealed just glimpses of the dinosaur’s scaly body amid a ravaged San Francisco, plus the doomsday alert of a scientist played by Bryan Cranston: “You have no idea what’s coming!”

“No idea” is right. The smart, creepy disaster movie the trailers promised somehow went missing in director Gareth Edwards’ dawdling feature film. The Big G looks imposing in his prehistoric majesty, but we rarely get a clear view of him; he should have arrived at noon, not at night.

Godzilla isn’t even the main monster; that is the M.U.T.O., a giant insect that feeds on radioactivity and is meant to scare all those who champion nuclear power as a source of energy. To push home its political point, Max Borenstein’s script invokes Hiroshima, the U.S.S. Nautilus, the ’50s H-bomb tests in Nevada and the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan. See, the monsters’ attack is all mankind’s fault. Bad us.

A movie whose creatures have power but no personality needs a human element. That’s also lacking here, as the scientist’s grown son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) goes through the rote heroics of saving the world while minding a few lost children. There’s zero emotional investment in this Godzilla–an enticing package with no compelling product inside. For the real deal, watch the trailers.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

This appears in the May 26, 2014 issue of TIME.

SPONSORED FINANCIAL CONTENT

Read More From TIME

EDIT POST