Despite Gareth Edwards’ gritty, more realistic take on Toho’s Tokyo flattening superstar, some felt that the 2014 Godzilla maybe wasn’t all it could have been. Shot with an intelligent style that visually aped everything from Spielberg’s Jaws and Jurassic Park to real life disasters like Hurricane Katrina, and the Fukushima Nuclear disaster, the common consensus was that for a film titled “Godzilla”, there wasn’t nearly enough Big G. Thinly spread across the film’s run time and teased with a thigh here and a dorsal plate there, the complaint was that way too much focus was given to bland human characters who made far less impact than the 164,000 ton title lizard.
Well, director/writer Michael Dougherty has certainly addressed THAT complaint (and then some) but Godzilla: King Of The Monsters may be a prime case of being careful what you wish for..
Years after Godzilla and a couple of loved-up giant bugs gave San Francisco an apocalyptic remodel and the world is still uneasy about sharing the world with gargantuan titans, especially considering that the monster hunting agency Monarch has located a further 17 creatures all around the globe. As politicians squabble about possibly putting these beasts down, paleobiologist Emma Russell teams up with ecco-terrorist Alan Jonah and puts into action an insane plan to release all the Titans in order to heal the Earth. With her daughter, Madison, in tow, she takes with her the Orca, an invention of her own design and the terrorists head off to the Arctic to release their next target, a huge, three-headed dragon who goes by the nom de plume of King Ghidorah, but Monarch tries to intervene with the help of Emma’s ex-husband Mark. With Ghidorah free, all that’s left is for Godzilla to crash the party with all the decorum of a drunk chimp and throw down with this fellow alpha-Kaiju for the fate of the Earth; but while these two continue their epic scraps, it becomes apparent that Ghidorah is making a play for the world title of King Of The Monsters and if he gets it, the worlds monsters will all be as destructive as he is. As the humans scramble to find a way to give Godzilla the edge he needs, Madison, finally realising that her mum might be two fish short of an aquarium, swipes the Orca and tries to make things right again.
As Boston prepares itself to host the largest tag-team match up the world have ever seen, Ghidorah, and fire-bird Rodan prepare to lock up with Godzilla and his insectoid bit-on-the-side Mothra with the ownership of entire Earth up for grabs. Who will win and what will be left of us…?
A veteran of monster movies thanks to his incredibly entertaining duo of seasonal horror flicks Trick R Treat and Krampus, Dougherty has turned in the most monstery American monster movie probably ever made with a grab-bag of classic Toho characters that include supersonic pterodactyl Rodan, ethereal, insect earth mother Mothra and triple-threat, devil-dragon King Ghidorah. This film is purest Godzilla through and through and spares no expense to tap you on the shoulder to remind you that THIS IS A GODZILLA FILM, and yet despite the huge amounts of easter eggs, call-backs and even a remix of Blue Oyster Cult’s “Godzilla” boasting over the end credits, you can’t help but feel that everyone’s trying way too hard. This super-sized monster brawl insists on beating you about the senses with massive action (that’s curiously always partially obscured by computer generated storms) until you stagger from the cinema suffering a close aproximation of concussion.
While it never reaches the patience searing levels of, say, the fifth Transformers movie, or the IQ crushing stupidity of the G.I. Joe franchise, it’s safe to say that G:KOTM isn’t exactly art, but then I guess it depends on what you want to get from it.
If you were to consider this simply ahuge Hollywood version of the kind of pulpy, sci-fi plots Toho churned out year in, year out during the 60’s, it’s honestly fair to say that the movie is – technically – a success, with a clutch of interchangeable humans scampering around reacting to and sometimes affecting the vast devastation these massive animals cause simply by flexing a tail muscle. The plot is purest bollocks and Vera Farmiga and Millie Bobby Brown do what they can to beath as much life as possible into stock roles; similarly Charles Dance simply glares at everyone while striving to be the most sarcastic eco-terrorist who ever lived. Estranged husband Kyle Chandler (who has previously tangled with giant CGI wildlife in Peter Jackson’s King Kong) mainly stomps around telling at everyone atsecret organisation Monarch (somehow wielding a budget that makes S.H.I.E.L.D. look like a half-assed neighbourhood watch) that he told them so whilst finding himself in the midst of a power stuggle between a couple of super-alpha predators whose aggressive dick measuring could destroy the world.
Bottom line, the human stuff is the kind clumsy garbage you’d get in a shoddy 90’s blockbuster and a large clutch of very decent actors get to do nothing but stare horrified at screens and explain the plot out loud to no one in particular. Charismatic performers like O’Shea Jackson Jr. literally have nothing to do and I challenge anyone to remember any of the character’s names once the carnage ends and the credits roll.
So is there anything here that entertains?
That depends on your tolerance of all things CGI and noise (of which I have tons of), and if you can embrace the computer generated insanity there’s actually quite a bit here to love. As a die hard, old school Godzilla fan, having a sizable chunk of his rogues gallery brought up to date is delightful to see; even if Mothra and Rodan are more sidekicks to the main monsters. However, Rodan’s enthusiastic dogfight with a bunch of fighter jets is a movie highpoint and isn’t something Toho could have pulled off even ten years ago. The CGI upgrade works wonders on Godzilla’s nemesis too as having a Ghidorah whose heads aren’t realized by wildly flailing marionettes mean that there’s actually some cool character beats going on between those lightning spitting faces. They snarl, glare and even argue amongst themselves and the insane, gigantic war between them that impressively dominates the finale just about makes everything worth it.
Godzilla: King Of The Monsters is every inch a classic style Godzilla movie, which unhelpfully is simultaneously the main problem AND it’s saving grace which leads to a hugely uneven experience. The astoundingly clunky exposition played a lot better back in the 60’s while being delivered in Japanese than it is here, but just when you think you can’t take any more the film gives you a genuinely emotional blast of Akira Ifukube’s original Godzilla or Mothra theme that gets the blood pumping again.
Not as good as I hoped, yet not as bad as you’ve heard, here’s hoping that the next MonsterVerse entry, the often delayed Godzilla Vs. Kong clears up that pesky issue that seems to trip up every modern monster movie. Those pesky humans.