The 2014 American Godzilla was probably a lot better than it perhaps had a right to be, but it did well enough to earn a sequel. And now that sequel is out. Godzilla: King of the Monsters not only brings Godzilla himself back, but also Toho Studios favorites Mothra, Rodan, and Ghidorah.
Now, Ryan hated the new movie. You can see his (spoiler-filled) review, or you can read my rather spoiler-free review below. Or, you could read both. That’s up to you.
Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farminga) is a scientist working for Monarch, the monster-monitoring agency. She and her daughter Maddy (Millie Bobby Brown) are watching over Mothra’s egg with a device that can maybe talk to Titans. Suddenly, the installation is attacked by eco-terrorist Alan Jonah (Charles Dance). He takes both Russells and the device. What is his plan? Whatever it is, it involves the long dormant Ghidorah. Ghidorah, a three-headed dragon, is the one possible rival to Godzilla as Alpha Titan. And Ghidorah isn’t very friendly. Now Monarch, with help from Emma’s ex-husband Mark (Kyle Chandler), has to find the device before the worst can happen.
Bottom line: this movie has problems. Most of them can be seen as typical of many Godzilla movies, both American and Japanese. Those movies often spend more time following uninteresting human characters when audiences clearly came for the giant monsters. Godzilla and company don’t appear as often as the generally forgettable humans. That is certainly the case here. None of the humans are particularly interesting, and many spend most of the movie inside various large vehicles. They spout cliched lines and don’t have much in the way of distinct personalities. What makes it worse is who plays many of these people. Besides Chandler, Farminga, Brown, and Dance, the movie wastes the talents of the likes of O’Shea Jackson Jr, Ken Watanabe, Zhang Ziyi, Thomas Middeditch, Sally Hawkins, Bradley Whitford, CCH Pounder, and Joe Morton.
The other problem is how the monsters appear in the movie. Most of the time, we see Godzilla, Ghidorah, and the like from a distance. Now, director Gareth Edwards in both the previous movie and Rogue One showed talent in making big things beautifully impressive. New series director Michael Dougherty doesn’t have that gift We keep seeing the Titans from a small, human perspective, but unlike with Edwards, here they are just large things tumbling around, hard to follow as they grapple with each other. Many Titan fights seem to happen in the background and stop when human characters stop watching it. Dougherty would rather follow the boring humans. Godzilla and the others seem to be just stuff happening behind them. Had the human characters or their issues been interesting, that might have been fine. But they aren’t, so it isn’t.
Now, there are some somewhat decent kaiju fights, but many of them seem a bit short.
That said, there are some nice things to the movie’s general credit. The CGI monsters actually look pretty good when they aren’t fighting. There are some really nice throwbacks to classic Toho Studios movies. The movie does adapt old Toho mythology to fit this new setting for Godzilla, Mothra, and Ghidorah, and there are some Easter eggs to long time fans. Heck, they even use Godzilla’s and Mothra’s classic theme music and toss in a half-assed environmental message.
I suspect some Godzilla fans will get more of a kick out of this than more casual fans. As for me, I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t see much to really praise about it either. More monsters and less humans would be nice. Then again, I probably could say the same thing about the Transformers franchise, and they haven’t quite learned that lesson yet either. 6.5 out of 10 Kong/Skull Island references.
Yeah, they are clearly setting up a fight with King Kong. Good thing that one is supposed to be out next year. Or not.