Godzilla: King of the Monsters
The summer of sequels is in full effect. It’s been that way for a long time now, but more than ever they’re being pumped out faster than we know what to do with. On the backs of proven IP with a built-in audience, productions are being green lit quicker than sometimes they really should.
The summer blockbuster equally has been a staple since the 70’s when Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” took a bite out of the box office that would resonate for decades. “Jaws”, I guess you can consider a giant monster movie. I mean, it is a giant shark wreaking havoc on a small town and its residents must deal with the chaos. It’s cool to see how we would react to circumstances so big it’s hard to imagine. That’s why we eat these high concept films up.
The mastery of “Jaws” is not just the wonder and chaos of the onset production and the final product, but the human characters within the story that we connect to. Chief, Quint and Hooper take a high concept story and ground it, allowing us to connect to them in several ways and show us we can also be our own monsters.
It should be simple at this point. We’ve gotten 46 years of a formula that’s proven to have worked, yet so many studios try and fail, it’s getting harder and harder to tell if it’s on purpose or not. Additionally, this was before the rebirth of the bankable box office star. Not that there haven’t always been movie stars throughout film history but after the breakup of the old Hollywood Studio System and the dying off of big Westerns it wasn’t till the late 70’s, did we get movie stars where name alone could sell a movie even if the monster or action doesn’t necessarily work.
So why didn’t “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” work? The giant monster and the action work, but why can’t we get the human connection to?
5 years after the events in “Godzilla” (2014) several characters we never met rise out of the rubble and aftermath of the decimated City of San Francisco where Godzilla took down 2 other monsters that combined to make a super monster. Godzilla won the battle and our world would never be the same because of it. If only we had known about this impending threat before these attacks. Well, Ken Watanabe sort of tried to let us know, and we should’ve listened. And, just like a bad sci-fi action sequel, a nondescript shadowy agency, Monarch; dedicated to the research and tracking of what are now called Titans have been working in concert with the federal government behind the scenes to chart and capture these creatures giving enough time for another shadowy eco-terrorist group to become fanaticized with dooming the planet that’s in need of a natural correction. Of course, as you may have guessed, Monarch has the device needed to pit theses Titans against one another leading to a giant monster battle royal where Godzilla is earth’s only hope.
Garreth Edwards didn't produce a perfect film back in 2014, but at least compelled us with humans in a disaster movie disguised as a giant monster movie. Michael Dougherty, just relegates this to a straight up disaster movie full of one liners and unmemorable human characters that do more to foul up the narrative and take away from the monsters themselves. Illogically and lazily the plot does nothing to up the ante from the original film. It does lean into the natural order of these Titans which was refreshing. The “Godzilla” I grew up with back in 97’ was a mutated iguana built up over years of radiation nesting in Madison Square Garden and only Matthew Broderick could save the day.
Oh yeah, that Matthew Broderick.
Kyle Chandler is No Matthew Broderick. Then again that’s saying something. He’s got the look and he’s got the chops so why doesn’t he work? Well he’s written as an abandoning father stricken with grief over the loss of his son due to the devastation in San Francisco. He leaves his wife and kid behind to lead a life of solitude where he tracks wolves for a living. When his ex-wife (Vera Farmiga) and daughter (Millie Bobby Brown) get kidnapped he’s called in to help Monarch find Godzilla, the only titan that seems to be on our side (unexplainably) and can combat a threat that’s hidden deep in Antarctica.
Well, I guess not so much hidden, as its always been there. Vera Farmiga’s character and I’m sorry of its off putting. I should be naming these characters, but I’m merely highlighting how uninteresting they are, I cared nothing to remember who they are. She has developed a device while working for Monarch that would allow them to communicate and possibly control the Titans. Sounds like every other giant monster movie. I’ve got no problem with playing the same cards as other films of the genre but if you do, do it differently and try to do it better. The frustrating thing about this, is it doesn’t, and the plot is ridiculous and nonsensical the way in which the world is built. All the mystery gained in 2014 goes out the window as the more we dive in this world the more it doesn’t make sense. It’s been 5 years since San Francisco and what have we done to prevent another San Francisco from happening?
I’ve mentioned before that a bad script can sometimes be saved by great action and even greater characters.
This film was screaming for a Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in the worst way. Shoot, I’ll take a Vin Diesel at this point. There’s no charisma surging in any of the characters on screen. Everyone is reacting, and there’s a whole lot of everyones. I mean, a lot. Ken Watanabe, Eleven, Sally Hawkins, Tywin Lannister, that guy from a bunch of other movies, the dad from “Scandal”, The girl from “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon”, Ice Cube’s son, that Latin guy from “A Star is Born” who strangely reminds me of John Leguizamo, the Verizon, guy, CCH Pounder; see what I mean. More like, “Godzilla: King of the Cast list”. This movie is stuffed with name actors attributing nothing to the plot and SPOILER ALERT almost everyone makes it out alive. Totally goes against disaster movies.
“Godzilla: King of the Plot Armor.”
The twist is frustrating, and the character’s motivations are head scratching.
Half way through the movie I had to check myself. I had to turn off my brain and remember what the audience came for. We wanted sky scraper tall monsters beating the crap out of each other and we get that. The visuals are amazing. Most of the cinematography really compliment the CG and the creature designs are fantastic. Growing up in a household in love with Asian cinema, Kaiju movies and martial arts films, I’ve seen my fair share of Godzilla movies. And, there’s a lot of them. Seeing King Ghidora, Mothra, Rodan and others brought to screen in a stunning way are the highlights of the film. The sound design really is spectacular too. Seeing this in Dolby allowed me to tune out the awful story and characters trying too hard to be interesting and just be engulfed by Godzilla’s roar or Mothra’s scream. KOTM (King of the Monsters) is an experience on a technical level that does allow you to appreciate the amount of work taken to erect this world.
There are eye rolls a plenty here with one of the worst scripts of the year. Even though this film is bloated with so much stuff and so many characters that do nothing to elevate the dialogue or the plot, we have to remember that’s not what you came to “Godzilla: KOTM” for. You came for the monsters and you get that. Dope visuals, you get that too. If you came for sound logic and engaging characters, go and rent “Rampage” with The Rock on VOD. Big dumb summer giant monster movie popcorn spectacle is all you’ll get here; expecting anything else will leave you sorely disappointed.
KOLBYTOLDME RATING- 5/10
Director: Michael Dougherty
Writers: Michael Dougherty, Zach Shields
Starring: Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Ken Watanabe
Run Time: 131 mins