“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” is coming to theaters this weekend. It’s directed by Michael Dougherty and stars Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Kyle Chandler and a collection of other recognizable faces. This is the sequel to Gareth Edwards “Godzilla” and is also set in the same world as “Kong: Skull Island.” This one centers on an agency known as Monarch that try to use a device which attempts to control the massive monsters that have wreaked havoc and caused mass destruction. But when a group of creatures come to the surface and begin a battle for supremacy the fate of mankind could be lost.
The primary issue with the last film from Gareth Edwards in 2014 was that there wasn’t enough Godzilla in it. I thought the story itself and the performances were all entertaining. I did miss seeing the famous monster as much as I would have liked, but the Jaws-like teases didn’t bother me as much. This movie without question gives audiences Godzilla in all his glory. And that is why despite some of its shortcomings, this was a solid summer popcorn movie, as well as a very capable rendition of Godzilla. It added nuances to the creature, but also paid homage to the versions of the past and I appreciated that.
But Godzilla was not alone in this sequel. This one promised the unveiling of Rodan and Mothra as well as King Ghidorah and visually it was a feast for the eyes. Seeing all these classic monsters on the big screen with the capabilities of today’s technology, and the artistic eye of Dougherty behind the camera was a sight to see. The spectacle, the intensity, the heated emotion was all delivered through some climactic set-pieces that are the definition of summer destruction at the theaters. Many of the sequences were visually stunning and loaded with violence, but there was also an elegance and artistry to the scenes, and I think both Dougherty and cinematographer Lawrence Sher should be commended for crafting a beautiful film.
This one does not skimp out on the visual appeal either as monsters are routinely destroying things, or fighting one another, or getting their big theatrical introductions. This gives the story-line frequent splashes of suspense and intensity that does keep the engagement level up while watching. The monsters were certainly the stars of the show, but the human cast was able to come in and inject the narrative with strong performances. I do think this film had its issues and the characters overall was one of them. On the writing side I think they were all relatively thin in development, backdrop, and motives.
This collection of individuals was a patchwork of generic character-types which was a disappointment. However, the cast does make them feel more genuine through their performances. I think across the board this group of familiar faces was able to elevate the material to provide serviceable characters that you can invest in just enough. It was an ensemble cast of names you know and they all added the charisma and screen presence needed for their smaller roles to help carry the film along when the monsters aren’t battling it out. Chandler, Farmiga, and Brown were the leads and they all brought a ton of energy and effort to their performances, which makes the thin material they had to work with that much more of a let-down because I think they could have brought much more heart to the film had they been given the opportunity.
Without going into spoilers, I found this story-line to be surprisingly formulaic and I felt some of the character motives were on the contrived side for the sake of plot convenience. This ultimately hindered me from being able to get fully engaged in the film beyond the visual enchantment of it all. The characters that I could connect with were plug-and-play types simply elevated by the performances. The others were tools to move the narrative and it was glaring. It also opened the door to unwanted predictability as character-arcs becomes clear too early. The story was a collection of tropes and with a very choppy first-act it was just hard to get settled in to despite being extremely excited to see it.
I felt there was potential for a unique story-line yet this one went with sections of many other familiar ones in the genre. The addition of all the monsters made the progression a little scattered at times because I don’t feel the story was tailored to the subject-matter, as much as the subject-matter was poured into a template. Also, the main action/event that ignites the film into motion was lacking inspiration, and to me felt much too familiar to a motive we have recently seen in a big blockbuster film. Something that was a distraction as it played out instead of being a sequence that built the intended emotional intrigue.
Overall though, this was a fun movie to sit back and enjoy for what it was. It delivers endless visuals as monsters tear into one another and I had fun with it. Other than a story lacking ambition, I felt the musical score was not as intense as it could’ve been despite strong splashes of excellence here and there. I also felt a couple of the battle sequences were a little messy to the eye. The darkness and chaotic fighting, added with weather effects, cluttered the screen and made things hard to see. But regardless it’s a fun watch in the theater with your snacks in your lap and the sounds all around you.