Godzilla is a franchise that lives and dies by its kaiju, rock ‘em sock ‘em action; however, general audiences, more specifically, American audiences tend to want something with a compelling emotional human element riding alongside said action. The problem with modern monster movies (Godzilla, Pacific Rim, Kong: Skull Island) is that the aforementioned human element tends to be extremely one-dimensional. This was certainly the case with Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla (2014), which featured Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elisabeth Olsen giving what might be the blandest performances of their careers in a movie that wasn’t sure which to be more concerned with – Godzilla or the humans. Yet, the film had its moments and its fans, as it went on to make nearly $530 million worldwide.
With that success, Warner Bros./Legendary doubled down on the monster action with Kong: Skull Island, which featured another helping bland human characters played by great actors – but at least there was more over-the-top action to distract. Again, on the back of its cast and visual flair, the film was a financial success. So, why change what works? It’s in the studio’s interest to keep the characters bland and the action crazy. In those categories, I can assure you that Godzilla: King of the Monsters delivers more than any other monster movie.
To writer/director Mike Dougherty’s (Trick R’ Treat, Krampus) credit, he knows a large number of people come to a movie like Godzilla: King of the Monsters to see big ol’ monsters level each other and multiple cities in the process. If you’re one of those people, believe me when I say that you’re going to get some of the most over-the-top, ridiculous kaiju battles ever projected to a screen. Dougherty and company fill this movie with CGI monsters clashing all over the world, and, thankfully, the battles vary enough that they’re not overly repetitive. That’s not to say that you won’t be numb by the end of this movie. Between the sheer amount of action and exposition, viewers will likely be leaving the theater in a state that can only be described as “punch drunk.”
Speaking of exposition, that brings us to the writing and the characters in this movie – both of which are as thought out and subtle as a brick to the head. I can only imagine that this movie was cast on the back of Kong: Skull Island‘s amazing cast (Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly, Tom Hiddleston). Actors saw that peers of that calibre were signing up and decided to move forward without knowing anything about what they’d be doing – at least I hope that’s how it went. The human characters in this movie are basically the equivalent of professional wrestling ring announcers – they’re there strictly to explain what the hell is going on and why we should care while glistening titans clash nearby. This can work in some cases when it’s very well written. The issue here is that they have ridiculous pseudo-science jargon and overly dramatic drivel to deliver – both of which are about as thin as the paper the script is written on. I’d like to say this giant talent-filled cast helps you swallow some of the atrocious dialogue. Sadly, in a cast that consists of Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, Bradley Whitford, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Thomas Middleditch, Ziyi Zang, and somehow more – not one can elevate the material to acceptable levels.
With that said, we’re here to see big monsters beat the ever-loving nuclear snot out of each other. Cinematographer, Lawrence Sher (The Hangover Trilogy, War Dogs, Paul) and the visual FX crew make damn sure we get our money’s worth with varied and colorful battles on-screen. All of which are hightened by Bear McCreary’s hit and miss (but always loud) score.
Ultimately, if you were a fan of Gozilla (2014) and Kong: Skull Island, you’re likely to LOVE Godzilla: King of the Monsters, as it takes everything we’ve seen before and cranks it to eleven. It’s ridiculous in every sense of the word – sometimes in very good ways, sometimes in very bad ways. This can all make for the perfect popcorn movie if you go in with the right expectations. It’s certainly my favorite of the recent “Monsterverse” outings. Granted, that bar is extremely low.
OVERALL SCORE: 3/5 Stars