'Godzilla: King of the Monsters'
No one asked for another Godzilla movie or a MonsterVerse. At least not directly; the 2014 reboot made $529 million worldwide on a $160 budget, so you knew it was coming.
Fortunately – or unfortunately, depending on your viewpoint – Legendary Entertainment is trying to buy us off with one of the finest fan-friendly casts in recent memory. Love Friday Night Lights? Here’s Kyle Chandler. Big Stranger Things fan? Enjoy Millie Bobby Brown. HBO freak? Tywin Lannister and Richard Hendricks say hello. Lover of continuity? Welcome back, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, and David Strathairn. It doesn’t make for a good feature film, but it does bring a smile to your face every time one of them appears onscreen. And that’s … something, I guess.
Dr. Mark Russell (Chandler) and his wife Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) have been separated since Godzilla’s 2014 battle in San Francisco killed their son. Emma and their daughter Madison (Brown) are studying the other monstrous Titans and awaken Mothra, only to be attacked by eco-terrorist Alan Jonah (Tywin himself, Charles Dance). This brings Mark back into the fold of monster-chasers Monarch, who recruit him to help find Emma, Madison, and the sound machine she built which might be able to keep Godzilla and the other Titans in check.
Of course, this leads to all the monsters waking up and fighting. The score from Battlestar Galactica whiz Bear McCreary has received the bulk of the praise thus far, and it is an epic one. But even the best music can’t save a movie where all the non-monster scenes fall into exposition hell. Characters die with minimal explanation or buildup; some are suddenly stomped by massive creatures while others sacrifice themselves for noble but very sudden purposes. People switch sides seemingly at will, holding the fate of the world in their hands and then giving it all up to save one person while literally thousands die around them.
That’s all to say: it’s a modern blockbuster that thinks blowing everything up equals action and excitement. It’s in the vein of Man of Steel and Star Trek Into Darkness, both major letdowns that were raked over the coals for their excessively “spectacular” battles that killed millions.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters isn’t nearly that bad. For one thing, it was possible to have Superman or Captain Kirk fight an enemy without destroying entire cities; though Superman has god-like powers, he’s still human-sized. You know a Godzilla movie is going to be majorly destructive; that’s the name of the game. We’re paying to see Boston destroyed, and writer-director Michael Dougherty delivers in that regard: The big CGI showdowns are genuinely fun.
But monsters can’t fight forever, and Dougherty didn’t give this talented cast much to work with otherwise. Plus, at an extremely lengthy 132 minutes, even the most passionate monster-fight fan will be checking his or her phone during the climactic confrontation. If you’re a longtime Godzilla enthusiast or just in the mood for something big, brainless, and relatively well-made, King of the Monsters will fill that void. But if you’re looking for the next Marvel Cinematic Universe, look elsewhere. The monster movies will keep on coming, but they won’t necessarily be very good.