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Review Roundup: One of the Scariest Things in Godzilla Is Bryan Cranston’s Wig

While the reviews for Gareth Edwards's Godzilla have been largely positive, there was one major aspect that the critics tended to fixate upon: namely, the fact that the titular lizard was practically a supporting character in his own film. While some enjoyed the way Edwards built suspense for the final payoff, many found the monster's absence, as Vulture's David Edelstein put it, "a little stingy." Others were even less generous, with The Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern writing that the film "threaten[ed] to be a lizardly variant of Waiting for Godot." The other notable topic of critical consternation was Bryan Cranston's hairpiece, which elicited responses ranging from "goofy" to "preposterous" to simply "unbearable." Clearly people are not ready to see Walter White without his shiny cue-ball. Here's what the critics had to say:

About that wig:

“First, there's Bryan Cranston, in full obsessive mode and a fright wig, slowly sussing out a secret. No, he isn't obsessed with cooking meth, but with uncovering whatever it is Japanese authorities have been hiding on the site of a nuclear power plant that was destroyed by something—some thing—15 years ago.” Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal

“A haggard and crunchy-haired Joe tries to convince fellow scientists Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) that the cyclical pattern of earth-shaking pulses that destroyed Janjira aren't tectonic at all, and just as soon as their Geiger counters start making that noise that sounds appropriately like movie popcorn pinging inside the kettle, Joe's fears are realized.” Eric Henderson, Slant

“Bryan Cranston, despite looking odd with a full head of hair, offers a considerably toned down performance from what Breaking Bad viewers might expect.” James Berardinelli, Reel Views

“... terrible rug, even with a $160 million production budget ...” Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

“... hyperventilating in a crazy-person wig ...” Peter Debruge, Variety

“... in a goofy wig ...” Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News

“... edgy in an unbearable wig ...” —Jessica Herndon, Associated Press

“The first hour of the new film introduces Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston, in the first of a series of amusing wigs, as a scientist who survives a disaster at a Japanese nuclear plant that has a predictably less fortunate outcome for his wife (Juliette Binoche).” Lou Lumenick, New York Post

“The most resonant character is not a scientist or reporter but Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a U.S. Navy disarmament expert direct from duty, whose encounter with Godzilla and the MUTOs recall his childhood trauma; it complicates the carefully laid-out reunion with his wife and child (Elizabeth Olson and Carson Bolde) and his obsessive scientist-father (Cranston doing his blowhard hamming in a fright wig).” Armond White, The National Review

“It's a pity that Taylor-Johnson's character seems to have less personality than the giant creatures - yes it's not just the one - he has to help eradicate. And that Hawkins' character has the role of explaining everything to everybody while Watanabe looks gravely concerned. But at least he doesn't have Cranston's problem - that the film's vast budget didn't extend to a decent hairpiece.” Russell Baillie, New Zealand Herald

“Cranston plays Joe with so much high-decibel huffing and such a preposterous hairpiece in the 1999 scenes that the Emmy committee may consider rescinding his Breaking Bad awards.” —Richard Corliss, Time

About that elusive monster:

Godzilla could use a whole lot more Godzilla.” Tom Long, Detroit News

“Turns out you miss the monster when he's not around.” Bill Goondykoontz, Arizona Central 

“The reptilian wrecker’s screech-roar still resonates, too, but as in the 1960s, he has no beef with humanity. He should: He ends up a supporting player in his own, underwhelming movie.” Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News 

“Godzilla is in what passes for his ‘good’ mode here because there are a couple of other creatures on the scene even meaner than him, and they get way more screen time than the big guy. So much, in fact, that Godzilla is practically a supporting character in his own movie.” Soren Andersen, Seattle Times 

“If you’re thinking, gee, I don’t see the word ‘Godzilla’ anywhere in the above paragraph, well, he isn’t around yet. Edwards has made The Third Man of monster movies.” Joe Gross, Austin 360

“Godzilla – despite having his name on the poster – almost feels like a supporting character.” —Matt Maytum, Total Film

“We have suspected as much all along, but Godzilla is in no hurry to show us the monsters.” A.O. Scott, New York Times

“I say that because someone's clearly lost sight of the obvious when the no-name monsters get more screen time in Godzilla than the main attraction. Forgotten is the primary reason we show up in such massive numbers — we actually want to see the big guy go stomping and tromping through cities, crunching skyscrapers like soda cans, breathing fire and sending the fearful fleeing.” Betsy Sharkey, L.A. Times 

“Godzilla has the budget, but it maintains commitment to the notion that the unseen is more impressive than the seen: Godzilla doesn't appear until over halfway into the film (after one nicely executed bait-and-switch), and really doesn't take center stage until the very end.” Ian Buckwalter, NPR 

“Patience is a virtue, and you'll need lots of it during the first half of Godzilla, which threatens to be a lizardly variant of Waiting for Godot.” Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal

“In fact, from his place behind the camera, Edwards seems to take sadistic pleasure in obscuring his creatures for much of the film’s running time.” Jason Buchanan, TV Guide 

“Probably the strangest thing about Godzilla is how long it takes for the big guy to show up and, even then, how little screen time he gets.” Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times

“It’s like having sex withheld.” Randy Shulman, Metro Weekly

“As if he were an elderly stage star being deferentially treated, the title character barely shows up until the second act.” Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter 

“And he gets little screen time. Godzilla isn’t even the main monster: he is the referee, rival or enabler — we won’t say which — to a pair of other creatures.”  Richard Corliss, Time 

“So while many people might want to go to the cinema to see Godzilla, what they get instead is a load of homosapiens desperately trying to put a human face on the drama.” Paul MacInnes, The Guardian 

“While it does indeed take close to an hour for the prehistoric being to get his first full-on, gangway-world-get-off-of-my-runway close-up, director Gareth Edwards lays the expository groundwork nicely and hands the audience what it craves in the second half.” Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

“Is it too much to ask that a ‘Godzilla’ movie feature more Godzilla than, say, ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead’ features Hamlet? Sixty years after debuting on the big screen, Godzilla is still a global superstar; if Americans are going to build big-budget movies around him, they could at least give this legend more screen time. Esther Williams, after all, could be counted on to hit the pool within the first 10 minutes.” —Alonso Duralde, The Wrap

Photo: Legendary Pictures Productions LLC & Warner Bros