“Godzilla: King of The Monsters” is the long-awaited sequel to “Godzilla,” which roared onto the big screen back in 2014. The 2019 film is attempting to clear a five-year gap with a new creative team, a mostly new cast, and a batch of monsters borrowed from the icon’s decades long past. Fans of the previous film and of Godzilla’s entire filmography are eager to see what “Godzilla: King of The Monsters” has to contribute to the radioactive sea creature’s legacy when it lands this week.
The film is produced by Warner Bros. and Legendary Entertainment and is the third installment in their co-produced “Monsterverse,” a franchise expected to culminate with an epic showdown between Godzilla and King Kong in 2020. It is directed by Michael Dougherty (“Trick ‘r Treat,” “Krampus”) and stars Vera Farmiga, Kyle Chandler, and Millie Bobby Brown, with Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins reprising their roles.
Why You Should Care: Godzilla is the longest-running film franchise in history and it shows no sign of stopping
While not all of the 34 previously released films are beloved gems (I’m looking at you, 1998’s “Godzilla”), each new chapter is a testament to the strength and longevity of the character, and to the power of its environmental themes and metaphors. “Godzilla: King of Monsters” is not competing with its Toho suitmation predecessors, but it does owe a lot to the past while also being important for the future of the aforementioned Monsterverse and for the continuation of the classic property in general.
What’s Hot: “Godzilla: King of The Monsters” is just as big, loud, and campy as a giant monster movie needs to be.
Common criticisms of the 2014 film were that for a movie called “Godzilla,” there was not nearly enough of the titular character, and that the monsters he had to face off against (“Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms,” or MUTOs for short) were lame in comparison to the gallery of creatures he’s rumbled with before. “King of The Monsters” rectifies that issue by giving the star significantly more screen time and by throwing in several more giants, or “Titans,” many of which never actually vie for Zilla’s crown (according to the film, there are 17 total).
Some sequences are so textbook monster movie that you can’t help but to smile and raise your popcorn at the screen in knowing approval. Rodan, Ghidorah, and Mothra each join the melee and make the summer blockbuster a screeching, burning, glowing, flying spectacle that exceeds its astronomically high property damage quota.
There are humans in this too, with the standouts for me being Vera Farmiga (“The Conjuring”) as Dr. Emma Russell, Charles Dance (“Game of Thrones”) as the obviously sinister Jonah Alan, and O’Shea Jackson Jr. (“Straight Outta Compton”) in a supporting role as Chief Warrant Officer Barnes. The action scenes are plentiful and are not treated as half-obstructed background noise to the human drama. Surely a lesson learned from 2014.
It is very loud. Which, in this case, is exactly how it should be. Iconic Godzilla sound effects and music cues are woven in nicely, but Bear McCreary’s score stands on its own as an impactful and necessary complement to the visuals on screen.
What’s Not: Character motivations and actions sometimes cross the line from camp to absurd
You can’t have giant monsters tackle each other into buildings and belch atomic blasts for 131 minutes without some semblance of a plot. It’s not a spoiler to say that “Godzilla: King of Monsters” also features a conflict between at least two groups of people who don’t see eye-to-eye on the topic of Titans and what should be done with them. Unfortunately, if you pay too much attention to whos and whys, the film loses a bit of its magic.
Science and research are used to override logic, once broken machines work again and just in the nick of time because they have to, intercoms are on because information has to be overheard, antennae have unlimited range (because why not?), and several characters survive against impossible odds because they need to. More than once, the film allows a character to comment on the fact that a trope was used to move the plot forward, as if calling attention to it makes it no longer silly.
There is a clear divide between the more seasoned actors who know what movie they’re in and younger stars. There are maybe 12 too many shots of glitching screens throughout the film; there is a presentation shared via video call which outlines a character’s master plan that caused several audience members to burst out laughing during my screening; and there are a few moments of comic relief that just completely miss the mark.
The bottom line: “Godzilla: King of The Monsters” has a few hiccups when the monsters aren’t on the screen, but overall the film seems to know what it is and it fits in perfectly into its summer release slot
In the end credits the CGI monsters are credited as themselves, and there is a touching In Memoriam to a couple of the actors who brought the titular character to life in previous films. “King of The Monsters” doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it takes the history seriously and tries earnestly to honor it.
If the idea of giant creatures leveling cities and engaging in fisticuffs with little to no regard for thousands of human lives sounds like a fun way to spend a couple of hours to you, then you won’t be disappointed. Long live the king.
“Godzilla: King of The Monsters” hits theaters on Friday.