Five years in development and this was the best they could do?!?!
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is the sequel to Gareth Edwards’ 2014 American reboot of Godzilla, and also the third entry in Warner Bros. ‘Monsterverse’ (because we don’t have enough cinematic universes already!), following Kong: Skull Island. Five years after Godzilla destroyed much of San Francisco and then disappeared, the crypto-zoological agency, Monarch, starts tracking down other giant Titans, God-like monsters who once ruled the Earth, that were revealed to still exist. Part of this team is Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga), who uses a device, known as “The Orca,” to communicate with the Titans, including the newly birthed Mothra. When eco-terrorists kidnap her and her daughter, Madison (Millie Bobby Brown), Monarch scientists enlist Emma’s ex-husband, Mark (Kyle Chandler), who also worked for Monarch, to help track them down before the eco-terrorists unleash a swarm of Titans on the world, including the king himself, Godzilla!
2014’s Godzilla was by no means a masterpiece, but Gareth Edwards had enough of a sense of restraint and atmosphere to make a unique Godzilla film that more than makes up for Roland Emmerich’s disastrous (pun intended) 1998 film. Though it was well received, many viewers criticized the 2014 Godzilla for not featuring enough of the monster. The producers seemed to have paid attention to these criticisms and included more of Godzilla in this sequel. Not only that, but we get appearances by classic monsters popular to the Godzilla canon, including Mothra, Rodan, and the deadliest of them all, Ghidorah. This all sounds pretty exciting doesn’t it? Then why is it that the film doesn’t come anywhere close to delivering the excitement?
If I had to sum up Godzilla: King of the Monsters in three words, it would be “I don’t care.” I could not get invested in anything; not the plot, not the action, and especially not the human characters. This is an odd response, because there is so much happening on screen, and yet, there is nothing much to focus on. Given that director Michael Dougherty is best known for horror films such as Trick r’ Treat and Krampus, I’m wondering if maybe he wasn’t the right choice to direct an action film.
This movie has a very impressive cast, including Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Sally Hawkins, Millie Bobby Brown, and Ken Wantanabe among others, but what is even more impressive is how the filmmakers got them to act like complete robots who deliver exposition throughout the whole film. This is no joke, either. Almost every word of dialogue that comes out of their mouths is either exposition or reminders of the backstory. In case you forgot that Emma’s son passed away, the movie makes mention of that at least another four times. In addition, the filmmakers make strange choices in relaying information. In case you weren’t sure a significant character passed away, they’ll place his or her picture on a computer monitor, followed by a reaction shot from another character. Do the filmmakers not think audiences can remember anything for the movie’s runtime?
If the exposition is too much, not to worry, because the filmmakers also have the actors deliver some pretty awful cringe-worthy jokes. Bradley Whitford, who can both charismatic and often hilarious, is given the infuriating task of providing quips for everything that happens, even minutes after significant characters die. Possibly the most embarrassing of these zingers is where Kyle Chandler exclaims “Oh My God”, only for Whitford to follow immediately with the word “Zilla!” Get it? GET IT?
One would not be able to feel for one second any of the trauma or anger that these characters go through. Thus, important character moments that should feel impactful and heartbreaking end up just feeling flat. When a major character passes away, the one thing an audience member should not be thinking is “How much longer is this movie?!?’ If the human characters were more compelling and easier to care about, this film might have been slightly more enjoyable. The only actor who comes off pretty well is Millie Bobby Brown, who, for her feature film debut, doesn’t do a bad job.
I’m not sure I can even praise the action in this film. It is admittedly cool to get to see Godzilla fight all these monsters in what is clearly an homage to the original films. The problem? The action is barely visible. Give the first film a little credit, Garret Edwards knew where to put the camera to make you feel the size and scope of Godzilla himself. Here, it’s as though Michael Dougherty put the camera so close to the monsters that you do not feel their size or the thrills the action has to provide. The visuals are unattractive as well, and the mishmash of colors gives the film a look that resembles a young child filming the inside of a lit-up Christmas tree. The scenes with the humans being underwhelming are one thing, but when your monster movie doesn’t execute the scenes with the monsters properly, it’s a bad film.
Audiences often complain that films in franchises such as Marvel or Star Wars are coming out too frequently, creating exhaustion. While this may be true to an extent, the advantage of quickly produced sequels is the ability to retain public interest and keep certain characters looking the same age. It has been five years since this film’s 2014 predecessor and this is the third entry in a cinematic universe that most audiences were already not too excited about. So this film had many tasks, and it ended up accomplishing none of them. Godzilla: King of the Monsters is guilty of the same crime as 2017’s The Mummy; it focuses too much on world building and not enough on telling a compelling and exciting story.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a boring, yet chaotic film. The action and political commentary that are needed for a good Godzilla film are there, but they are not used properly. What should be a fun monster mash up, instead feels like a convoluted plot with robotic characters telling the story for us. To quote Kyle Chandler, “Oh my God” “-Zilla.”