KING OF THE MONSTERS ½
2019, PG-13, 132 mins.
Kyle Chandler as Mark Russell / Vera Farmiga as Emma Russell / Millie Bobby Brown as Madison Russell / Ken Watanabe as Dr. Ishiro Serizawa / Sally Hawkins as Dr. Vivienne Graham / Bradley Whitford as Dr. Stanton / Charles Dance as Jonah Alan / Zhang Ziyi as Dr. Chen / O'Shea Jackson Jr. as Warrent Officer Barnes
Directed by Michael Dougherty / Written by Dougherty and Zach Shields
GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS - the third film in Legendary Pictures' self anointed "MonsterVerse" - is pure and unapologetic creature mayhem and city destruction pornography.
It comes off of
director Gareth Edwards' underrated cinematic universe starting installment,
and this new sequel is a bigger, louder, and most definitely dumber sequel
to that 2014 entry.
GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS also feels like it's attempting to
cram in about five films worth of mythology into one story, which makes
the resulting enterprise feel too bloated and overstuffed.
Yet, on a level of pure spectacle and bravura technical craft, the
film wholeheartedly delivers; it's silly blockbuster fun, despite some
laughable and frequently nonsensical scripting.
I greatly enjoyed
Edwards' take on re-imagining Toho's most cherished creation (and I find
that the film gets better with repeated viewings), but many audience
members and critics alike cried a resounding - and somewhat unfair - foul
for Edwards' creative choices in visually holding back on Godzilla's
battles with equally large, skyscraper sized monsters.
I personally found his slow-burn and refreshingly restrained
approach in that film - which focused on a ground zero/human perspective
of the monster fights - built to huge and satisfying crescendos in the
final act. Still, with
Edwards gone for the sequel and the studio listening to many of the
complaints about his aesthetic choices, GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS
doesn't really hold anything back. Like
KONG: SKULL ISLAND (the middle
film in this current trilogy), this GODZILLA sequel cranks the on-screen
chaos up to level eleven and doesn't look back.
That will definitely appease those that thought that Edwards'
efforts were too restrictive, but will also alienate those that found his
work commendably reserved.
You may recall in
the last GODZILLA that the titular monster laid most of San Francisco to
waste defending it against equally powerful and insurmountable creature
foes. We learn early on in
this sequel that the devastation of this event has horrendously effected
the lives of countless citizens, like paleobiologist Emma (Mia Farmiga),
who lost her son during the battle of the Bay City and hasn't fully
recovered. It also caused
huge problems with her relationship with her husband, Mark (Kyle Chanlder),
and her daughter, Madison (Millie Bobby Brown), leading to the former
leaving them both. Flash
forward to the present day and Emma works for Monarch, a top secret
multi-national organization that tries to keeps tabs of all of the
hibernating giant monsters ("Titans") that could re-awaken at
any time and cause more problems.
Emma has reached
a breakthrough in communicating with these ancient beasts in terms of
developing a complicated machine that can talk to them via specific sound
frequencies. Just as she's
celebrating her scientific successes in this area, an evil colonel
(Charles Dance) shows up and crashes her party with his own eco-terrorist
agenda. He wants to use Emma's device to wake all of the titans up
to destroy the world for their environmental sins.
When Mark gets word of this he springs into action and joins forces
with Monarch veteran Dr. Ishiro (Ken Watanabe) in hopes of globetrotting
around the world to stop this vile colonel's plan once and for all...and
in the process ensure that none of these titans ever come out of their
centuries old slumber to destroy the planet.
Well - SPOILER ALERT! - Mark and his squad fail, and three
Titans - Ghidorah, Rodan, and Mothra - escape, leaving Monarch desperate
to find a dormant Godzilla to help save them again, who hasn't been seen
for five years.
monster design work in this film is superb, and director Michael Dougherty
(who previously helped pen some of the X-MEN films as well as directing
KRAMPUS) and his art department shows great, joyous imagination he
executing these classic Toho creations.
I especially liked the introduction of Mothra, shown early in a
massive larvae stage before it matures into a surprisingly beautiful, yet
frightening winged beast. Then
there's the three headed Ghidorah, which looks like THE
HOBBIT's Smaug, except three times more hostile, large, and
intimidating. Like the 2014
GODZILLA, Dougherty understands the need to scale these monsters adjacent
to the humans, and great pains have been made here to show them off in all
of their gargantuan glory. It's
hard not to be taken in with giddy, childlike glee at the sight of these
unfathomably large forces of nature.
GODZILLA: KING OF
THE MONSTERS also understands why people want to see these types of
movies, and no expense is spared whatsoever in showcasing its frequently
awe inspiring smackdowns between Godzilla and these other dangerous
titans. The monster madness
on display here is frenetic and packs a lot of bass heavy wallop (this is
one of the most ear piercingly loud movies I've ever experienced in a
cinema), usually all taking place in darkness and under heavy rainfall
(this is one of the wettest films that I've ever seen in a cinema).
Now, that's a bit of a doubled edged sword in the sense that, yes,
we get a ton of deeply satisfying kaiju fights and moments of sensational
imagery, like the way Rodan deals with some pesky F-14 jets or the very
first showdown between Godzilla and his much larger opponent in the
multiple dragon headed Ghidorah. The
ferocity of these battles is extraordinary, but sometimes the scenes are
so dimly lit and covered in such a distracting downpour of rain, not to
mention being spastically edited to the point of making out basic
choreography of the action rather challenging.
When will movies like this have the monsters fight in bight, sun
There's also a
legitimate claim to be made that there's maybe too much being crammed into
the film, and directly responding to the criticisms of the previous movie
with unleashing orgies of beast violence in successive fashion is not
entirely an improvement (there's less tension and build up this go
around). This is also an
incredibly dull kind of talky expository film, featuring far too many
scenes to count with scientists trying to explain convoluted mythology and
summarize just what in the hell we are watching on screen.
Tone is pretty inconsistent across the map: Sometimes, GODZILLA:
KING OF THE MONSTERS is as serious as a heart attack (thank God for Ken
Watanabe for being one of the very few actors on the planet that could
utter campy lines like "Admiral, we need to keep our faith in
Godzilla!" with a straight faced solemnity), whereas other times we
have characters (like Bradley Whitford's mostly insufferable Monarch
scientist) cracking wise so aggressively they feel like they've been
dropped in from a whole other film altogether.
characters presented here are inexcusably bland and interchangeable
cardboard cutouts. Chandler,
Farmiga, and especially Brown acclimate themselves nicely (the latter
young STRANGER THINGS star arguably gives the most natural and effective
performance of the lot considering how little the script does to develop
her). I like Watanabe
considerably as an actor with a soft spoken gravitas, but he seems to
exist in these films to provide shock reactions to the madness that's
transpiring in these films only then to provide sermonizing explanations
of said reactions. Oddly weak
is the typically stellar Charles Durance as his former British Special
Forces vet turned terrorist that has become so radical that he wants to
use the titans to punish humanity for them destroying the planet.
There's a kernel of an intriguing setup here, but Dance is given
such woefully limited screen time that he barely comes off as a sizeable
and threatening villain.
It's pretty good monster porn, but if you have sensitive ears bring plugs