Godzilla: King of the Monsters, 2019.
Directed by Michael Dougherty.
Starring Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, Bradley Whitford, Charles Dance, Ziyi Zhang, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds, Anthony Ramos, Randy Havens, Jonathan Howard, Elizabeth Ludlow, Van Marten, CCH Pounder, Joe Morton, Zac Zedalis, Tracie Garrison, Joshua Leary, and Lexi Rabe
The crypto-zoological agency Monarch faces 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.
During Godzilla’s first battle of three to be found in this Michael Dougherty directed sequel entitled King of the Monsters (five years following the release of the reboot I should add, which is an anomaly considering the frequency at which Hollywood cranks franchise installments out) it brings me great pain and frustration to say that instead of sticking with the monster mayhem, the action keeps cutting away to the somewhat bland humans. Admittedly, they are a step up from the human characters of similar Kaiju movies or disaster spectacles, but that doesn’t make it any less disheartening to see a helicopter carrying a bunch of crucial scientists, military types, and tracking experts rolling around across the ice sheets of Antarctica, as if the movie is speaking directly to the audience saying “we know those beloved towering behemoths are ripping each other apart, but don’t forget about these super important characters over here that might not make it out alive!”
This happens again and again, and by the end of Godzilla: King of the Monsters, there might not even be 10 straight seconds of monsters locking up in a brawl, constantly undercut by the goals and missions of the people, whether they be personal rescue missions or assisting in the battle at large. Quite frankly, I’m somewhat terrified to go watch all of the theatrical trailers and television spots, as there is a fairly realistic chance that they spoil the majority of the monster-related action outside of maybe the final battle.
To be fair to the filmmakers (the story is a collaborative effort between aforementioned director Michael Dougherty, Zach Shields, and Max Borenstein, with the former two also penning the script), I realize there needs to be some kind of narrative to connect the plot threads of why these monsters are fighting and to give viewers something to relate to. However, the solution is not having Kyle Chandler globetrotting around the world to save his daughter (played by Millie Bobby Brown of Stranger Things fame) and reconnect with his ex-wife (played by Vera Farmiga) while Charles Dance twirls his metaphorical mustache like a super generic villain. The tone doesn’t even work; Kyle Chandler is deathly serious and overacting his ass off in a movie where his ex-wife has altered technology to be able to sonically communicate with the Titans. It only gets worse, with one character making some outrageously stupid decisions, only to receive a redemption arc in the final act that means nothing, and then somehow less than nothing when it becomes evident the movie will throw this character into the fire and into situations that would kill anyone but is too afraid to pull the trigger on actually killing them.
Thankfully, the supporting characters fare better. Ken Watanabe returns as the intelligent, sage-like scientist that generally has the best course of action for this shifting landscape now dominated by Titans. Bradley Whitford provides some comedic relief as a gum-chewing, wisecracking doctor. Ziyi Zhang is a multi-generational employee of Monarch and gets a few memorable lines of her own. Aisha Hinds shines as a no-nonsense colonel. And Thomas Middleditch also provides some laughs by serving as the butt of nearly every joke from all of the other characters. Noticeably, the minor players appear to be in a much different movie, one far more relaxed and free to have fun with the surrounding chaos rather than a lifeless dysfunctional family that grows increasingly stupid from one character essentially becoming Thanos. Yes, it’s as stupid as it sounds, and if you are one of the people that for some ungodly preposterous reason thought that Avengers: Infinity War should conclude with that madman aligning with Earth’s mightiest heroes to take down another threat, well, you kind of get your wish here and can see for yourself how stupid that would have been. No one comes to Godzilla for the story, but have some decency and allow things to make sense featuring humans that contain brains.
Whether you can get past the abundance of human peril or not, it would be unfair to say that Godzilla: King of the Monsters doesn’t make the most of these unfortunate ingredients. They’re all putting themselves in danger in ways that are everything from admirable and scary while adding to the sense of scale these Titans yield in stature. The photography here is outstanding as are the updated designs of the monsters; they truly do carry a graceful beauty (especially Mothra) when the shot is pulled far back and juxtaposing them against the environment. Not to mention, they all boast a wide variety of attacks that light up the visuals contrasted against the mostly gloomy color palette. The musical compositions only enhance this big-fight atmosphere. Essentially, there is no room to complain about how the film looks or sounds, it’s just a damn shame that humans are always taking center stage.
It’s also got breakneck pacing on its side, only stopping to explain the motivations of being previously talked about maddeningly dumb character’s thought process on the Titans (I’m being as vague as possible so not to spoil). There is also a ludicrous but clever stretch involving a nuke. Not to mention, the brief instances we do get to see of these monsters duking it out is a visual treat of the highest order, complete with stunning special-effects. Those that have an affinity for Roland Emmerich -sized annihilation will likely come away satisfied. It’s just very difficult to forgive Godzilla: King of the Monsters for dedicating excess time to its human characters, and then not being able to create emotion when a certain character dies. Sure, the sequence is visually stunning, and so is the rest of the movie, but it all feels artificial and meaningless with no weight. There are also some teases to the upcoming Godzilla vs. Kong movie, but if anything watching this will finish killing your excitement for that movie.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com