The follow-up to Garreth Edward’s 2014 flick, Godzilla: King of the Monsters brings the likes of Rhodan, King Ghidorah, and Mothra into the mix. So the big question – for those who haven’t already seen it or those who just don’t care (it’s ok, live your truth) – is “does it suck?” The answer? Yes and no.
Yeah, super vague. I know. I’ll explain.
For those who may not know, Godzilla first came into existence in 1954 as a response to the atomic bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima during WWII. He was a commentary on the ravages of nuclear war, and Gojira was a stunning accomplishment given how soon after WWII it was made. Toho would go on to make 33 films with Godzilla, some to varying degrees of success. All of them featured incredible monsters, however simply rendered, kicking all kinds of ass and taking names.
Godzilla is now and forever will be a cultural icon, immutably present in the pop culture zeitgeist.
Enter Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
The film centers around the Russell family. What’s left of them, anyway. Deeply affected by the events in 2014’s Godzilla attacks, Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) and her daughter, Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) are leading a seemingly normal life working covertly for Monarch, the secret organization at the heart of Warner Bros. MonsterVerse. It seems Dr. Russell has invented a machine, the ORCA, that allows humans to mimic the necessary frequencies to communicate with and control the Titans. After larva Mothra is born, Dr. Russell, Madison, and the ORCA are then taken by a group of eco-terrorists led by Tywin Lannister Alan Jonah (Charles Dance). Or so it seems!
** SPOILERS **
Turns out Dr. Russell is trying to save the world by working with these eco-terrorists to wake selective Titans and let them reset the planet, ecologically speaking. Her ex-husband, Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler), animal behavior and communications specialist and former Monarch employee, is none too pleased. Enter Dr. Ishirō Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Dr. Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) who bring him back into the fold to help find his ex-wife and daughter, reclaim the ORCA, and save the world.
The biggest issue with the film is the poorly-crafted story. The human element of the film feels melodramatic to a fault, and half-baked at best. We spend a lot of time with these characters but are never given the opportunity to know them or, quite frankly, to give a shit. Yes, this has been the M.O. of many Godzilla films that came before. However, the overarching plotline was always compelling. In Godzilla: King of the Monsters, everything hinges on a MacGuffin (the ORCA) that invariably weakens the impact of the film. Toss in unnecessarily and callously killing off some central characters and it all falls apart.
The performances are decent, given what the actors had to work with. Bobby Brown does a fantastic job, though she’s ultimately playing a more verbose Eleven. She’s young, no one’s expecting her to be Meryl Streep yet. As far as child actors go, she’s still miles ahead of most, and I’m so excited to watch her grow. Meanwhile, Farmiga, unfortunately, feels like she’s phoning it in. The rest of the cast, on the other hand, seems to be having a good time with the cheesiness of it all. And it is cheesy!
The other huge problem with King Of The Monsters is that you can’t see it. At least not the action for the first half of the film.
No, things aren’t too dark. They’re just too blurry. Shakey cam is back with a vengeance, particularly during unnecessarily tight shots that focus on a monstrous foot or head. The combination means that you’ll miss most of the early fight scenes, and probably need a barf bag.
So, is Godzilla: King Of The Monsters a good film? No, I’m sorry to say it’s not.
Is it a fun film? Fuck ya, it is.
At the end of the day, see what you want to see. Our job as critics is to tell you whether or not something is objectively good by way of our education and experience. Enjoyment and pleasure are completely different things. If you’re a fan of Kaiju films, you’ll likely dig this. And if you’re a Mothra fan, you’ll be thrilled.