Humans are the real monsters (Godzilla: King of the Monsters review)

2014’s Godzilla is a film I remember very fondly. Even upon rewatch, I love Gareth Edward’s adaptation of the classic Japanese character, and think it subverts enough expectation while providing an entertaining popcorn flick. This sequel to it, as well as the third film in the Legendary MonsterVerse (following Kong: Skull Island), unfortunately loses a lot of the class the first one had, and it ultimately makes for a far more boring, by the numbers film.

The first Godzilla film is notable for not including Godzilla for the first hour. There were rumours of his might, hints of his power, but none of it was revealed until halfway through his own movie. That, coupled with a key visual flair, incredible sound design and an amazing score by Alexandre Desplat, made the film a standout smart blockbuster hit. Godzilla: King of The Monsters is a far simpler affair that tries to copy the best moments of the first film, but doesn’t often manage to succeed.

In the film, humans must rely on Godzilla to save the world after King Ghidora (the Three-Headed Monster) begins awakening other Titans to wreak havoc across the globe. That’s all the story is, but the film insists that there must be over 15 main characters, each with their own narrative, motivation and dull exposition. The human scenes are staggeringly dull to watch for the majority of the movie, and even though there are fantastic actors performing in them, the dialogue is, for the most part, dreadful.

Key cast members include Kyle Chandler (last seen in First Man) and Vera Farmiga (Source Code) as a husband and wife who were torn apart in 2014 by the events of the Godzilla. The two have co-created a device that can allow humans to talk to the Titans but her vision of events is different to how he sees the device being used. Their daughter Madison (played by Stranger Things’ Millie Bobbie Brown) is also struggling to understand events, and is not used nearly enough as she carries most of the films emotional weight. THEN, we have Bradley Whitford as an alcoholic crypto-sonographer, Sally Hawkins as a Monarch Official, CHARLES DANCE(!) as the films totally underdeveloped and forgettable villain, Thomas Middleditch as the seriously annoying quip deliverer, Aisha Hinds, O’Shea Jackson Jr. and David Strathairn as characters I genuinely forgot about, and the wonderful Ken Watanabe delivering lines that, no word of a lie, said Godzilla about 20 times.

Of course, having lots of characters isn’t always an issue. Kong: Skull Island also had lots of characters. The difference there, though, was that some of them died, and the film wasn’t afraid to kill them off quickly, no matter how big the celebrity playing them was. This film, not wanting to spoil things, does not, and despite the HUGE amount of destruction, far too many of the characters live which means the stakes are never that exciting.

Though the human characters are doing their thing for much of the slow movie, at least the Monster parts that everyone goes for are exciting to watch. The design of the monsters is great, and though the CGI is slightly patchy in places, it is still commendable for the sheer amount of work that must have gone into the visuals of the movie. Visually however, the flair is lacking from the original. Almost all the film takes place at night in the rain, and that means a lot of the big Monster moments happen in the dark, while it’s raining, and this makes the whole film have a slight grey dullness for a lot of the fights. Thankfully, the dark dullness does then highlight the light flashes and electricity pulses the Titans use while fighting, and these are always exciting to see.

The sound design of the creatures is again something the film did stunningly well, and all of the Titans have their own sonic sound, utilising the whole soundscape from deep bass rumbles to high-pitched whining. Similarly, the musical score by Bear McCreary is great fun, with pounding brass and rock guitars echoing Desplat’s score for the first film while offering something new.

Overall, the film is long and boring but does offer some visual treats. It’s a shame the story wasn’t stronger, and the 15 characters could have been more likeable and far less boring. With Godzilla VS Kong still due to arrive in March 2020, only time will tell whether they can keen this franchise going for another film, as this outing almost killed it (not in a good way).

5 stars 2

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