Godzilla: King Of Monsters — More Monsters, Worse Characters
Trick ‘r Treat and Krampus writer/director Michael Dougherty follows up Gareth Edwards’ 2014 film with the highly anticipated Godzilla: King of Monsters. The film promises spectacular kaiju action and loads of carnage, but are dazzling special effects any match for a compelling story?
The crypto-zoological agency Monarch faces off against a battery of god-sized monsters, including the mighty Godzilla, who collides with franchise familiars Mothra, Rodan, and the three-headed King Ghidorah.
It seems that everyone wants a little something different from a kaiju film, making it nearly impossible to please everyone, but there are two essential camps: those who don’t want humans interfering with their giant monster battles and citywide destruction, and those who believe that some kind of simple, yet compelling human story is necessary. We happen to fall in the latter category, and we don’t think that a feature length film full of only monster fights is enough to maintain impetus — just watch Godzilla vs. Megaguirus if you don’t believe us.
Love it or hate it (for what it’s worth, we like it), Gareth Edwards’ film was fairly criticized for incorporating a heavy human component, skimping on the monster action in favor of suspense and tension, and killing off Bryan Cranston too soon (a definite cardinal sin). With the franchise’s latest installment, Dougherty picks up shortly after the previous film concluded, and he seeks to deliver on the promise of more monsters; however, for all its action, its human characters find a way to get in the way at nearly every turn.
Screen time-wise, the film finds a nice balance between the human-driven exposition (which there’s a lot of) and giant monster fueled mayhem, but it definitely suffers from flimsy characters and an undercooked story that can’t match the weight of its colossal counterpart. What should be a shoestring plot to hang epic monster fights on is overcomplicated by a narrative that tries to do too much.
The characters are some more paper-thin and stock than the previous film, and King of Monsters goes to great lengths to tack on an unneeded human bad guy and a few unnecessary characters turns, which either come out of left field or don’t make sense given the character — Ken Watanabe is the exception; his character is the only one that has any semblance of a meaningful arc. The story is further weighed down by the family drama at its core, which isn’t explored in any compelling way, and several characters (mainly Bradley Whitford and Thomas Middleditch) who try a little too hard to deliver dad-joke comedic relief.
Of course, the giant monster fights help to assuage the film’s narrative failings; Dougherty solidly delivers on that front. He really unshackles the chains and lets the monsters run amok, giving the audience a meaty monster battle in each one of the film’s three acts, culminating in a badass showdown. The special effects are breathtaking and include some welcome enhancements to Godzilla’s overall design. The new kaijus, which will give fans some quality service, are expertly sketched, detailed, and rendered, and while the effects team does all it can to make the film a visual feast, it all gets undercut at the knees by its weak storytelling and lame characters.
Overall, Godzilla: King of Monsters offers quality action and stellar creature design, but no amount of CGI spectacle can make up for what it lacks narratively. It’s a decent enough blockbuster, but it only provides momentary thrills and doesn’t possess the staying power to make it a franchise staple.
Recommendation: Who doesn’t like giant monsters fighting?! Of course you should see this, just don’t expect anything more than “OK.”
Rating: 3 giant monster showdowns outta 5.
What do you think? Did the monsters override the human element for you? Is King of Monsters better than 2014’s Godzilla? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!