Michael Dougherty's "Godzilla: King of the Monsters," out May 31, is a sequel to Gareth Edwards' 2014 reboot of the world's favorite kaiju franchise. It brings a handful of classic "Godzilla" series second-string monsters — Mothra, Ghidorah and Rodan — into the picture ahead of next year's showdown with King Kong. Is it a fun time at the movies, or massive misstep for Warner's already-questionable MonsterVerse? Here's what the reviews have to say:
There's Some Human-Scale Drama And A Monster-Hailing MacGuffin Driving The Plot When The Kajiu Aren't Fighting
Picking up five years after the events of Edwards' movie, the world has seen the rise of "titans", monsters like Godzilla who are being tracked by the organization Monarch, which is currently in conflict with the military that wants to eradicate the titans rather than co-exist with them.
The key to that might well be the "Orca", a communications device created by Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) that can tap into the Titans' bio-acoustics and send friendly signals. But when she and her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) are kidnapped by a group of eco-terrorists (led by Charles Dance), Monarch brings in former Titan scientist — and Emma's ex-husband — Mark (Kyle Chandler) to get them back.
Is Godzilla Good, Or Just Good Relative To The Other Monsters On The Loose? The Movie Doesn't Seem Sure
Godzilla may be a monster, but he is much less of a threat to the planet than several of his fellow monsters, or indeed than the more monstrous of the human players. He is massive and relentless, constantly adapting and evolving, but also a conservative guardian of the ecosystemic status quo. He is also our monster – in a surreal xenophobic touch, it turns out that local leviathans are more welcome than alien abominations (even when the latter migrated here multiple millennia ago).
The film's inability to decide whether Godzilla is a guardian angel or an uncaring, almost deist supreme being zaps the franchise of its captivating, humbling depiction of humans being insignificant compared to the powerful might of Earth's self-persevering whims.
Godzilla's Fellow 'Titans' Leave A Lot To Be Desired
Rodan seems to be the only other one who gets to express a discernible personality (he's a delicious bastard), while Ghidorah spends too much time as a bland baddie and Mothra gets too little to do altogether. Most of the creatures invariably take a nap in the middle of the movie, whether through the exhaustion of battle or sheer boredom, and it's tempting to not want to do the same in the film's more languid second act.
Despite fleeting moments of beauty, King Of The Monsters largely fails to conjure any sense of awe about its creatures, with the sole exception of the ethereal Mothra.
There's also an impressive selection of lesser behemoths, but most of them appear during understandably panicked newscasts that appear to be filmed through Vaseline.
The Movie Isn't *Not* About Climate Change — But Also, It's A Little Too Nuke-Ambivalent For A Godzilla Film
The theory, already proffered in the franchise's earlier entries, that these behemoths have long existed to bring balance to the world, is here more fully explored, as their epic battles are made to allegorise and embody the cataclysmic upheavals of nature that manmade climate change is bringing to us all.
Despite the occasional fan-pleasing plot nod to the original 1954 Godzilla, King Of The Monsters has a glib attitude to nuclear weapons that feels particularly galling considering the creature's infamous H-bomb subtext, with a seemingly nihilistic outlook that revels in the razing of civilisation and casts the one person concerned about global warming as a crazed radical scientist.
The Actors Are Hurting For Good Material Here…
Dougherty and co-writer Zach Shields attempt to center the story around the Spielbergian angle of a broken family on each side of the conflict — Mark wants to kill the things, Emma wants to set them free to reclaim the Earth, with Madison stuck in the middle — but they're all given so little to do amongst the kaiju chaos. Early trailers indicated that Brown's Maddie would be more of a central character, but she's largely sidelined until the final act. This isn't to say that summer monster movies should also be trenchant family melodramas, but King of the Monsters really drops the ball with its potentially intriguing central dynamic.
You may get a bright spot like Bradley Whitford as a surly scientist or Ken Watanabe adding a bit of gravitas, but then you also have some really idiotic twists to move the plot along and it makes the whole enterprise feel like a cynical attempt to keep the Godzilla franchise going without any real care or attention to anything beyond kaiju fights. Some may argue you don't need more than that, but Godzilla: King of the Monsters proves that you do.
… To The Point Where It All Distracts From The Kaiju
None of [the plot] makes sense. I don't even think it's trying to make sense. In reality, this is all just an excuse for the filmmakers to have a lot of monsters on the screen at the same time. And, sure, I get that's the end goal in a movie like this. But it would have been great if a little more thought had gone into the whole thing.
The human characters (and I'm using the word "characters" loosely) are flavorless afterthoughts, spouting unintentionally laughable dialogue designed to do nothing more than move the risible plot from point A to point B.
The staggeringly poor script merely has everyone standing around and explaining the plot and their personal motivations to one another in dialogue so clichéd that it goes far beyond winking B-movie pastiche. When characters aren't spouting dramatically inert Monarch-centric exposition that only exists to establish Wikipedia-dump franchise lore, they're somehow mysteriously guessing Godzilla's own intentions.
For All The Blockbuster Moments In The Movie…
The film blends bombastic excess and deadpan silliness in a way that recalls late '90s action films of the Michael Bay/Roland Emmerich school. (Think: a machine-gun wielding grunt muttering, "Oh, shit," just before a massive CGI explosion sends bodies and helicopters flying in all directions.)
In terms of sheer, chaotic spectacle, King of the Monsters is the closest an American Godzilla film has come to the campy fun of Toho's '70s output. Titans slap each other around like they're in a WWE Inferno match, exchange energy blasts, and gleefully engage in an entire GDP's worth of property damage.
There's a nightmarish beauty to these battles that epitomizes a nihilism buried under the more sentimental heroics with which Godzilla has been saddled.
… 'King Of The Monsters' Suffers From Too Much Hard-To-See, Ultimately Numbing Monster Mayhem
People see the ending to 2014's Godzilla and wonder, well, if I felt that rush at the end of the movie, why can't I feel that rush during the whole movie? Why can't I just feel the nice thing all the time! It's because our bodies don't work that way. When a movie is just nonstop monster action, guess what happens? It all becomes the new "normal" and it becomes boring. And this is the approach Godzilla: King of the Monsters takes.
For the most part the action sequences are lost in shaky cameras and jittery editing, with the first key set-piece taking place in a storm that renders everything genuinely incoherent. When the final smackdown between Godzilla and Ghidorah comes, the result is an overload of repetitive, joyless destruction that mistakes volume and demolition for actual excitement.
If you thought you couldn't make out what was happening during The Battle of Winterfell, prepare thyself for an entire film built on the concept that, when giant monsters battle each other, they actually create tropical storms, gusting rain, and a baffling amount of cloud cover.
Reviewing the 2014 franchise launcher, I wrote that Godzilla felt like two movies Scotch-taped together. One with the cast of Hollywood actors trying to keep a straight face and the other with mammoth CG beasts knocking the snot out of one another. The same is true here – only more so.
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