Much as “Iron Man” is still oft-cited as the best movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, 2014’s “Godzilla” remains the king of the hill in the MonsterVerse. Director Gareth Edwards, who had only directed the low-budget feature “Monsters” previously, was given the task of making an American version of this franchise, one that wouldn’t go down in flames like Roland Emmerich’s did in 1998. Edwards took this potentially thankless job and delivered a visionary take on a then-60-year-old franchise. While the reception was a bit mixed at the time, there is no denying that Edwards did something truly unique with this film.

In stark contrast to more recent entries in the MonsterVerse, Edwards’ film is a dark, gritty, and relatively grounded look at a world reckoning with the existence of monsters. It all stems from a central idea of “take it seriously,” and it pays off handsomely. It’s more than a little hard to believe we somehow get from here to “Godzilla x Kong,” looking back.

It may not feature all that much monster action, particularly compared to “Skull Island.” But when the monster action does kick in, the payoff is palpable. It’s not altogether unlike “Alien” in the “less is more” approach. So much of the monster action is demonstrated from a human POV. As a result, it feels different than anything that has come before or since. The HALO jump sequence, in particular, is quite harrowing. Edwards is unparalleled when it comes to demonstrating scale. Godzilla is absolutely massive in this movie, and Edwards makes us feel that. For a “Godzilla” movie to work, Godzilla himself has to be cool. I think it’s fair to say this movie nailed that element.

What we’re left with is a movie that demonstrates a great deal of patience, delivers big moments of wildly satisfying payoff (such as Godzilla finally using his atomic breath), and features grounded human characters. Its only real sin was killing off Bryan Cranston too early. A sin that can be forgiven, as this movie has aged exceptionally well.

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