The biggest complaint about 2014’s Godzilla is the lack of time dedicated to Godzilla wrecking cities and punching other skyscraper-sized Kaijus squarely in their Titanic-sized jaws. And it sure as hell feels like director Michael Dougherty watched the 2014 film and felt exactly the same way. With Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Dougherty who takes over directorial duties from Gareth Edwards, has given us a film that is BIG and BOISTEROUS. Forget wrecking cities. Here, the various Kaijus send cities crashing thunderously to the dirt much like the detonation of an atomic bomb. Here, Godzilla and Ghidorah blast each other with their nuclear beams in glorious wide shots. Here, we see Mothra and Rodan clash as Bear McCreary’s music blares proudly and emphatically!
Seriously, visually speaking Godzilla: King of the Monsters is absolutely mental and unquestionably gorgeous! Together with cinematographer Lawrence Sher, Dougherty paints more than enough poster worthy shots to cover a billionaire’s mansion and his horse stable. But, is Godzilla: King of the Monsters right for you?
For those of you who find great joy in watching giant monsters beating the crap out of each other, my opening two paragraphs have probably already convinced you to buy a ticket. And I implore you to do so. Watch it in the biggest IMAX hall you can find and feel the magnificent rumble under your feet vibrate through your shoes and into your bones.
Me? I found it difficult to stay engaged.
There’s a saying that goes: Every frame a painting. Some would say Godzilla: King of the Monsters embodies that axiom to a tee. I disagree. A great painting should do more than just rouse your eyes, it should whet your soul. But Godzilla 2 doesn’t make you feel anything. A lot of it has to do with the writing. Unsurprisingly, it has three credited writers and feels like a studio product through and through. The story is fine on the surface.
It’s been five years since the destructive events of the first Godzilla. A crypto-zoological agency, Monarch comprised of Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler), Dr Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga), Serizawa (Ken Watanabe), and many more including Millie Bobby Brown’s Madison Russell spend their days containing and researching mythical monsters in various locations around the globe unbeknownst to the public. A different, radical group led by Tywin Lannister himself Jonah Alan are on a mission to release the monsters and wreak havoc across the globe. Only Godzilla can save the day.
The problem is, you don’t feel connected to any of the characters, humans or otherwise. There are loads cool looking monster fights, but Dougherty and his team of writers don’t give the monsters a perspective, nor do we get a feel for their emotions. Sure, we know that Godzilla apparently lives to protect and Ghidorah wants to destroy, but why? We’re told that these creatures are complex, but we’re not given the chance to understand their unclear complexities. Not to mention, we discover their motivations through shallow expository lines — frankly, most of the characters have no idea what these creatures want either. So they’re nothing more than empty vessels with cool powers. If we don’t feel for them, why should we root for them?
Why should we be at the edge of our seats in fear for Godzilla’s life if we don’t care for him on a personal level? In Game of Thrones, we bite our nails in anxiousness every time Daenerys’ dragons fly into battle. We weep our tear glands empty when Euron Greyjoy shot an arrow through Rhaegal’s neck. We feel for these fire-breathing creatures because we’re convinced of the profound connection she has with them. They’re her children! In Godzilla 2, the scriptwriters work extra hard to convince us that these creatures are beyond us. So why should we care?
At one point, the film tries to take a turn for the philosophical when a character (I won’t’ say who because *spoilers*) says something along the lines of “we need to unleash the Titans because they will restore balance to the earth.” There is talk of overpopulation, limited resources and how we are the disease that’s killing our planet. This is an intriguing idea for a plot that I’ll never get bored of. But while Avengers: Infinity War explores it thoroughly through Thanos, here it’s just weightless lines uttered by a character who takes an uncharacteristic heel turn. The rest of the characters are one note, including Millie Bobby Brown’s. Brown’s extremely likeable in her role which thankfully isn’t one of those “annoying kids who yells a lot” you find in every monster/dinosaur movie. That said, the screenplay isn’t meaty enough for her to chew on either.
Ultimately, we don’t care about the humans nor the monsters who are constantly in combat. There isn’t much of an escalating conflict either. Godzilla: King of the Monsters is just two hours of the human characters travelling from one spot to another, unleashing various Titans which then go ape sh*t. It’s bland and soulless, but hey at least it contains some of the most magnificently photographed shots the genre has ever produced.