The world has been introduced to towering creatures like Godzilla and King Kong, but now there’s other monsters emerging from underground to reclaim the Earth. However the one to challenge the radioactive alpha to rule over the giants is the three-headed lightning dragon, King Ghidorah. There’s also a bunch of humans on the side, but is that really the meat of a Godzilla story?
In its 65 year lifespan, Godzilla has mostly stayed in Japan only going overseas on very few occasions when America screwed up the property as evident by the Hanna-Barbera cartoon and the 90’s Roland Emmerich disaster.
The 2014 reboot brought respect to how the U.S. could handle a Japanese property, but even then it had its detractors who wished to see the main star unclouded by blankets of fog and smoke. This sequel sets out to appease those complaints, but not without some heavier baggage.
Obviously the weakest part of the rumble fest are the humans and that can be argued for people who want to have emotional attachment to this story. But that’s par for the course in every Godzilla movie at this point. Not to mention the 2014 film broke its promise to have Walter White himself, Bryan Cranston, go toe to toe with the beast only to be killed off 30 minutes in and replaced with Aaron Taylor Johnson. So it’s a pick your poison scenario. Do you take the size and scope that Gareth Edwards understood? Or do you take the bigger focus on the monsters?
The thing is there’s a potentially gripping drama hiding behind the human storyline that could break away from all the destruction. The acting from people like Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, and Charles Dance elevates the material far beyond it’s paygrade. Even the villain’s intentions that eerily mirrors a more infamous purple titan also keeps to the spirit of the franchise in humans suffering the consequences of their actions. But because it’s in a Godzilla story it’s boxed into the annoying modern monster movie trope of not committing to being either a serious insight on a broken family, or a giant wrestlemania popcorn flick. Taking away big names like Ken Watanabe, there’s a lot more humans not to care about with plot armor as thick as steel. If you thought the final season to Game of Thrones had too much of that for the main characters, this doubles down with A-Listers surviving attacks that eliminate extras in the blink of an eye. The material is taken so seriously for people that are essentially supposed to be robots giving exposition when the visual effects should speak for themselves. At the very least, Aaron Taylor-Johnson didn’t clone himself during his cross-country military trip. Did I also mention the constantly flip-flopping science fiction? It’s one thing to take the story seriously, but to change the set rules of survival every minute is a headache in itself.
But if you’re here for the monster battles, how do they measure up? There’s a ton more this time around and they’re not completely shrouded behind the environment. And when they do pop up, they’re some of the best scenes to treasure while they last. But some of the staging can be really clunky because it can’t cram Godzilla and Ghidorah in one shot when Garreth Edwards could visibly fit all three behemoths even when behind clouds of dust. There’s a great opportunity to see two monsters fighting underwater, but because the camera is so close you can count the individual scales, it doesn’t allow the scope and size to satisfyingly play its part in what feels like an aquatic closet. Other than that, place your bets on who will come out on top because the five year wait for these animal overlords was worth it thanks to some of the best visual effects of 2019.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters delivers exactly what people wanted in the first movie, all be it in a flawed execution. There’s plenty of Kaiju battles to go around, but you have to sit through more pointless humans that should’ve been kept in their own feature given how much they try to elevate what little they can serve other than mundane spectator comments. Which leaves this and its prequel at odds with each other for accomplishing what the other failed to live up to. The thing is it’s hard to appease all the Godzilla fans because there are two different groups: those who want the social commentary of a force of nature combating nuclear fallout, and those who want the monsters to duke it out for Earth dominance. For better or worse it’s another Godzilla movie, and just like the trailer said: This is Godzilla’s world. We just live in it. And said world should not wait to be shrunken down to our level in order to experience this clash of the titans.