In 2014, Godzilla returned to cinemas with a film that garnered generally favourable reviews. The one overriding criticism being that we did not see enough of Godzilla himself, hidden away for the most part until the films brawling finale. Skip forward five years and Godzilla: King of the Monsters allays any doubts about how much of Godzilla we will see this time round, by turning the volume up to 11 and providing more damage to world landmarks than a Roland Emmerich film on acid.
It’s been five years since Godzilla became the earth’s saviour, even if he did help level San Francisco in the process. In that time Monarch (read SHIELD) have attempted to capture and study the monsters that are hidden under the earths surface. Their objective being to assess which monsters pose a threat to us, and which are here to protect us. All has gone well until one of their research facilities is attacked by an eco-terrorist cell in search of a device known as the Orca. The Orca, developed by Vera Farmiga’s scientist after the battle of San Francisco, is able to communicate with the titans, as they are now called, and would prove deadly in the wrong hands.
Much like Kong: Skull Island – another film in this odd shared universe titled the Monsterverse – King of the Monsters has gone for brawn over brains, and aims to provide the ultimate in giant monster smackdowns. It’s not necessarily a brave move, but one that does move away from the more measured approach of Gareth Edwards 2014 effort. Tonally the shift is huge, but when your film is called Godzilla: King of the Monsters you have to raise the spectacle, and raise it they have.
In doing that, director Michael Dougherty has, intentionally or not, sacrificed story, plot, characterisation and general storytelling techniques in favour of set-pieces that make Man of Steel’s finale look like a late-night fight in a kebab shop. In a strange manoeuvre, the film adds several new and some returning human characters who add little to the main event taking place. Their inclusion only hinders the film and it’s sad to see the likes of Kyle Chandler, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, Ken Watanabe and Zhang Ziyi reduced to weak supporting roles spouting ludicrous dialogue that would be a lot more fun if they were a little more aware of how inane it all sounded.
Fortunately, the trio of Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown and Bradley Whitford do their best to save us from the unintelligent script. Farmiga is game and throws herself into the role of a scientist who lost her son during 2014’s battle of San Francisco and who has since become estranged from her husband Chandler and daughter Brown. Likewise, Brown appears unhindered by the script or plot and puts in an admirable performance that shows maturity beyond her years. While Bradley Whitford’s crypto-sonographer, whatever that actually means, takes the heat out of the drama with his eccentric and passionate performance as a man who has clearly taken to drink in order to deal with the way the world has gone.
With all this, it’s stating the obvious to say that audiences are not coming to a film called King of the Monsters to see nuanced storytelling. No, what we want is to see giant monsters kicking seven shades out of each other. And on that front, the film truly delivers. With the introduction of several of Godzilla’s nemesis’ such as Rodan, Mothra and Ghidorah the film is not short of monsters to throw-down with. As cities tumble and the cast look ever more terrified, the film saves itself with some truly striking visuals. Watching Godzilla battle creatures of similar and larger sizes is a spectacle you can never get bored of, even if some scenes do their best to blur out the combat that is playing out on the screen.
While it is big and certainly not clever, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a film that achieves what it sets out to do. And that is provide an almighty smackdown between some of cinemas most iconic beasts. Sure, it’s dumb and has far too much going on for a film of this nature. But you can’t help but applaud a film that so clearly goes out of its way to be nothing more than sheer popcorn entertainment.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is out now on DVD, Blu-ray and digital download.