‘Godzilla: King Of The Monsters’ Theatrical Review
Before seeing this latest installment in the Warner Brothers monster universe, I had to go back and play the last Godzilla movie. Normally before viewing any type of sequel on the big screen I watch the previous film at home, just to get myself ready for the next chapter. The only thing I could remember from the 2014 Godzilla was the fact it barely showed the king of the monsters. After watching that movie, it all came back to me why I couldn’t remember a thing about it; everything being so forgettable.
Monster movies are not just a prominent piece of film history, but it also stands as an important part of a country’s culture. There rarely is anything better during the summer blockbuster season than planning on watching a Royal Rumble of Kaiju. Human character arcs are supposed to be irrelevant when there are gigantic battles between monsters; and that was my main complaint from the last film. Director Gareth Edwards would tease audiences with a 10-minute fight, and when it got good, he would cut away from Godzilla and focus on the people. There was barely 30 minutes of him in all his glory, and for most of the 2 hour movie we were stuck watching characters who’s stories just never made us care enough about them. It was bad, but there was a feeling it would be an easy fix. And with the beautiful trailers we saw earlier this year, it felt like Warner Brothers might be on the right track with their monster universe.
Taking place 5 years after Godzilla was last seen, we are brought into the mix with Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga), a specialist working for Monarch, a government agency that has been studying the monsters of the world. She has created a device that not only can find the monsters, but also possibly control them. With her daughter Madison (Millie Bobbie Brown) at her side, they are about to witness one of theses monsters, or as they call them MUTOs, come to life. Right before it happens all hell breaks loose as the power goes down and the facility is infiltrated by a band of mercenaries lead by ecoterrorist Jonah Alan (Charles Dance). He kidnaps Emma along with her daughter and the device that can control the MUTO. This results in Monarch leaders (Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins reprising their roles) to reach out to Emma’s estranged husband Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) to help find her. As this plotline is progressing, monsters are being awoken, including Godzilla who has been in hiding.
The plot of Godzilla: King of the Monsters centers around Mark hoping for a happy reunion with his family, and the more time we spend on it the less anything else makes sense. Most of the movie focuses on things we don’t want to see: B-level actors trying to give a great performance to a script that strays far from sense the further it progresses. There is no logic when Mark takes control of the situation, but the team at Monarch follows suit as if they have no other choice.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters doesn’t just bring the same problems as the previous film, it makes matters worse by its misuse of monsters that it has at its disposal. It’s as if the producers made a “what can we do better” card for fans to fill out, and then completely ignored the top complaints. What should have been a screen full of battles between iconic monsters like Ghidorah, Mothra, and Rodan instead follows human characters whose stories are less than compelling and at times confusing. At one point, we are stuck on a plane for what seems to be hours as mankind figures out where the monsters come from and what mankind should do. It’s one of the many scenes where the humans are on the screen too long.
Much of that could have been forgiven if we are given the battles between kaijus that we were promised, but when the final battle between Godzilla and the other monsters arrives, there is no payoff to the hour and a half the audience waited to see them. What should be long action shots of the monsters in all their glory is reduced to one-second pan shots that don’t give any of the monsters the screen time they deserve. It was obvious producers used these shots to create a trailer to get one excited, only to bring disappointment with the same frustrating problems we’ve experienced time and time before.
It’s the Monsters that we paid to see. And when we do it is beautiful. The problem is they are not given enough time to shine, and the action scenes make you wonder if director Michael Dougherty even intended to make a monster movie. The first real fight takes place in Antarctica, and it includes Godzilla. It sets out with the potential to set an amazing tone, but it takes place at night and there is a blizzard that makes it impossible to see anything. Watching it made me wonder if cameramen were the same ones from this season of Game Of Thrones. You never get that great a view of the monsters in all their glory because the camera pans away too quickly, or they are blocked in a haze of cosmic smoke. In the final battle the camera moves from monster to monster in a blink of an eye, but when it comes to humans trying to escape in a jeep they will stay on it for minutes at a time.
All Godzilla: King of the Monsters needed was a few titanic battles between monsters destroying each other and the cities they choose as their ring of battle. Instead, we get an underwhelming monster film, much like the previous two in the franchise, leaving me confused on figuring out what they are trying to do in this universe. It’s hard to imagine how this film could have those same problems. I have one theory, which is that the producers just don’t care.
I’ve said it a few times, but it’s important to repeat. The monsters should have been the focus, with each honestly deserving their own film. With a Godzilla vs. Kong movie coming up next year it really didn’t matter what type of movie would be put out here because next year was set to be the main draw. Yet, with all the mention of Skull Island and King Kong in this film, I still don’t have any idea what we will get next year.
Hopefully we will finally get the Godzilla and King Kong film we were promised almost 6 years ago.
Members of the crypto-zoological agency Monarch face off against a battery of god-sized monsters, including the mighty Godzilla, who collides with Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah.