‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’: Crowning Achievement Or Monstrous Misfire?
Photo: Legendary Pictures
In the past 60 years, Godzilla has appeared in more films than Spiderman, James Bond, and Samuel L. Jackson (OK, maybe not the last one). In search of their own empire-building franchise, Warner Bros. has once again dredged up our favorite sea monster from the depths to try and get some of that loose post-Marvel money.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a sequel to 2014’s meditative (for a Kaiju movie) Godzilla and exists in the same “Kaiju universe” as the fun but frivolous Kong: Skull Island. Michael Dougherty, the co-writer and director of “King of the Monsters,” obviously did his Japanese B-movie homework, paying homage to Toho’s classic style while also modernizing the CGI-monsters for a modern summer movie audience. But is that enough to warrant a third film with the inevitable showdown between Godzilla and King Kong? Let’s take a look.
Long Live the King
Gareth Edwards' 2014 Godzilla reboot was trolled for not showing the fire-breathing atomic lizard soon and often enough. That’s not a problem for King of the Monsters' Michael Dougherty, the co-writer at the helm of the latest incarnation who shows Godzilla early and often.
Monster Battle Royale with Cheese
The film is at its best (figuratively) when CGI-monsters are slap-fighting each other in exotic locations. But after the umpteenth iconic battle cry, it starts to feel like we’re the ones being pummeled into submission.
Stranger Things' breakout star Millie Bobby Brown's big-screen debut is generally wasted playing a nondescript daughter caught in-between her divorced parents' (Vera Farmiga and Kyle Chandler) power struggle.
When Bad Scripts Happen to Good Actors
Why assemble an Avengers-like cast of Emmy nominees (Vera Farmiga, Kyle Chandler, Bradley Whitford, Thomas Middleditch, Charles Dance) and Oscar winners (Sally Hawkins) only to have the great Ken Watanabe deliver a heartfelt soliloquy topped with "I got it from a fortune cookie"?
Godzilla is a Metaphor, Not a Hero
King of the Monsters is not a total misfire. It just misses the point. Hollywood doesn’t seem to get that Godzilla is a B-movie metaphor (for America, among other things), not an antihero whom you build a cinematic universe around.
Ain't No Party Like a Kaiju Party
No monster movie should be 132 minutes, but the powers-that-be obviously wanted to squeeze in Mothra, Rodan, and the evil King Ghidorah (aka “Monster Zero”). Their Kaiju version of an Avengers movie is dope. All the monsters serviced their storied pasts with some fanboy moments, but we were sad not to see Ultraman.
Summer Movie Fail
Dougherty, who had a hand in franchise killers Superman Returns and X-Men: Apocalypse, provides enough spectacle to move the story along but seems caught in the middle of making a monster movie fun and relatable. He centered the story around characters we really don’t care about, no matter how many push-in close-ups he does on them.