Imagine, as a monster-film fan, hearing that some of the biggest names in the genre are going to combine into one epic movie to crown the true king of the monsters. Imagine hearing legendary names like Godzilla, Rhodan, King Ghidorah and Mothra, knowing that each of these giants have starred in multiple movies and each can hold their own. And imagine knowing what each of the behemoths can do when facing off against one another. And you have just imagined the fanboy dream of a truly amazing, mega-beast film.
So, why does Godzilla: King of the Monsters miss the mark?
In the new film, writer/director Michael Dougherty (Trick ‘r Treat, Krampus) tried to hit a home run. Godzilla: King of the Monsters‘ plot revolves around Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) and her daughter, Madison (Millie Bobby Brown), being kidnapped by a former British MI6 agent turned eco-terrorist, Alan Jonah. Emma had developed a prototype device called The Orca that can be used to communicate with Titans, gigantic god-like monsters that are scattered throughout the world.
Using the device, Jonah and Emma unleash Mothra, Rhodan and Ghidorah onto the world in hopes that the extinction event will save the world from the scourge of mankind. The government and a scientific research firm called Monarch enlists the help of Emma’s estranged husband, Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler), to help track down Jonah and stop his plan and the Titan’s destruction of mankind. Knowing they are overpowered by the giants, the team also seeks out Godzilla, hoping that the lizard will be able to win against the odds.
If you are looking for a monster-mania style film, where gigantic beasts of legend duke it out, then this is your movie. You will get plenty of action from the battles between the Titans. However, the film blows its load a little too early in the film, pitting Ghidorah against Godzilla several times in the film. So, when the climactic battle begins, it kinda feels like it’s already been done before. The fighting is good, and there is a lot of it (unlike the 2014 Godzilla film, which seemed very lax on monster fights). I just feel like it was maybe too much.
Still, I found myself picturing Godzilla marching in battle as if I was watching Wrestlemania. You can picture Ghidorah as Andre the Giant, towering over the city, wrecking destruction. Then, suddenly, “Real American” from Derringer blares over the speaker system. The crowd goes wild as Godzilla comes walking to the ring, flanked by America’s best military troops, a look in his eye letting you now that he was here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and he is all out of bubblegum. It truly was an epic moment.
Between monster battles, the storylines surrounding the Russell family, the Monarch researchers and the military crew around them just didn’t work for me. The plight that Mark found himself in (searching for his wife and daughter, trying to stop the use of a device he helped create and an inner bias against Godzilla) felt real and somewhat relatable. However, I do have to call out this character. He was too perfect. He had all the right answers. He made all the correct decisions. And he always approached the situation with a type of superhuman focus that just seemed out of place. The character could not make a wrong move, no matter what was going on. And others in the team just followed his lead, no real questions asked. While monster battled monster, Mark faced really no human opposition the entire film. It just made it hard to get emotionally attached to any of the other characters. They felt just like minions around him.
Visually, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is stunning. Unlike other giant monster movies, the battles are easy to follow. You can actually tell who is winning and losing without having to pause it frame by frame (my chief gripe with the Transformers films). Most fights take place in rain or the ocean, but it’s still one of the best special-effects films I have seen in a long time (that didn’t come out of the house of Marvel). Multiple companies had their hands in this film, and they all should be commended for their amazing work.
As much as it pains me, I have to give Godzilla: King of the Monsters three out of five stars. Large monsters battling each other should be a slam dunk. But with too many monsters, the whole thing got diluted to the point that the climatic battle just didn’t feel all that climatic. It suffered from the same problems of Justice League. Too many stories to tell and not enough time to tell it. But I feel with even more time, this movie would have just gotten more and more stale, ultimately putting audiences to sleep with “too much of a good thing” syndrome. For those reasons, this film may crown a “king of the monsters,” but it misses the mark at being “king of the summer movies.”