Godzilla: King of the Monsters is directed by Michael Dougherty. It stars Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds, O'Shea Jackson Jr., David Strathairn, Ken Watanabe, and Zhang Ziyi. The film is a sequel to the 2014 Godzilla film.
Five years have passed since the battle between Godzilla and the MUTO creatures, and the giant beast has disappeared from the public eye as the world rebuilds itself. Dr. Emma Russell, a woman broken by the death of her child resulting from Godzilla’s rampage in San Francisco all those years ago, launches an effort to awaken the other sleeping “Titans,” believing it’s the key to restoring the natural order and balance of the world, much to the dismay of her daughter and estranged husband. As other monsters are awakened and the world is plunged into a living hell, even the mighty Godzilla falls in battle with an even more powerful and dangerous Titan. Will Godzilla awaken to do battle again, or will the world be annihilated by the rampage of other deadly beasts?
Godzilla is, quite likely, both the longest running film franchise of all time, and the film franchise which has spawned more movies than any other. Following the horrid critical reception of the 1998 Godzilla film, the 2014 film, while not perfect, showed American audiences there may be hope for American-made Godzilla movies after all. Five years later, the follow-up has arrived. And while it may succeed as a big dumb popcorn movie with plenty of monsters fighting each other, it’s a mess with one-dimensional human characters, a messy plot, far too many monsters to keep track off, and too many conveniences and contrivances. It’s not all bad, but after five years, the follow-up should’ve been more satisfying.
As far as positives go, the movie features more of the titular Titan than its predecessor, and we get to see him square off against other formidable beasts, many of which will look familiar to anyone who’s got any familiarity with the classic Toho kaiju films. If you wanted a sequel to give you more action than the previous film, you certainly get that here, even if it comes with far less depth and a complete lack of plausibility.
Unfortunately, other aspects of the movie suffer. There are far too many human characters, and they’re the generic, one-dimensional stereotypes we’ve seen in so many other films. We have a character who thinks reawakening the Titans to “cleanse the word” is a good idea, despite the deaths it will bring. She’s basically Thanos without the purple skin or an interesting backstory. And, surprise surprise (apply sarcasm there) - it doesn't go as she expected! Characters seem to change their views and personality depending on what the plot requires. Many of the characters basically feel like their on loan from the Jurassic Park franchise. The only real stand-outs in the cast are Ken Watanabe as Dr. Serizawa (returning from the previous film, one of the few doing so), and Bradley Whitford (The West Wing, Get Out) as a snarky scientist studying and tracking Godzilla, who clearly has a ton of fun with the part he’s given. Too bad everyone else is as generic as they come. Someone like O'Shea Jackson Jr., who's proven his worth elsewhere, deserves better than the occasional one liner this film gives him.
The plot of the movie makes very little sense, and mostly just ends up feeling like filler between monster battles. Characters are apparently able to fly halfway across the word in mere minutes in hybrid helicopter/airplane aircraft; these distances would take some time to traverse even in supersonic planes in real life. And, of course, we get the obligatory military personnel who fire missiles at the monsters from airplanes. You’d think, after years of movies with that being futile, they’d know to just give Godzilla some space and let him do his thing. Do airplanes firing missiles at monsters in any movie ever have any effect whatsoever? You already know the answer to this. The pilots should too. But they don’t. And they go out and do it anyway. If you’ve seen other monster movies, you’ve seen everything you’ll find here, surely done better elsewhere.
There are monsters in this movie. A LOT of them. But barely any of them get any emphasis, and most of them are relegated to glorified cameos. It's to Warner's "MonsterVerse" (there's a Godzilla Vs. Kong movie c-oming out next year) what Batman V. Superman was to the DCEU, trying to shoehorn in far too much content too quickly. Couldn't we have gotten solo films with a few of the other monsters before throwing in everything but the kitchen sink here?
Godzilla: King of the Monsters can’t decide if it wants to be all-out mindless monster fun or something more cerebral, and both approaches suffer. The humans are generic stereotypes, the military keeps mindlessly fighting monsters, the plot is both familiar and painfully retreading of other better films, and the end result, despite a few highlights along the way, fails to satisfy. If you’re curious, rent it when it comes out on home formats.
Rating: Two stars out of four.
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