Godzilla: King of the Monsters
When Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla first showed up on our screen back in 2014, it was met with a rather lukewarm response. There’s a lot to enjoy in the first film; Bryan Cranston’s performance, a spectacular HALO jump sequence and the sound of Godzilla’s roar echoing throughout the room left indelible impressions, but unfortunately, so did the negatives. A lack of the monster was felt and our emotional connections (i.e. human characters) were so paper-thin you could see right through them, Cranston having been dispatched during the first third of the film.
It seems as though Warner Bros. has decided to up the ante. Premiering ahead of next year’s Godzilla vs. Kong (yes, this is another cinematic universe), Godzilla: King of the Monsters not only has the return of the titular beast, but also many, many of his friends, whilst human characters are piled on top like a Jenga tower threatening to tumble under the strain of a quite frankly terribly written script.
It's been five years in this world since Godzilla made his first appearance, and he hasn’t been seen since. Dr. Emma Russell (Farmiga), lives with her daughter, Madison (Bobby Brown) at facility owned by super-organisation Monarch. When the Orca is created, by both Emma and her estranged husband Mark (Chandler), its frequencies are used to wake up various monster Titans, threatening their world, with only Godzilla to save them.
It’s clumsy at best. With around fifteen new characters, each with the primary function of expositing plot points; at various moments throughout the film’s duration, scientists will explain to another scientist exactly what they mean with their technical jargon, a lazy method of keeping the audience on track. Military men are there as cannon fodder, and to shoot at things when they’re not meant to, creating more destruction for our supposed heroes. It’s possible that this film has cinema’s largest collection of completely useless characters whose intentions are never quite clear.
The performances are not there either. Chandler in particular struggles with a worrying hero type, there to tell everyone else what to do, despite the fact that he in no way in charge in the first place, whilst Bobby Brown is burdened with the job of having to go from set piece to set piece with wide eyes - as one of the best young actors working today, she is completely and utterly wasted. Bradley Whitford is added as comic relief, and, although far from actually funny, his energy carries through the film – he looks like he’s having a speck of fun in an otherwise sulky movie.
The monsters of the movie fare little better. We do see more of Godzilla, however, we also see about four other monsters, far too many for any one film to handle. The action between the creatures is a CGI clusterfuck, the level of destruction rivalling that of, say, Man of Steel, with monsters slamming into each other being the cinematic equivalent of a toddler smashing their toys together – it is all loud noises and no finesse. 2014’s outing may have held onto Godzilla off our screen for too long, but it’s fight sequences were clear, with some truly fist-pumping moments (his tale lighting up to breath atomic fire for the first time still gives me goosebumps). There is no such luck here, nerves being dulled by the constant walloping of its computer generated characters.
Not only does the action leave much to be desired, but the entire film is visually murky; at many points you may have to squint to see just exactly what is going on. It doesn’t help that most of the film takes place at night, in a storm or in an underwater cavern (!), but the cinematography is blurred and imprecise, making it one of the less visually interesting films in this universe. One only needs to compare with 2017’s Kong: Skull Island, a film with many faults but beautifully shot.
Quite possibly one of the most generic, lifeless films to be release this year Godzilla: King of the Monsters fails to deliver on every level. As the film closes, on a final shot that perhaps goes against everything we understand about Godzilla as a character, the heart sinks, as you come to realise that the filmmakers have forgotten the one thing that makes a monster movie work so well – less is definitely more.