Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)
Director: Michael Dougherty
Cast: Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown
Synopsis: The crypto-zoological agency Monarch faces off against a battery of god-sized monsters, including the mighty Godzilla, who collides with Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of monster action violence and destruction, and for some language)
Runtime: 2 hr 12 min
Release Date: May 31, 2019
It's been five years since the iconic ancient Japanese monster Godzilla was on the big screen--and this time he's at war, fearlessly battling other titans to reclaim his place on top of the mythical throne as king of the monsters. Godzilla: King of the Monsters continues his story as the agency Monarch tasked with monitoring these ancient beings faces their own battle with a terrorist group determined to return Earth to its "purified" state.
When Godzilla (Gareth Edwards, 2014) was released, some criticized the film for not allotting enough screen time to the title character, as there was more narrative focus on the human characters than the creatures. I still enjoyed that film, for as much as I loved watching Godzilla battle other monsters, the freedom to breathe with live action characters for significant periods made the monster action that much more potent and engaging when it did occur on screen.
With the newest installment, director Michael Dougherty fully caters to the pleas of the disappointed audience of the previous film. Aside from a fairly low-key first act dedicated to setting up our human characters, King of the Monsters is chalked full of monster on monster mayhem--buildings and entire cities are leveled and to say there's mass destruction would be an understatement. By the third act, the action is almost constant, with no room for audiences to breathe as they take in full CGI monster battles. Now, for the selected audience who loves this kind of continuous, loud, mind-numbing action, the film delivers in spectacular fashion. But for others such as myself who enjoyed the more sparse but also more engaging action from the predecessor, you'll be let down. It's a personal preference, really, but action--especially full CGI action like we have here--is always more entertaining if you don't overstay your welcome. And King of the Monsters overstays a lot. All of that said, this is easily the most visually beautiful Godzilla movie made to date--with some truly stunning aerial shots featuring beaming lighting bolts and illuminated clouds--with some imagery like the volcano shot with the cross in the foreground already looking iconic. Even the sound design--something that can easily be forgotten about--is strong here--as each monster has its own "voice" and is distinctive amongst the others, making for more entertaining action sequences.
No one comes into a Godzilla film for the human characters, but it's still nice when we get something to work with, and we don't get much here. Vera Farmiga plays Emma Russell, a woman working for Monarch, with Stranger Things' Millie Bobby Brown playing her daughter Madison. Both actors give strong performances, particularly Millie Bobby Brown, who proves she can more than hold her own in a large budget monster film. While, as mentioned earlier, we get a little bit of depth to these characters in the first act, there's little the actors have to work with, and although the film does manage to draw some emotion by the film's end, the lack of involvement that came before hampers these characters.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters delivers the non-stop, epic monster action spectacle some audiences were craving for in the first film, but it comes at the expense of an engaging narrative or characters. And while it's certainly the most visually flavorful of the long-running franchise, visuals are still always more powerful when they're backed up with a strong narrative, which sadly the film is lacking. King of the Monsters will satisfy some fans, but others will leave feeling thoroughly exhausted.
Written by Anthony Watkins, June 14, 2019