Many lives were ruined in 2014 when Godzilla battled the MUTOs in San Francisco (at the end of the 2014 movie). One such fractured family are the Russells – scientists Mark (Kyle Chandler) and Emma (Vera Farmiga) and their daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) – who lost a child and became estranged from one another in the following years. Emma still works for Monarch (the militarized organization that tangled with Godzilla the first time around) and is on the Mothera project when the giant larva is hatched. She’s also developed a machine called ORCA that can mimic the various monster frequencies to control them. Once Mothera has hatched, a mysterious group of soldiers led by eco-terrorist Jonah Alan (Charles Dance) swoops in to commandeer the ORCA tech and take Emma and Madison hostage.
Monarch brings Mark in to help figure out what Jonah has planned and to get his wife and daughter back, as well as get the ORCA back. Of course, they’re a few steps behind and Jonah uses the ORCA to awaken another giant monster, codenamed Monster Zero (though, we’ll later learn to call it King Ghidorah). Sensing Ghidorah’s awakened energy, Godzilla comes to battle it and gets his ass kicked a bit but finally forces Ghidorah to retreat. Monarch tracks Godzilla and Ghidorah, hatching a plan to make them kill each other off, but soon Ghidorah awakes more monsters, including its mate Rodan. While Monarch continues to try staging battles between Godzilla and Ghidorah, a horde of other monsters destroy the cities of the world. Now the plan becomes simple – help Godzilla defeat Ghidorah in order to save the world!
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is the sequel to Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Godzilla reboot, and kind of a sequel to 2017’s Kong: Skull Island. Written by Max Borenstein (who, conveniently, wrote both monster movies), Zach Shields (Krampus, The Conjuring) and director Michael Dougherty (Trick ‘r’ Treat), this monster-packed blockbuster is… not nearly as good as I was hoping. In fact, it’s sort of a mess.
The story just continues to get more complex as the movie progresses. It starts off simple enough: the good guys have a cool new toy to control the monsters, so the bad guys steal it as well as the only person who knows how to use it, with the plan to have the monsters run wild to reset the planet! Easy, right? But then there’s backstabbing and alternate agendas and globe-trotting… alliance shifts and origin stories and research and speeches… and aliens and lost civilizations and Hollow Earth theories and what may or may not be Atlantis! It just keeps building and building until there are too many things going on and I could simply no longer suspend my disbelief!
Next up, the characters: Mark Russel is somehow desperately needed in every situation. He’s the brains of all operations, he puts military colonels in their place, he’s an action hero, and the pin that all drama pivots around. This character is just doing too much, when there are surely other trained personnel who should be doing at least ½ of what he does in this movie! Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) is in never-ending worship of Godzilla to the point it becomes a hindrance to the mission. Madison’s constant flip-flopping makes her a tad annoying. Same goes for Emma. None of the characters have great ideas or motivations, making everything feel just a little too forced.
Speaking of forced, if we’re talking about characters, we need to bring up performances. They’re mostly bad. Granted, some of the supporting cast do their jobs well (like Bradley Whitford and Thomas Middleditch), but all the leads were disappointing. Especially Vera Farmiga, normally one of my favorite actresses, but her performance here was all over the place and mostly over the top… and there was one scene when she had a long monologue where you could literally see her reading the lines!
I guess Kyle Chandler did alright with what he had to work with, but you very quickly get sick of him and wonder why he’s the one doing everything instead of someone else. They really force him and his character upon the audience.
There were also so many conveniences and over-played movie tropes throughout this entire film. Characters (and monsters) seeming to die only to come back moments later. All the people in a restricted room just happening to leave the room at the same time so someone can waltz in to steal something. A character crawling through air ducts to make an escape. Awful and obvious jokes-a-plenty! And many more.
I will give the movie high marks in one area, and it’s really the only reason most people will see it to begin with: The monster fights! There is no shortage of them and they are truly epic. I wish the filmmakers would have just given us minimal story and maximum amounts of monster fights. Like the first Pacific Rim movie! Simple story, amazing battles! That’s what this movie should have been. Instead, they tried to force layer upon layer of story, and after a while it just became silly. And not a good silly, like the old Japanese Godzilla movies.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters isn’t even worth the entry. It’s a bad movie with bad acting and bad story, with some great giant monster battles sandwiched between the melodrama. As we’ve come to expect these days, the events here set up Godzilla’s next monster mash-up – his clash with fellow screen icon King Kong. Whether you’ll still be interested by then, who knows, but those curious how it happens can wait for this one to hit Redbox or Netflix so you can just skip past all the pesky human scenes.