While prior Toho films have varied in tone and goal, this new Godzilla feels like the first of the movies to truly have it all - the nuclear fears and pervasive danger of the original Gojira are here (our entire history of atomic weapons turns out to have been a grand-scale attempt to kill not Commies, but Godzilla), but so are the monster battles that are just plain fun. The formulaic beats you'd expect and want as a fan are here too - the inevitable moments where the military attack and their weapons have little effect, for example.
Johnson adds nothing to the film as lead, but nor does he subtract from it - playing an average military guy with specialized bomb-disposal skills, he comes off as exactly that: average. As his wife, Elizabeth Olsen has little to do but look concerned, but she's good enough at it that she suffices in the moment. Cranston, in full-on ham mode, chews almost as much scenery as the MUTOs, but if you were hoping to see him be an action hero, don't; Johnson's the one who gets the derring-do duty, at which he is okay but not especially Kick-Ass. That said, I'll take him any day over the cartoonish international caricatures of Pacific Rim.
While the movie is exactly what you'd hope it'd be in many respects, I do have some minor nitpicks - principally, if nuclear explosions failed to kill Godzilla, why does he show any pain at all when confronted with handheld weaponry, however heavy? And what's up with the Cylon-like eyes on the MUTOs? They feel glaringly artificial in a way that's distracting.
Not that the distraction lasts, mind you. It only takes a fraction of Godzilla's rusty roar to snap us back into realizing that, yep, this is awesome. And a true welcome back worthy of a screen icon. See this one in 3D Imax if you can, as the literal biggest star in the world deserves the grandest scale of all.