Jun 4, 2019
Welcome back for another review for a currently playing feature, which did not land well with the critics. But will it land well with a die-hard Godzilla fan? I’ll let you know in a minute, but for a few other films, definitely check out the animated Godzilla trilogy on Netflix, which includes “Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters” (Episode #340), “Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle” (Episode #341), and “Godzilla: The Planet Eater” (Episode #377). The opening for the final film of the trilogy contains one of the trippiest visuals I’ve ever seen.
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Here we go!
Today’s movie is “Godzilla: King Of The Monsters”, the sequel to 2014’s “Godzilla” and 2017’s “Kong: Skull Island”. The film is directed by Michael Dougherty, and written for the screen in collaboration with Zach Shields, based on a story developed by Dougherty, Shields, and Max Borenstein. In the wake of “Godzilla” and after the mission in “Kong: Skull Island”, the cryptozoological organization known as Monarch faces multiple new threats, as more giant monsters are awakening, and have begun roaming the earth, destroying everything in their path. But does Godzilla, once our most feared enemy, actually hold the key to our salvation?
I’m not going to lie. I was really worried heading into the theater for today’s movie, as a lifelong Godzilla fan, especially seeing the less than positive reviews. Okay, the bad reviews. The many bad reviews. I was really impressed and surprised by Gareth Edwards’ “Godzilla”, and equally impressed by “Kong: Skull Island”, which taken together promise an incredible showdown in the forthcoming “Godzilla vs. Kong”. Both films were Certified Fresh, but the early reviews for “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” were not looking good. It wouldn’t be the first franchise film to find a dip, especially considering last year’s giant species film, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” (Episode #176). And unfortunately, the critics are right. The question is how did they get this wrong?
For me, there’s only two ways to approach a giant creature film, and it has everything to do with perspective. The first approach is to tell the story at the creature level, and adapting the human characters to nothing more than supporting roles. Disasters in the wake of massive power have a way of bringing people together as something greater than individual characters. The second approach is to tell the story at the human level, and adapting the giant creature as a background character, or more akin to an unstoppable force. The first approach was done very well in 2014’s “Godzilla”. The second approach was done very well in 2017’s “Kong: Skull Island”. Today’s film tries to do both, and never does either very well.
This conflict in perspective causes all sorts of problems with the film. The biggest strength of “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” are the many kaiju battles, especially the final boss battle well worth the price of admission. However, these epic scenes are often undercut by intrusive editing, often with multiple, nausea-inducing camera shaking jump cuts back to the human level of the story. I was quite upset more than once in the first half of the film with this editing. It would be one thing if the human level of the story was any good, but it’s almost categorically bad.
What’s so bad about it? I’m glad you asked. While we do see the return of Ken Watanabe as Dr. Ishiro Serizawa, head of Monarch, and Sally Hawkins as Dr. Vivienne Graham, we’re also introduced to a host of new characters, including another family in conflict, and an almost obnoxious conspiracy theorist named Dr. Rick Stanton (Bradley Whitford), whose comic relief often tainted scenes that spoke well enough for themselves. Kyle Chandler plays Mark Russell, an “I Told You So” biologist, who has separated himself from his wife, Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) who is working with Monarch on studying the titans, with their daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown). The family conflict acts as a metaphor for the larger conflict caused by the titans awakening across the world, and it feels forced by everyone involved, with the exception of Millie Bobby Brown.
Bad human characters. Intrusive editing. Is that all? Nope. On
top of trying to tell two separate, yet interconnected stories,
this film really layers in the worldbuilding for the larger
franchise. The number of references to “Kong: Skull Island”
throughout the film are noticeable, along with introducing all the
other monsters and their purpose to the larger ecosystem of the
planet, and a few more new age theories layered into the larger
world. I enjoyed this part of everything, and really kind of wish
the film was just kaiju battles and lore, which would have made for
a much tighter film with the right focus.
However, I also think the worldbuilding was excessive for a franchise that may not have more than one more film left. We don’t just get another titan, but just about every single Godzilla foe ever imagined, along with a few new ones. We have classic monsters showing up and being eliminated in a single film. And it honestly sets the final showdown expected in “Godzilla vs. Kong” as almost a letdown compared to the multiple battles throughout this film. I’m still willing to be surprised, and luckily, we’re getting that film no matter what happens with this one at the box office. And I sincerely hope it’s well enough to keep the franchise going, because now that this film has taken all the toys out of the box, it would be a shame not to play with them.
“Godzilla: King Of The Monsters” is the first disappointment within the Monsterverse universe, shoehorning multiple kaiju battles and expansive worldbuilding with an almost categorically bad human-level story. The kaiju battles are well worth the price of admission, but you’ll have to suffer through quite a bit in between battles to get there. Godzilla fans have already seen this film, but fans of giant monster battles from “Pacific Rim”, “Colossal”, or the “Jurassic” franchise will also love this film.
Rotten Tomatoes: 39%
One Movie Punch: 6.5/10
“Godzilla: King Of The Monsters” (2019) is rated PG-13and is currently playing in theaters.