Godzilla: King of the Monsters attempts to crush its tedious plot with gorgeous visualised kaiju battles. This one hurts. Godzilla. Mothra. Rodan. King Ghidorah. They all deserved a better sequel. The underappreciated ‘Godzilla’ that started this “MonsterVerse” was the beginning of something brilliant. ‘Kong: Skull Island’ delivered enjoyable results, which ultimately left this third instalment needing to decimate the competition. Beautiful trailers, consistent marketing and the inner hope for relentless colossal battles somewhat built up expectations for many (including myself!). This was the blockbuster to win the summer season. Alas, sadly, it just was not meant to be. Godzilla went thermonuclear and still was unable to eradicate the terrible pacing of Dougherty’s directing/writing. With Monarch nearly shut down by governmental organisations, the awakening of the “false king” Ghidorah means that humanity must now rely on Godzilla to protect the world and restore balance.
The primary issues that most critics were harking on about, are the underdeveloped plot strands and focus on paper-thin human characters. Unfortunately, they are right to criticise these. Dougherty seemingly focuses all his intentions on this family drama in an attempt to convey it as a microcosm for the destruction it causes. The exploration into humanity’s possible extinction and environmental impact, whilst explained heavy-handedly in one infuriating scene of exposition (don’t worry, there’s plenty of that...), actually had some foundations. The groundwork was solid. Yet the characters Dougherty chose to illustrate were borderline lifeless, and regretfully they take centre stage over the titans. We have a mother, father and daughter. They are splintered as a family after the loss of their son. But for some reason they now involve themselves to try and save the world from these titans that are now released because of one terribly stupid character decision. For the majority of the film’s runtime, we follow the father played monotonously by Chandler. He is boring, and whispers nearly every line of dialogue. Farmiga portrays the mother, again, one-dimensional. Brown plays the daughter, but unfortunately does not get enough time to showcase her emerging talent.
Dougherty’s dull screenplay is the culprit here, and I wished Godzilla would’ve just used his atomic breath and made his own film. He obtained a stellar cast! Whitford, Dance, Watanabe and my girl Ziyi. Yet instantly made them all forgettable by hammering this unintelligent plot down our throats. He attempts to create some emotion and, until the last twenty minutes, failed to convey any. Heck, Mothra had a more tragic backstory than any of the human characters put together. Long live the queen, I say! The worst offence was the treatment of Hawkins’ character. What even was that? Clearly she wanted to jump ship but come on. No emotional resonance whatsoever.
Sporadically, the titans come to play. That is when the film truly shines. Sher’s cinematography is pushed into the forefront and realising some absolute stunning shots. Whether it be Mothra fluttering its majestic wings or King Ghidorah electrifying the skies with its enormous power surges. The impeccable balance between showing everything, and revealing nothing was sublime. Murky environments often shroud the titans, allowing ingenious use of shadows and lighting to depict these gargantuan battles. The visual effects for the creatures, as well as their primary designs, were nearly faultless. Occasionally the CGI comes across as plastic-looking when in full brightness, particularly Ghidorah’s heads, but for the most part look exceptional when in mid-flight. The sound effects though? Damn. My ears were assaulted with breathtaking roars, destructive carnage and McCreary’s often splendid score. My seat shook, along with my heart, whenever Godzilla unleashed his epic roar. That’s what I want to feel when watching a kaiju film, the deep impact and sudden rush of adrenaline whenever these beasts fight each other. The entire third act was perfect, heck, I would go as far as saying it’s the best third act of the year (‘Endgame’ lovers come at me!).
Aside from the various scenes of titanic chaos, there was one notable scene that stuck with me. The moment when Watanabe discovers Godzilla’s ancient temple and walks through it in a bid to save humanity. It was truly a work of art in a mainstream blockbuster. No dialogue. Just pure technical bliss that illustrates the talent these artists have. Surprisingly, a poignant moment in the film too. As soon as this scene begins, the film is excels at being a “MonsterVerse” chapter. Everything else before it? No thank you. Godzilla may not be “King of the MonsterVerse”, but it just about redeems itself enough to make me want to watch the next instalment. How the heck Kong will battle Godzilla is beyond me. Steroids, perhaps?