“Godzilla: King of the Monsters receives a passing grade, because the monster fights really are that great!”
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a frustrating mix of incredible special effects and monster fights with far too much Lifetime Network style human drama. As a fan of the first (new) Godzilla (2014) I was extremely excited for this one. I understood that in the first one the reason for limited Godzilla scenes was to create suspense and save money and I assumed that after the reveal of the first one this one would stray away from the issues of the first. Instead it doubles down on them by adding more useless human subplots, far too many human characters, and a story that (even for a giant monster movie) is just going through the motions.
This movie opens up back in San Francisco during the attack in 2014 where we see Vera Farmiga and Kyle Chandler’s characters screaming for their son as Godzilla walks through the city. I knew at this exact moment I was in for way too much family drama than I anticipated for a Godzilla sequel. Without giving away the predictable twists and turns, the movie is about Monarch’s attempt to locate and identify all the Titans that Godzilla’s emergence in 2014 triggered. All over the World there are Monarch sites containing these giant monsters and trying to keep them hibernating. Vera Farminga’s character, the mother of Millie Bobby Brown’s character, has developed a sound device that mimics the audio the Titans use to communicate. This can be used to wake up, calm down, or presumably control the Titan via the Alpha frequency. All of these Titans respond to an Alpha which has always been Godzilla. After an eco-terrorist side plot gets Ghidora (giant 3 headed dragon) to awake in Antarctica we learn that Ghidora is a rival Alpha to Godzilla and all the monsters around the World wake up and begin destroying the planet. So the movie comes down to our humans trying to help Godzilla take his rightful place as King of the Monsters and stop Ghidora.
This plot sounds pretty awesome on paper but it just feels stale at every turn. There is a plot about the relationship between Kyle Chandler and Vera Farminga falling apart that lasts throughout the movie. There is a plot about Millie Bobbie Brown essentially having to choose which parent to trust. Meanwhile, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, and Thomas Middleditch are all Monarch employees who love the monsters and want to be their friends. Bradley Whitford is a tech guy for Monarch who is as annoying as possible in every frame. O’Shea Jackson Jr. is a soldier who is just “there” for every action moment and Charles Dance does his best Tywin Lannister as a leader of an eco-terrorist group who wants to free all the monsters.
Whew! That was an entire paragraph about all the insanely stupid human plots in this movie. Every single one stunk. There isn’t one good performance in this entire movie or plot I cared about. Every time a human was on screen I was hoping a monster would stomp on them.
Having said that, the monster fights are a technical marvel. It looked very real. The biggest issue of course being the quick cuts or changes of perspective to the humans watching the battle instead of the battle itself. This movie is 2 hours and I would say monsters are on screen for a total of 30 minutes and only 20 of those minutes are they fighting. When the monsters are on screen the movie flies. It is escapism at its best and I was glued to the screen. Then they would cut away to the humans and it took me out of it. One day these writers and directors will realize that the humans aren’t interesting in monster movies and they never will be.
Ultimately, I give Godzilla: King of the Monsters a passing grade because the monster fights really are that great when they’re actually being shown. Despite the numerous flaws of pacing and editing, the movie still worked when it focused on the monsters enough for me to recommend a matinee show. If you’re worried about future Godzilla movies, don’t fret! They shoehorn 3 King Kong references in the first 20 minutes which was surprising because I assumed they wanted us to forget that movie ever existed. With more monsters coming in the future years I hope the studio and creators stop trying to get a Nicholas Sparks adaptation squeezed in to a giant monster movie and focus more on making any of the lore or technology make sense.