Film Review – Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) is a spectacular mess. This is an ugly, tensionless blockbuster where characters do stupid things while staring at computer generated, skyscraper-sized monsters battling it out in mundane fashion. It’s a never-ending assault on our visual, auditory, and common senses. Now, what I just mentioned may be a selling point for some of you, and with that I say: more power to you. If you come out of this thoroughly entertained, that’s great. I wish I could’ve had that experience.
Director Michael Dougherty (who cowrote the screenplay with Zach Shields) molded this story – a continuation of Warner Brothers’ “MonsterVerse” that includes the previous Godzilla (2014) and Kong: Skull Island (2017) – with a flat, lifeless energy. Visually, the action is depicted as though it were photographed through mud, often taking place at night during a rain storm or blizzard, or in the middle of a dust cloud. An early set piece happens in Antarctica of all places, where a nighttime snow storm obscures our vision badly. It’s all chaos with no clarity. One of the major gripes some audience members had with Godzilla (2014) was the lack of action with the monsters (or “Titans” as they’re described). This time, the action is tripled, and yet we aren’t rewarded because the visuals are so damn murky. Is it too much to ask that an action scene take place in the middle of the day while it’s sunny outside?
But the biggest issue that plagues King of the Monsters is how contradictory nearly all of the human characters behave. They maintain a certain belief about Godzilla and the new Titans that have arrived – including the Pteranodon Rodan, the moth-like Mothra, and the three headed dragon Ghidorah – and yet their actions work in the complete opposite direction of that ideal. Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe, returning from the previous film) participates in a government hearing where he explains that he does not want the Titans weaponized, and yet that is exactly what he and his agency (Monarch) do. His hope is for humanity to somehow co-exist with these creatures, and yet their presence brings nothing but catastrophe.
It’s unfortunate that a talented cast is wasted with such undercooked material. O’Shea Jackson Jr., David Strathairn, Ziyi Zhang, and Sally Hawkins are all exceptional actors, and yet are given nothing to do, are tossed to the side, or are simply forgotten about as the plot progresses. Poor Vera Farmiga, she is saddled with a character who defies all logic. Her Dr. Emma Russell has developed a machine that can communicate with the Titans through sound waves, and yet her motivation isn’t to control them so much as to let nature balance itself out? There’s a strange bit of dialogue in which she explains how civilization has destroyed Earth’s ecosystem, and the emergence of the Titans is nature’s way of correcting itself, regardless of the substantial loss of life that will come of it. Basically, she’s Thanos but with a PHD.
Safety is not treated with much urgency among these people. Emma, knowing full well how hazardous her work is, willfully brings along her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) to her secret laboratory to witness her experiments play out. It doesn’t help that the compound is then ambushed by eco-terrorists (lead by Charles Dance) in an attempt to steal Emma’s technology. This leads to Emma’s ex-husband Mark (Kyle Chandler) going on a personal quest to save Emma and Madison. Chandler is the only rational character we get. He clearly sees the danger of the Titans, and yet his warnings fall on deaf ears. Chandler exudes the same kind of dad/intellectual/everyman quality that Sam Neill brought in Jurassic Park (1993) but is let down by a far lesser narrative.
The plot settles into repetitiveness as our characters travel across the world on a super jet, witness a Titan fight just to be caught up in the mayhem and having to escape before being crushed, and then traveling to a new destination to do it all over again. For a movie where the action is the selling point, there is a surprising lack of it amongst our human characters. When they are not running towards or away from danger, they simply stand around a command center looking at monitors or out of windows. The art direction has such little ingenuity that a scene taking place inside of a submarine looks like it could have happened on the super jet also, the set design does not distinguish the two locations well enough. The story is so underwhelming that a situation involving twins is brought up as though it were important but is then thrown away with no real relevance or impact. I’ve heard of actors making cameos in a movie, but it’s rare to see an actual plot point be treated like one.
I found myself squirming in my seat during Godzilla: King of the Monsters as a means of keeping myself engaged. There’s very little here that I found fun, entertaining, or enjoyable at any level. It’s a drag of epic proportions. I’m jealous of those who will like this, I wish I could’ve seen the movie they saw.