For many, the title Godzilla conjures up memories of bad dubbing and men in rubber suits — or even worse, the big-budget debacle that Roland Emmerich subjected audiences to back in 1998. It makes Godzilla a hard character to take seriously, particularly in an era when even our most fantastic superheroes are receiving dark, character-driven makeovers. Fold in the fact that Pacific Rim revealed domestic audiences aren’t as infatuated with giant monsters as some thought, and Gareth Edwards’ new film becomes a very risky $160 million bet.

It’s a testament to both the filmmaker and production company Legendary Pictures, then, that the new Godzilla is such an exhilarating success. Rather than reaching for the low-hanging fruit of wall-to-wall action, Edwards conjures up a mix of slowly escalating tension and visual-effects wizardry. The result may not be the monster movie some audiences are expecting, but it’s something better: a summer blockbuster that actually leaves you wanting more.