Godzilla: King of the Monsters
My biggest surprise of Warner Bros. MonsterVerse is how they keep getting such spectacular casts. Godzilla (2014) featured masterclass actors like Bryan Crantson, Juliette Binoche, and Sally Hawkins, Kong: Skull Island (2017) gathered the likes of Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, and Brie Larson, and the latest Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) has arrayed the talents of Kyle Chandler, Millie Bobby Brown, and Vera Farmiga. Unfortunately, no matter how much talent the studio throws up on screen, this franchise finds it very hard to keep taut.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a direct sequel to its 2014 predecessor, but the third film in Warner Bros. MonsterVerse, that includes the newest King Kong. The giant ape doesn’t feature here, however, instead focusing on the Japanese lizard. After losing a child in Godzilla’s first attack in San Francisco (seen in the first film) Mark (Kyle Chandler) has become estranged from his wife Dr. Emma (Vera Farmiga) and his daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown). However, when the latter two are kidnapped by an eco-terrorist (Charles Dance) with intents to wake up other Godzilla-like titans, Mark is enlisted by the governmental organization Monarch, which is tasked with controlling (or attempting to) these creatures.
There seemed to be an initial effort to have this film more grounded in realism and seeing the actual stakes and destruction that big monster fights can bring about. This seemed to be a very introspective turn by this franchise, but unfortunately this choice only complicated matters. Director Michael Dougherty couldn’t decide what tone he wanted to strike, and whether to follow a route of realism or simple monster fun. This is the difference between blockbusters like the Russo brothers’ Captain America films and franchises like Fast & Furious; both have chosen a clear perspective and dive fully into it. Dougherty’s indecision has both tonal aspects contradicting each other.
The result is a film with so many inaccuracies accrued (biologically, physically, chemically, logistically) within its supposedly serious façade, that frustration begins to settle into viewers. There are also blatant clichés that the film falls into that I thought blockbusters had moved away from, such as token minority characters, Americans coming to save and explode foreign nations, and an underlying and subtle racism. If one were to brush these aspects aside, there is still a weird hybrid between a modern Zack Snyder movie and a 90s blockbuster; this is exemplified with the unnecessary comical relief incarnated by Thomas Middleditch and Bradley Whitford, and yet the gritty atmosphere created with Chandler and Ken Watanabe. Unfortunately, Kyle Chandler is left alone to be our main lead, and he isn’t able to spin much life from the tepid dialogue; it seemed instead that after a few scenes he had given up and was hoping to cash his check and get out of there. The film is so overstuffed with characters and actors that none of the supporting cast gets to shine, in fact by the time each character gets to say a following line you’ve forgotten they were in the film at all.
There is much more monster action than in the previous films of this franchise, but unfortunately even this aspect wasn’t executed properly. The action sequences are bland and uncreative, and moments of tension are so badly directed and edited that you can count down accurately to the second when Godzilla comes to save our heroes at the last second. So unimaginative and unrealistic are the stakes in the final showdown, that there were people leaving my theater (wasn’t this the whole point for buying a ticket to this film?).
If one cannot deliver on the monster action, which is Godzilla’s main reason of existence, then there isn’t much of a point in experiencing such a film. The counterpart to the effects-heavy portion of Godzilla: King of the Monsters is watered down by an overstuffed cast that is incapable of breathing life into an abhorrent and ignorant script. It seems that the next film in the franchise is to be Godzilla vs. King Kong, however, I have already lost any faith in this series.