Review: Godzilla: King of Monsters Kaiju Shine, but the Human Element Remains Painfully Tedious
3 out 5 Kaiju cries.
Godzilla: King of Monsters is a sequel to 2014’s Godzilla and a franchise continuation of Kong: Skull Island and Legendary’s MonsterVerse. Following the events in Los Angeles five years ago, the government is trying to figure out what to do about Godzilla and other Titans (kaiju), and whether the military would be a better overseer than the organization Monarch. In China, Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) and her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) are part of a group that witnesses the birth of a new incarnation of Mothra at a Monarch research site.
Russell, after the death of her son Andrew in 2014, co-created device called Orca, which would allow Monarch to control the creatures. During Mothra’s awakening, the site is attacked by an eco-terrorist group lead by Colonel Alan Jonah (Charles Dance), who are looking to release all the kaiju so that they can restore balance to nature. He takes Emma and Madison, which leads Monarch to bring in Emma’s ex-husband, and other co-creator of Orca, Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler).
As the kaiju are released, it becomes clear that balance may not happen, and those that would be the alpha must battle it out. So it becomes a battle for dominance between home team Godzilla vs the three-headed King Ghidorah.
Like the previous Godzilla movie from 2014, what makes this movie drag at parts is the emphasis on the human characters. Why these movies think we need some family reunion drama to be grounding as Godzilla fights monsters is beyond me. Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) has always stood out as the person who should have been the lead human in these movies, along with his team, which is made up of Dr. Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins), Sam Coleman (Thomas Middleditch), and Dr. Ilene Chen (Zhang Ziyi). Instead, we get to watch Coach Taylor, Eleven, and Lorraine Warren keep running after each other.
The Russell family drama comes across as tedious and boring in a movie that has some much more interesting stuff going on. Why can’t we just focus on the scientists and mythologist? In fact, the human element is so irrelevant that the terrorist group that started this whole movie off doesn’t even play a role in the last act. Probably because they are going to reoccur in the sequel to this sequel, Godzilla vs. Kong, which is due next year—but it still feels like a forced dynamic to make Emma’s storyline more interesting. Which it doesn’t do because again, her Thanos speech about overpopulation is just redundant at this point.
The other weird thing about this movie and honestly all other Godzilla movies made in the States is just how pro-U.S. military it is. A lot of movies these days are made with military help, but there is something very strange about watching the American military being the people who help Godzilla when Godzilla is a metaphor for the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I wish the film had taken a bit more from Shin Godzilla in that regard and made more of an effort to incorporate additional Japanese characters into the movie besides the one.
I also wish the film didn’t feel the need to put in the clunky humor that it does; I get that this is a “PG-13” movie but it felt cheap when we’re supposed to believe that the person saying it is a respected scientist. Also, it could have done a lot better by Sally Hawkins’ character.
Still, I had a lot of fun watching Godzilla: King of the Monsters: all the kaiju looked great, but especially Queen Mothra, first of her name. Thankfully, unlike the 2014 movie, we get to see much more of the kaiju fighting each other and Godzilla using more of his iconic blue lightning.
King Ghidorah looked amazing, and I appreciated how they had a lot of fun giving the heads personalities of their own. If you are a fan of monster movies, this is one of the best I’ve seen in recent years. It leaves us with a great set up for 2020’s Godzilla vs. Kong, the real election we need to worry about.
(image: Warner Brothers)
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