Review: Godzilla: King of the Monsters
That most common complaint heard about 2014’s Godzilla is that everytime people were on screen, the film drags. I personally never felt that way because the staging was through-the-roof good. It was a more grounded affair that made every Kaiju encounter matter. However, in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, humans are the worst part of the film and you just can’t wait until the Kaiju show up. It’s not the humans’ fault really, it’s a screenplay issue as this adventure leans more towards Independence Day, rather than the serious vibe established in the last Godzilla. In fact, all the dread built in 2014’s effort is reduced to terrible jokes and bad one-liners, making for a rather disappointing follow-up.
Humanity, namely Vera Farmiga as Dr. Emma Russell, has found a way to communicate with the Kaiju, either making peace or send them on a city-crushing rampage with a device called the ORCA. No seriously, the movie Rampage used a “signal” to attract and repel the critters, so make with that the familiar plot device what you will. The ORCA is used to point the Kaiju wherever the story needs them. I’m all for just “Let them fight.” It’s just weird to me how quick they are to abandon this idea halfway through the film, only to lazily go back to it try to it in the film’s final climax. These are larger-than-life monsters that defy description, controlling them feels like the filmmakers entered a cheat code.
“But I signed on for Godzilla and Kaiju action! Who cares about the people?!” most will scream, and if this is your mindset going in, you probably won’t be disappointed with this tonally-off film. All the monster Titans look and move rather amazingly. They sell the scale, the horror, and the earth-shattering power they possess. Fan favorites like Mothra and Rodan make stunning appearances; a dash of majesty with sprinkles of the apocalypse in both. Fans should be happy with their appearance here for sure. The main bad, Monster Zero aka Ghidorah, is truly menacing with all his classical electrical powers on full display. The best move they make with Ghidorah is giving each of his heads different personalities. The Left Head is the “stupid” and gets bullied by The Middle Head throughout the film. These details make him stand out as a baddie for sure and I’m sure the animators loved what they pulled off with this beloved villain. More Titans that do not show up in the trailer wreak havoc as well, but I’ll let you experience them for yourself.
The problem with the film, again, lies with the script that can’t stay funny or engaging enough to maintain its dramatic beats. We watch a pretty amazing cast bat around dialogue that just feels like it belongs in a ‘90s disaster film. In terms of returning characters, they do Wantanbe’s character, Dr. Ishiro Serizawa, justice, but his wonderful turn here is just peppered with bad choices. Also, this film wastes Sally Hawkins, the Monarch operative that truly loves her Titans. How do the filmmakers sleep at night after committing such a heinous act? More films are coming in this franchise for sure with Kong vs. Godzilla out next year. I’m just hoping they stick to a vibe that actually works. Groaning all the way through the amusement park isn’t what I consider a good time. Even when I saw nods to the classics, like twins, oxygen destroyers, and heard the original ‘1954 score swelling during key scenes, my mind kept falling back on “I wish this was a better film for the greatest movie monster ever created.” It can’t seem to find a proper rhythm whatsoever. It’s like a deer on ice, it slips, falls and slides into the finish line, lacking all grace and form.