As I watched Godzilla: King of the Monsters I had flashbacks to the woeful 2004 movie The Day After Tomorrow starring Jake Gyllenhaal. All special FX. No real substance, but tries to create substance by having the audience follow terrible characters while breaking up the terrible “drama” with epic CGI scenes that show what we really came to see. Coincidentally, that movie was directed by Roland Emmerich, who also directed the equally bad 1998 Godzilla reboot, so I might be onto something.
Considering how rubbish 2014’s Godzilla was I had high hopes the studios had learnt from the mistakes from that film which also had us following characters that were terrible. I was wrong. At least there are more monsters and bigger special FX this time around.
Directed by Michael Dougherty (Krampus, Trick ‘r Treat), Godzilla: King of the Monsters continues the events from after the destruction and chaos seen in 2014’s Godzilla battled within – and destroyed – San Francisco against the bland MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism). There are references to 2017’s Kong: Skull Island sprinkled throughout, which is set in same MonsterVerse, so it helps if you’ve seen that before watching this.
After losing her son in the San Francisco destruction, paleontologist Dr Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) works for Monarch (an organization that tracks down and studies the monstrous “Titans”) and has developed a new device called the “Orca” that can influence the behavior of these giant creatures whose known numbers are increasing. After witnessing the birth of the giant larva Mothra with her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown), Dr Russell successfully tests the Orca by calming the angry Titan. But as soon as they successfully test the Orca, Dr Russell and Madison are kidnapped by Jonah Alan (Charles Dance), an eco-terrorist planning to use the Orca to awaken the biggest and most dangerous Titan of all: three three-headed dragon Monster Zero, aka King Ghidorah.
Fortunately for the rest of the world – and for the seemingly incompetent military that serve under Monarch with resources similar to that of S.H.I.E.L.D. from the Marvel universe – Dr Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) – an anthrozooologist and Dr Russell’s ex-husband – is here to save the day with all his non-military experience and his vast knowledge of animal behavior. Ok, he did help with the invention of the Orca prototype so he has something useful to contribute. Mark teams up with returning character and meme-favorite Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) in order to rescue his family and to help find a way to stop the end of the world.
Fortunately for the audience, the farce of watching this unlikable character take lead and guide the bumbling military is broken up with magnificently epic fight sequences of Godzilla and the other Titans. Godzilla and Mothra are on our side and, with or without the help of the humans, will fight the other monsters who are being led by the terrifying and seemingly unstoppable Ghidorah.
As you’ve probably figured out by now I’m not going to praise any of the acting. It’s pretty bad. I know this is a monster movie and Godzilla isn’t a franchise you think of when you want to watch great acting. But the first part of 2014’s Godzilla with Bryan Cranston’s character Joe Brody demonstrated you can have a Godzilla movie with solid acting. Cranson was great. He had my attention. I was rooting for him. But then they (spoiler!) killed him off early and left us with subpar performances that have now carried on into Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
There’s quite a lot of characters who let this movie down. However, the most noteworthy performance is that of Kyle Chandler. He’s especially terrible as the lead hero. I admit he’s working with a bad script, however he lacks the presence and charisma of a leading man. His character’s place in the plot doesn’t help as he’d be more of an advisor than a leader. Yet there’s something about how he talks and how he conveys himself that just made me hate every scene he’s in. I kept asking myself during the film “how did this guy get the lead role?”
But let’s not focus too much on the flesh and blood actors. That’s not why we came to see this movie. What will please moviegoers is that the standout performance in this film comes from Godzilla and his monstrous adversaries. The creative teams that have brought him and his foes to life have really instilled something special in this behemoth. You really get a sense that Godzilla is more than just a giant creature who likes to get into epic fights. He is our defender. Our saviour. Our true hero. I was rooting for him like I did for Cranston in the previous film.
Whenever Godzilla is hurt and suffering you really feel for the big guy. When he defeats an adversary you feel the same level of glory he does after seeing the effort he went through in order survive another ordeal. The true stars of this movie are the Titans and they deliver epic performances.
Director Michael Dougherty has done an amazing job of bringing to life some very memorable monsters to the big screen and having them do some serious destruction. The fight sequences between the Titans are epic and extremely visually satisfying. However, this has come at the expense of the acting, which is often quite laughable.
Like the original 1954 Godzilla film (Gojira) that explored the themes of mankind creating nuclear weapons and how nature took revenge on mankind, Dougherty has taken a similar approach with Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Instead of Godzilla symbolizing the nuclear holocaust from Japan’s perspective, Godzilla and the Titans in general represent the Earth trying to defend itself from the overall destruction humans are doing to the planet. We are the disease and the Titans are the cure.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is visually impressive but the poor acting, terrible dialogue and laughable story make this movie a monster-size let down for me. While there are some very impressive action and epic monster battles they weren’t enough to make up for the poor story and excessive focus on bland humans retreading a familiar rescue story. That said, if you are going to see Godzilla: King of the Monsters it needs to be experienced on the biggest screen possible to truly appreciate the amazing special effects and epic action. Just check your brain at the door, relax, ignore the humans, and watch the king reclaim his throne. Now bring on King Kong!