'Godzilla: King Of The Monsters' Review - Majestic In All The Right Ways
Godzilla: King Of The Monsters is a visually stunning showdown between some of cinema's most iconic Titans and, in spite of a few caveats, it's everything that it should be.
When the debut trailer of Godzilla: King Of The Monsters was released at Comic-Con last year, it got people's attention. Legendary's MonsterVerse was a franchise that was still very much getting off the ground and, following two standalone tales in 2014's Godzilla and 2017's Kong: Skull Island, was primed to flood the big screen with some of the former's most terrifying enemies in its third installment.
Naturally, a monstrous showdown was what we were expecting from Godzilla II, and yet this majestic trailer promised a surprisingly thought-provoking experience. As for whether or not the film successfully capitalises on its attempts to be deeper than it needs to, well, we'll get to that later, but it's definitely at its strongest when it just throws caution to the wind and unleashes its monsters with reckless abandon.
Picking up five years after its predecessor, the Michael Dougherty-directed sequel centres on Madison Russel (Vera Farmiga) who, after creating a device that can communicate with the Titans, is kidnapped by a group of eco-terrorists - led by former army colonel Alan Jonah (Charles Dance). Her daughter Emma (Millie Bobby Brown) is also taken, prompting Monarch to reach out to her estranged husband, Mark (Kyle Chandler).
If you read that synopsis and thought "Whoa, that's a lot of characters!", you wouldn't be wrong - and that's not even including Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins who both reprise their roles from Godzilla as Dr. Serizawa and Dr. Graham respectively. It's true that this prevents the majority of them from being anything other than sounding boards (Hawkins is particularly under-appreciated) but, let's be honest, the monsters were always going to be the real stars of this movie.
Godzilla and his merry band of MUTOs are from a bygone era in which they were very much the be-all and end-all of movie monsters, but now the Hollywood market is so oversaturated with its own monster flicks (and just about every other type of apocalyptic threat imaginable) that it's safe to say that Godzilla: King Of The Monsters had its work cut out for it in the creature-feature department - especially as it had been five whole years since Gareth Edwards kick-started the franchise. And yet, it ensured that when we left the theatre, all we could talk about was these glorious monsters.
Godzilla himself is more awe-inspiring than ever and, whether he's diving into water or stomping through cities, it's impossible not to marvel at his sheer godliness whenever he's on-screen - something that Dougherty's direction complements really well. There is an indefinable majesty about not just him, but all of the Titans, that just sets them apart from anything else in the genre, and it's all thanks to some of the most impressive and convincing CGI to ever make its way into a Hollywood picture - with the final battle sequence being a particular high point (and one that even exceeds Godzilla's admittedly-brilliant final act).
It's hardly surprising that a monster movie's greatest asset is its visuals, but this simply cannot be stated enough: Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a visual masterpiece. Please, if you get the chance, see it on the biggest screen possible - because it is absolutely stunning.
There is no denying that the film's shortcomings tend to show up when it tries to be cleverer than it actually is, with certain characters attempting to educate us on why humanity is the real monster. Though interesting ideas, the execution does leave something to be desired and merely results in said characters sounding less like real people and more like every one-dimensional evil genius ever. And it's writing like this that limits the revered Charles Dance from truly owning his role in the way that we know he's more than capable of doing.
Millie Bobby Brown provides us with glimpses of that brilliance that the Stranger Things star is renowned for, but she only really gets the chance to do so in the second half which, in itself, highlights some of the script's main issues. That, and some rather on-the-nose dialogue, does result in the human storyline standing out as King Of The Monsters' weak link, despite some strong performances from Brown, Farmiga and Watanabe.. That being said, the film does deserve some credit for holding its ground and making these characters tell their own story (unlike that unforgivable bait-and-switch that Godzilla pulled with Bryan Cranston).
It's true that Godzilla: King Of The Monsters falters in familiar territory, but that says more about monster movies in general than it does about Legendary's MonsterVerse. These characters are merely here to add an emotional touch to a narrative that centers on super-charged kaijus so, in that regard at least, they're more than serviceable. Though their characterisation prevents the film from truly succeeding in its attempt to be more than it is, it makes up for it whenever its creatures are the main focus. Godzilla, Ghidorah, Mothra and Rodan radiate (pun very much intended) every time that they're on-screen, ensuring that this long-awaited sequel is the spectacle that it should be.
Of course, this all brings us back to the age old debate of what constitutes a good monster movie. Is it compelling characters and strong narratives, or is it the all-out war between unbeatable creatures that it's advertised to be? And can a good monster flick also be a good movie? The answer is that the two things aren't related, simply because a film could excel in one of those areas while falling short in another - and that's exactly what Godzilla: King Of The Monsters does. Its shortcomings don't make it a bad film, nor do they take away from its strength as a genre piece, so it would be wrong to judge the film against any other criteria than that of which its specific genre requires.
With that in mind, Godzilla: King Of The Monsters is exactly what it needs to be - a super-powered smackdown between the most powerful creatures on the planet as they battle for supremacy. Granted, if you're looking for a story full of conflicted Shakespearean-like characters, then it probably isn't for you, but if you're looking for two-hours of solid entertainment, then you'll undoubtedly love it. As films go, it does have its issues, but as monster movies go, it's nothing short of godly.
Godzilla: King Of The Monsters is in theatres now!
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