Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Review by Rich Cline | 1.5/5

Godzilla: King of the Monsters
dir Michael Dougherty
scr Michael Dougherty, Zach Shields
prd Alex Garcia, Jon Jashni, Mary Parent, Brian Rogers, Thomas Tull
with Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Ken Watanabe, Ziyi Zhang, Bradley Whitford, Charles Dance, Sally Hawkins, Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds, O'Shea Jackson Jr, David Strathairn
release US/UK 31.May.19
19/US Warners 2h11

chandler watanabe sw
See also:
Kong: Skull Island (2017) Godzilla vs Kong (2021)

dance, brown, farmiga
There are fundamental problems with the script, direction and editing of this blockbuster epic, each of which prevent the story from grabbing hold of the audience. Jarringly choppy, under-developed and relentlessly cliched, the material underserves its fine cast of actors and never creates anything terribly meaningful from its titanic line-up of creatures. It's also so visually murky that the movie never quite generates the needed "wow" factor.
Years after their encounter with Godzilla, the Russell family is broken. Mark (Chandler) is shooting wilderness photos, while his scientist ex-wife Emma (Farmiga) secretly continues their project to communicate with the behemoths. And their feisty teen daughter Maddie (Brown) is trying to work out whose side she's on. Then eco-terrorist Jonah (Dance) starts awakening more of the titans, while a team led by scientists Sherizawa and Graham (Watanabe and Hawkins) chases them down. And when a cataclysmic three-headed dragon emerges to unite the beasts against mankind, they're going to need Godzilla's help to stop it.
It's frustrating that, after Gareth Edwards' humane and involving 2014 reboot, director-cowriter Dougherty sends the franchise in such a vacuous direction. The trite script never builds momentum, throwing inane plot points into an overcrowded mix of characters as they face an eerily bland threat that's obscured by lashings of rain. The vague thematic kicks come in corny pronouncements: "They're not monsters; they're animals rising to reclaim a world that was once theirs" or "Titans are earth's defence against the virus of humanity." Maddie is the only person with a hint of moral complexity.

This means that Brown is by far the most interesting actor on-screen. The other memorable figure is Whitford's sardonic scientist, dropping witty lines into each scene ("Oh my god!" "Zilla!"). Everyone else is bogged down by a script recycled from 1970s disaster movies. The actors are good enough to bring scenes to occasional life, but there isn't a character arc the audience can identify with. And a flurry of random cameos muddy the waters.

The biggest problem is that Dougherty gets a grip on the monsters themselves, straining to create bare-basic connections between them that never resonate (Godzilla loves Mothra?). This is partly because the audience isn't offered a clear view through the mist, ice, water and smoke. But it's also because the film is written and directed in such a blunt style, relying on under-explained spectacle instead of bringing the viewer into the story.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 4.Jun.19

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© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall