By A.D. Beal
One common complaint about Godzilla from 2014 was that it featured too little monster fighting and continuously cut away from the times it did occur. It seems as if director Michael Dougherty took those complaints to heart and decided on making that the main focus of this film. Unfortunately, not only does he and co-writer Zach Shields do the opposite of what the original was criticised for, trading in attempts at character development for many monster battles, even those are very messy in terms of execution. All of these aspects combined makes for a massive disappointment.
Set five years after the events of the previous film, the Russells are a family who have broken apart after the attack in San Francisco killed their son. The father Mark (Kyle Chandler) is living in the wilderness studying wolves, while Emma (Vera Farmiga) has taken custody of their surviving child Madison (Millie Bobby Brown), and is working with MONARCH, the corporation from the last film and fellow universe film Kong: Skull Island. However, a bioterrorist group, lead by Charles Dance, kidnaps the latter two, as Emma has made a device to help control the monsters, and it could help their plan in unleashing the “Titans”, as they’re called, into the world to destroy them. Mark is recruited by MONARCH into helping track down both the group and the titular monster to help stop them and another titan called Monster Zero.
As stated before, the monster action increases in this film, with nearly every scene involving some sort of battle between the creatures. I think of these scenes in the same way as a sweet food. It’s delicious, but if you have it too much it isn’t very good by the end and makes you sick. King Of The Monsters’ fight scenes are so continuous that they lose their impact, and aren’t very exciting. There’s only so many times that Godzilla breathes fire and you can feel very amped. Not only that, but the way the scenes are presented is messy, for several aspects. One is the use of speed, the monsters go so fast that DoP’s Lawrence Sher’s shots become blurry and incomprehensible. Additionally, nearly every scene is set in a stormy area, usually rain, and combined with the insanely dark lighting, it becomes difficult to even see the action. There are still some exciting moments, particularly with Mothra, who gets to show off her powers in an incredible way.
As for the human characters, most of them are one note, with everything from a standard military general (O’Shea Jackson Jr), a science geek (Thomas Middelditch), a sarcastic sonographer (Bradley Whitford), and more, staying the same throughout the entire film. The only character with any real change is Farmiga, who’s view on monsters is interesting to watch, even if we don’t get much. The actors aren’t bad here, they just unfortunately aren’t given much to work with. Which is a shame given the incredible cast here.
Bear McCreary (God Of War, The Walking Dead) is composing the score, taking over for Alexandre Desplat from the previous film. It does not have the operatic, tense form of the previous film, but it does have its own distinct feel with a fast feel and great use of classic Godzilla themes. It’s definitely worth a listen to on its own. The MonsterVerse is currently 3-for-3 in terms of composers. Speaking of the MonsterVerse film connects to the greater universe with mixed results. Some ways it succeeds, like an older version of a character from Kong: Skull Island (will not say who), while others feel forced, mainly the constant references to Kong. I do also find the way it just shoves the impact of the film’s events in the credits to be rather uncreative, and the post-credits scene is one like Aquaman’s that could have been saved for the main movie.
Godzilla: King Of The Monsters will likely satisfy those looking for some good summer fun. But it does feel like a step down from the previous films when it comes to how it handles the social aspects of monsters in the world (like Godzilla 2014) or balancing characters with exciting action (Kong: Skull Island). I’ve seen a lot of people say that some people too much value into the humans, and others feel too much into the monsters. But I don’t see why we can’t have both. Especially when the original 1954 Godzilla accomplished it so well.