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Released: May 29, 2019 (UK and US)
Length: 132 Minutes
Director: Michael Dougherty
Starring: Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobbie Brown, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds and Ken Wantanabe
Produced in association with Japan’s Toho Studio, the MonsterVerse has sought to craft a modern rendition of the wacky monster flicks conceived in the 1950s, but it took almost half a decade for the west to give Godzilla a worthy adaptation in Hollywood. For the sequel, the filmmakers have made it their mission to deliver the monster action that was limited in the 2014 original; with Godzilla: King of the Monsters we’re getting that for sure, but other aspects continue to struggle.
Taking place five years after Godzilla’s rampage through San Francisco, the world is coming to terms with the entrance of giant monsters, with the secretive Monarch corporation having discovered other creatures due to reawaken. Several factions have formed in the wake of this outbreak with their own motives, and from here, we follow a family caught up in the chaos. Scientists Mark and Emma Russell (Played by Kyle Chandler and Vera Farmiga), and their daughter Madison (Played by Mille Bobbie Brown in her film debut) journey around the globe with the returning Dr. Ishirō Serizawa (Ken Wantanabe) in tow in a bid to harness Godzilla’s awesome power to take on the new creatures. The plot of King of the Monsters is scrambled all over the place, and while we are given plenty of action, the events surrounding it feel trivial and limp, with multiple story threads that go nowhere. The most notable offenders here are the US court hearing at the film’s opening, which are tossed aside along with the antagonists, whose goals are supremely flimsy throughout the runtime. With the monster fights, you have the visual spectacle to back things up, but sadly everything else is paper-thin. So much of the film’s runtime is dedicated to bland exposition sequences involving military briefings, and scientific talk that it starts to wear on the viewer, emphasizing the troublesome balance issues that have plagued the series over the last five years.
The MonsterVerse has had a serious problem with its human characters, and the third entry in the franchise isn’t able to fix things. Many great actors with proven experience have joined this production, but there is next to no character development to be found. Kyle Chandler and Vera Farmiga attempt to convey two opposing perspectives that end up feeling more contrived than anything else, while Charles Dance is relegated to one of his most basic, and underwhelming roles in years; a basic villain who is essentially abandoned by the film’s conclusion. There are a couple of performances here that work, most notably Ken Wantanabe who gets a bit more to do, and Millie Bobbie Brown, who successfully channels her previous experience in Stranger Things to create an emotive delivery, but they can’t overcome the film’s other problems. Everyone else in the film is woefully basic, which speaks to the greater issue, something tied directly to the plot. The humans simply spend too much time in futuristic hallways staring at computer monitors, and as a result, the film fails both at slotting them into the narrative, and giving them consistent motives. Not only are the characters incredibly thin, but their perspectives shift back and forth on an erratic basis. Outside of a few token performances, the cast in King of the Monsters is just as lacklustre, and wasted as previous films.
For all its faults, King of the Monsters continues the same gargantuan destruction seen in 2014; it’s another rousing spectacle, with even more monsters thrown into the mix to give audiences plenty of action. Without giving anything away, every creature is faithful to the original Japanese series, and they all look fantastic on-screen, especially when placed against the stunning weather effects. The sound design is also superb, constantly rocking your ears with guttural roars, and towering devastation, and this is matched by the soundtrack by Bear McCreary, who creates a score to match the enormous scale of the battles. There is one weakness however, and that’s the cinematography; while the effects are still stellar, the film cuts around too much during the action. Gareth Edwards, and cinematographer Seamus McGarvey had a more focused direction for getting across the monsters, and their scale in the first film. While the film can look breath-taking at times, it needed to pan out more to give the audience a better view. Clearly a ton of effort went into making this production as gigantic as possible, but it needs to go beyond this selling point to make a full impression.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a frustrating film in that it gives audiences what they want, only to come up short everywhere else. It’s loud, vast, and action packed, but that’s all there is; yet again the MonsterVerse is struggling to find a balance between the giant creatures duking it out, and the humans caught in the middle. Because it takes so few steps forward, I’m unable to rank it higher than its predecessor.
Rating: 2/5 Stars (Disappointing)