Godzilla: King of the Monsters carries on Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures‘ MonsterVerse with this latest entry. The film looks spectacular, but the story and the characters are not as spectacular.
And yet I’m going to give Warner Bros. credit where credit is due.
They’ve learned from their past mistakes (DCEU, I’m looking at you.) They are not rushing headstrong into Legendary Pictures’ MonsterVerse. Instead, what began with the 2014 Godzilla, continued with 2017’s Kong: Skull Island, now picks up with Michael Dougherty’s (Krampus, Trick r’ Treat) Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
In fact, Legendary’s conservative approach to giving us entries in the series every two to three years might actually have worked against them in this, the latest Godzilla film to grace the silver screen and shake your theater’s subwoofers to their very foundation.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a popcorn flick. Every dollar of the $200 million budget is up there on the screen. To see Godzilla battle King Ghidorah in IMAX is the reason why theaters still exist. Yes, sure, you could probably say the same thing about Avengers: Endgame from last month and you wouldn’t be wrong. Both stories rely very heavily on technology to move our human characters across the globe.
The difference is that the story by Max Borenstein, Dougherty and Zach Shields, screenplay by Dougherty and Shields, over-relies on the technology to tell the story, rendering the humans that populate the film, moot. That’s not to say that there aren’t character moments between Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) an animal behavior and communication specialist, his wife, Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) a paleobiologist and their daughter, Madison (Mille Bobby Brown).
They survived Godzilla’s attack on San Francisco in 2014 (a flashback to the first film), but not without cost. This has driven Mark and Emma apart and stressed their relationship with Madison. Emma has perfected a sonic device which could spell certain doom for the human race.
That is until Godzilla comes along.
That’s the interesting thing about Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Much like Aliens, we think we can control or contain a situation. In a tip of the hat to Jurassic Park and Jaws 3, we learn that we cannot.
Much like our titular character and his nemesis, that’s where the film’s troubles, and its saving grace collide. The story is much more interested in the look and feel of Godzilla, and the breadth of his beastly brawls that level cities then it is about the people that these events should be focusing on. Even through the tragedy that sets up Mark, Emma, and Madison, our sympathies are not with them. Either the screenwriters never realized that or they couldn’t balance the two aspects.
To divert our attention away from the razor thin story is Dr. Ishiro Senzawa (Ken Watanabe) who returns from Godzilla (2014). The way his character is developed here lends a credibility to what we’re seeing on the screen. Bradley Whitford provides a nice bit of comic relief as Dr. Stanton, but that relief wore out by the end of the second act. Zhang Ziyi plays Dr. Ilene Chen, Dr. Senzawa’s counterpart, and helps us to keep a steady pace through the technobabble.
As Colonel Alan Jonah, Charles Dance is magnetic. Though very little is revealed about the character, much to our dismay, his performance leaves the impression that he is a very sinister fella. O’Shea Jackson and Anthony Ramos play two members of the G-Team, the military officers who support the mission, and the camera dotes on both of them as if they were key figures.
With all of this in mind, Godzilla: King of the Monsters really is a summer popcorn flick. There was a moment where Godzilla went after one of his foes and I just grabbed my bag of popcorn and diet Dr. Pepper and just went along for the ride, forgetting about the trappings that make this disaster flick a disaster.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is rated PG-13 and is in theaters on May 31st. All images courtesy of Warner Bros. Also, check out our current Godzilla Giveaway, where you could win one of three KING-sized prize packs.