Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a sequel to the 2014 Godzilla film (directed by Gareth Edwards) and the latest entry in Warner Bros. “Monsterverse” project, a franchise which is planning to coalesce into the long-awaited Godzilla vs. Kong next year. This installment was directed by Mike Dougherty and stars Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Ken Watanabe, Millie Bobby Brown, Ziyi Zhang, Charles Dance, Sally Hawkins, and Bradley Whitford. It’s been 5 years since the attack on San Fransisco in the last Godzilla film, and since then, the rest of the world has become aware of the existence of the Titans, giant Kaiju monsters that have been lying dormant in various locations around the world for centuries. Our titular monster, however, is missing. With Monarch being infiltrated by a small faction of eco-terrorist mercenaries hell-bent on setting free all the rest of the Titans to “cleanse” the earth of an environmentally-destructive humanity, a small band of heroes must come together in order to find Godzilla so that he can fight these new threats, and prove once and for all that he is the true King of the monsters.
I’ll be right up front and honest about this fact: I’ve never seen the 2014 Godzilla movie that Gareth Edwards made. I had, in fact, started it soon before going to see this one but I never did end up finishing it properly, and finishing it after this one kind of seemed like a moot point in terms of using that viewing in order to give myself better context for this movie since, y’know, I’d already seen this movie anyway (I do plan on finishing it at some point though). As well, I’m not exactly the biggest fan of the classic largely-Japanese monster genre the character of Godzilla has been the center of over the years. It’s not that I don’t enjoy movies about giant monsters duking it out (I had a ton of fun with Pacific Rim), it’s just that it’s not my particular type of movie and given that I haven’t studied the histories or lore, I usually need more than just a solid spectacle to keep me interested in a movie like this; the most popular examples I can think of to back that up are that I didn’t enjoy either of the Jurassic World movies or Kong: Skull Island when those came out, so do with that what you will.
I did, however, end up finding myself on the other side of the critic majority this time around. It’s not common for that to happen, but as my watch of this movie could tell you, it’s not impossible. I was surprised this movie received such a low score on Rotten Tomatoes until I looked further into the reviews and the main things critics didn’t like about the movie, and it seemed that, in large part, most of the complaints had to do with how Godzilla: King of the Monsters handles (or doesn’t handle) its human characters that help drive the story, which is to say not very well. Whole motivations are completely unexplained, one of the characters seems to just know everything, including what military tactics to use (which he explains to actual military personnel despite no military experience), a number of plot threads and one or two twists come out of nowhere and then are never explored again, and the central villain’s plan either seems or is almost entirely unnecessary and cartoonish for a live-action movie that wants to call itself a blockbuster achievement. And yeah, that’s all in there, and it’s perfectly valid that some critics want more from a Godzilla movie than a couple cool monster fights (even I’ve got to admit, it would have been nice for the plot to be a bit more streamlined).
This isn’t why I went to see Godzilla: King of the Monsters, though. I went to see some cool Kaiju fights and have a little fun, and I got that in spades. The way the film sets up the fights may be overly convoluted and the characters may be just hollow shells used to move the plot along to the next fight, but that’s okay with me because I didn’t go to see incredible character depth or grandiose storytelling. I wanted to see Godzilla fight the other classic monsters that were teased like King Ghidorah or Rodan; I wanted to see Mothra show up like the Queen of the monsters she is and just wreck some shop all over town. Not only did I get that, it looked amazing most of the time.
The visual effects teams that work on these Godzilla movies deserve more than 20 rounds of applause. All the effects on every monster are masterful, and it is a wonder that they look as good as they do in live-action considering their massive scale. In fact, this is the first movie I’ve seen since Pacific Rim that actually plays around and has some fun with the concept of giant monsters actually being giants. All the fights between them look epic as well, each flurry of action (especially the final fight’s opening moment) sending waves of adrenaline through your heart and into the seat behind you. These really are wonderous times we live in; some people thought we would never get to see giant monster fights like this, but you can easily tell Dougherty is having so much fun putting these set-pieces together that you can’t help but feel a swell of happiness that he got to make the Godzilla movie that a lot of people always wanted to see, probably including him.
In terms of flaws, yeah, everything I mentioned before is just as much of a letdown as everyone else has said, but the reason it didn’t bother me as much was because that wasn’t what I went to see this movie for. What did bother me was the mostly laughable dialogue as Kyle Chandler is doing his absolute best to say any of his lines with complete sincerity, and Millie Bobby Brown somehow brings a genuinely good performance out of basically nothing. But the thing that bothered me the most was Bradley Whitford. Don’t get me wrong, Whitford is a solid actor, and I thoroughly enjoyed him as Jake’s dad on Brooklyn 99, but in this movie, he’s pretty much doing the exact same shtick from that show and it really wears down after a while. For a movie that wants to take itself in a thoroughly epic and dramatic direction, his character just felt like he stumbled drunk onto the set and wouldn’t leave, and it got really annoying pretty quick.
Other than that, this is an overall pretty straightforward movie. Yes, the plot is overall pretty nonsensical, the characters are hollow, the story takes really weird directions it immediately goes back on, and whole threads are either forgotten or never addressed…but it’s a Godzilla movie. If you’re going for the great human characters or incredible story or basically anything except the monster fights as your primary reason for enjoyment, you’re more than likely going to be disappointed (but everyone has their thing and all film is subjective, so no judgement here if you do happen to go for that). People go to these things for the epic monster fights, and in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, these Kaiju fights are about as epic as they can get. I had a lot of fun, and if you’re looking for some cool Kaiju action, I think you will too.
I’m giving “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” a 7.6/10
- The Friendly Film Fan
Film critic in my free time. Film enthusiast in my down time. Writer for Bitesize Breakdown.