Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) works with the Monarch project. She and her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) live near a Monarch facility in China, where an egg of the larval form of Mothra is about to be born. Dr. Russel has designed and built a device called Orca that emits audio signals that can attract, aggravate and placate creatures like Mothra and Godzilla. Monarch has discovered there are nearly 20 Titans scattered around the planet, most of them in hibernation. After Mothra breaks out of its egg, eco-terrorist Alan Jonah (Charles Dance) and his mercenaries attack the Monarch facility and kill everyone except the Russell’s. He takes them and the Orca. Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) is testifying before a congressional committee when he’s informed about the attack in China. He contacts Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler), Emma’s ex-husband and Madison’s father. He left Monarch after a family tragedy caused by Godzilla and he wants all the Titans to be killed. He joins with the military and Monarch technology director Sam Coleman (Thomas Middleditch) going after Jonah hoping to retrieve Orca and save his ex-wife and daughter before Jonah can release a three-headed creature Emma refers to as Monster Zero: King Ghidorah.
“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” is a visually spectacular film. The creatures are amazing to look at. I wish there had been a scene where images of the monsters were frozen, and the audience is taken on a visual tour of each creature. With four main monsters and four or five secondary creatures, fans of the original Toho “Godzilla” films should find plenty to love in the film. Sadly, those hoping for a more well-rounded movie with a coherent story will be disappointed.
“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” has what 2014’s “Godzilla” lacked: More Godzilla. We also get plenty of King Ghidorah, Mothra and Rodan. Perhaps this is too much of a good thing as the various kaiju battles begin to all look alike after the second or third clash. Granted, the first few fights are between different combinations of Titans, but the general look of each fight becomes familiar. The fights are also dark and frequently shown up close, so it’s easy to lose track of which beast is doing what. It’s the kind of issue I have with some fights between humans in movies, and it’s probably done for the same reason: To hide things that don’t look as good as the film makers want them to.
While it is an embarrassment of riches with the number of monsters and their amount of screen time, the weakest part of the film is the human story. There are numerous human characters, each with their own moments to shine and most with their specific stories and none of them is very interesting. The fractured family dynamic between the Russell’s feels tired and recycled from 1000 other movies. The film, written by director Michael Dougherty and Zach Shields, is probably trying to give us characters we can relate to. With all the madness of giant monsters battling all over the planet and likely killing millions, the script is trying to make us connect with a divorced and grieving couple and their daughter when their drama is the least important part of the story.
Eco-terrorist Jonah is under-developed, and his motivation is best described as murky. He’s clearly the bad guy as he’s British and carries himself with an air of superiority, but he’s a blank slate with a line or two of dialog to explain his reasons for his actions. It doesn’t make much sense and fails to justify his violent attacks.
The history and purpose of the Titans gets more fleshed out in this film and that also doesn’t make much sense. Without giving too much away, the Titans are the original apex predator on Earth and have for some reason gone dormant. Our nuclear tests in the 1940’s and beyond awakened Godzilla as he feeds on radiation. All the Titans, except for one, bow down to Godzilla and follow his lead. Why don’t the Titans annihilate humanity and claim the planet for themselves? Our weapons have no effect on them, so they could easily wipe us out. Godzilla seems to be our protector, but why? All humans did in the first film was try to kill him. He doesn’t appear to be capable of higher cognitive functions, and in this film acts on instinct, so why has Godzilla apparently adopted humans as his pets he’d die to protect? I’d love a web series or section of the next film that would explain in a logical way why Godzilla chooses to be our hero, because so far there’s no reason.
“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” is rated PG-13 for sequences of monster action violence and destruction, some language. There are numerous fights between various combinations of kaiju. One of the monsters is beheaded. Another is impaled with a stinger. There are various other injuries suffered by the monsters. We see several people shot in an attack early in the film. We see scattered dead bodies at another location. Foul language is scattered, and the film uses its one allowed “F-bomb.”
“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” isn’t terrible. It just isn’t great. The film falls into a trap of depending on lots of CGI monster battles and using a tired storyline for the human characters. Initial reports from early screenings indicated the film was spectacular. Visually, it is. However, the film gets dull in spite of the massive kaiju battles. It’s fine, but it should have been much, much more.
“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” is gets three stars out of five.
The last chapter for a franchise and an animated sequel opens this week. I’ll see and review at least one of the following:
The Secret Life of Pets 2—
Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to email@example.com.