Cast: Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Bradley Whitford
Director: Michael Dougherty
After the release of Godzilla: King of Monsters, there are now 35 total movies in the Godzilla franchise. Some of these movies have become timeless classics specifically in Japan where the films hold more cultural relevance. Others have been laughably bad and make us wonder why these movies keep getting made. So, where does Godzilla: King of Monsters land on this spectrum? It’s somewhere in the middle, but it definitely leans towards the bad side of things. Melodramatic and ultimately incredibly boring, Godzilla: King of Monsters failed to capitalize off of the success of 2014’s Godzilla and just ends up as a forgettable 132-minute mess.
The film follows Drs. Mark (Chandler) and Emma (Farmiga) Russell, two scientists who got divorced following their personal consequences of the events of the previous film. When Emma is studying ways to locate other monsters like Godzilla, she and her daughter Madison (Brown) are kidnapped by Alan Jonah (Charles Dance), a former MI-6 who became an eco-terrorist after seeing what humans have done to the planet and threatens Emma to help him find the remaining monsters. Mark then teams up the staff of Monarch from the previous film to help get his family back while also dealing with the wrath of the monsters they’ve awakened. Where this movie falls apart is it focuses far more on the characters and significantly less on the titular character. The Russell family, like millions of others from the original movie, suffered immense losses and it warps their behavior in this movie. Mark’s behavior makes sense; Godzilla took from me therefore I hate him and want to see him destroyed. Emma’s behavior on the other hand makes little to no sense and serves to move the plot along more than anything. Her jump in logic from what she’s doing to how her thought process is absolutely jarring and makes me question how she ever became a doctor in the first place based on how illogical she is. At least Madison serves as sort of a middle ground between her two parents, but the fact that a 12-year-old is supposed to be the voice of reason in a world where giant monsters destroy cities in an afternoon adds to the level of absurdity that this movie presents right from the beginning. Despite these characters having seemingly important backstory and motivations, there is no way for the audience to connect to them because all of their trauma either happens offscreen or is not given enough time to develop and make the characters feel anything more than one-dimensional. The only character that is at least somewhat captivating is Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe), because while he understands the dire circumstances of their situation, he also has an admiration and respect for the creatures that came before him and wants to find a way where we can all co-exist. Godzilla: King of Monsters faces many of the same issues that Pacific Rim: Uprising did last year, in that none of the characters are really anything special, but at least Pacific Rim: Uprising had some fun elements to it that Godzilla: King of Monsters is sorely lacking. If you can’t create a world where the story or characters matter, at least it enjoyable enough where we’re constantly watching something happen. At one point, it is mentioned that scientists have discovered at least 17 different monsters around the planet. Now I don’t know about you, but seeing 17 monsters fight in a free-for-all that wipes continents off the face of the Earth sounds pretty damn entertaining to me. We see six monsters total in the film. Not only that, only four fight each other while two others and just shown smashing cities to pieces. So less than half the monsters proposed at the beginning ever end up on our screen and most of them are useless. Sure Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah are all impressive to watch fight, but imagine 11 other monsters fighting with or against them. That sounds like a fun Saturday night to me, but instead, Godzilla: King of Monsters ends up as a weepy and sappy story about humans with monsters in the background instead of a story about the monsters themselves.
Overall, there’s really only two ways to make a good Godzilla movie. Either make the characters and story strong enough where we care about what happens to them or make a movie so action-packed that it’s the eye candy of the year with no thinking required. Godzilla: King of Monsters tries to blend these two worlds and ends up creating a movie that fails from both angles. I hope these issues get fixed before the next installment is released, because the concept for that movie looks very interesting and something that could be both a critical and commercial success. Only time will tell, but I think Warner Brothers is going to go back to the drawing board and rethink some things, because Godzilla: King of Monsters just can’t seem to get either side of this movie right.
Overall Score: 3/10