In the land of the monsters – where only one can reign supreme – Godzilla is the undisputed king. Godzilla: King of the Monsters is the sequel to 2014’s Godzilla and sees the titular Titan battle his archenemy King Ghidorah for the title of apex predator. Directed by Michael Dougherty. the film stars Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Thomas Middleditch, and Bradley Whitford, with Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, and David Strathairn reprising their previous roles. Spoilers after the trailer.
Humans Are The Virus
Godzilla: King of the Monsters was either the most meta film of 2019 or one of the most disappointing ones. The plot centers around a group of eco-terrorists led by Alan Jonah (Charles Dance), who wants to rid the Earth of humans by unleashing Monster Zero/King Ghidorah and other monstrous Titans because humans have been destroying the planet. Jonah thinks by letting the Titans reek havoc and destroy humanity, then the radiation provided by them will return the Earth to its natural order. Jonah even goes as far as saying that humans are a virus and that’s why this film has to be meta because the human characters are the viruses of this film.
A movie about giant monsters causing destruction shouldn’t have been this boring and a movie with this cast shouldn’t have been this lackluster. The dialogue throughout the film feels like it came straight out of the 1980s and not in that ‘it’s charming and nostalgic’ type of way. Nearly all of the humans in this movie are scientists but yet cannot escape Darwinism.
Dr. Rick Stanton (Bradley Whitford) makes jokes throughout the film as the resident comic relief, but they’re not funny. Whitford’s character was modeled after Rick Sanchez of Rick & Morty fame and he’s no Rick Sanchez. Stanton would make offhand remarks and imply he’s a heavy drinker, which are characteristics that are synonymous with Sanchez, yet somehow the charm wasn’t there and the jokes were flat. Bradley Whitford is too talented of an actor and just like most of the actors in this film, they can only deliver the dialogue that’s given to them. The entire time it felt like someone had watched Rick & Morty a couple of times and didn’t understand what made Rick a compelling character.
Dr. Rick Stanton wasn’t the only character that suffers from misguided attempts at humor. Dr. Sam Coleman (Thomas Middleditch) and chief warrant officer Jackson Barnes (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) are expected to serve as the film’s comedic tandem as they banter about the events going on in the film. After watching Middleditch in Replicas there wasn’t much to be expected from his performance, but as for Jackson Jr., this film was a letdown following his performance in Long Shot. Like Whitford above, Jackson is another actor that didn’t have much to do in this film, yet the movie spends a lot of time with him and the other humans that aren’t given anything compelling to work with.
When the Titans are attacking the world, the film recycles the same military personnel which wouldn’t be a problem but the same officers are doing the same task at nauseum. Whether it’s preventing the awakening of King Ghidorah in Antarctica, saving humans from catastrophes in Mexico or saving the world in Boston, while fighting in the sky in between, it’s the same soldiers that are everywhere that aren’t tactical at all. They’re led by Colonel Diane Foster (Aisha Hands), who is believable as a colonel because of her demeanor and persona.
In a science-fiction monster film the idea of being tactical could easily go overlooked but as with many problems with Godzilla: King of the Monsters, it is something the film constantly brings attention to. There’s a scene where the scientists explain to fellow scientist Dr. Ishirō Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) that the heat and radiation under the ocean from Godzilla will kill him in seconds – somehow – he removes his helmet and touches the monster and dies when the nuclear device explodes.
Dr. Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) is the luckiest scientist in the film because she dies early on. She gets painfully crushed to death, which has to be a metaphor for how crushingly painful it is to watch a talent like Sally Hawkins being misused in the film. Dr. Leng Chin (Zhang Ziyi) is just here to give the exposition and backstory of the Titans to the audience and that’s about it. She’s the one that tells us the names of the Titans and their significance and what they are. The sad part is none of this is done in a clever way, she’s just talking and the camera will pan to the images and scrolls of the ancient dragons that turn out to be the Titans.
The Russell family feud that is the central plot of the film doesn’t improve the movie. Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) and Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) are heartbroken because their son Andrew died during Godzilla’s 2014 rampage in San Francisco. Since then, Emma and her daughter Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) have been estranged from Mark and Emma has gone off the deep end. This is another film where one parent is grief stricken and results in the most foolish of plans because they cannot healthily process their grief.
Mark developed a device called “the ORCA” that manipulates frequencies to control the Titans, which ends up getting into the hands of Alan Jonah thanks to Emma. Emma and Jonah’s master plan is to free the Titans to allow them to kill humanity. The most memorable thing that Madison Russell does in the film is that her parents find her hiding in a bathtub in the most cringeworthy way. Emma and Mark argue while searching for Madison and chief warrant officer Jackson Barnes tells them “if you were my parents I would run away from home too,” he repeats the line and that’s when they rescue Madison at her house in the bathtub. By the end of the film you are hoping that the Titans complete their task because spending more time with these humans would be more tortuous than living on an earth with a depleted ozone layer.
The Titans Were the Antidote
What saves this movie from being a complete mess is Godzilla and the other Titans. The longest ongoing movie franchise in history proves why this franchise has been around for over six decades and why the titular character is the king. The cinematography of their fights and the designs of these characters are nothing to laugh at. Just look at the photo below as Godzilla uses his signature atomic heat beam:
Every time the monsters would appear on the film to fight each other, that’s when the film was at its best. The use of colors created some of the best cinematography that you’re ever going to see in a monster film.
This is another film where the visual effects teams save it from being a complete disaster like the carnage that the monsters are causing. If the movie wasn’t trying to force a plot by the humans and just let the monsters take the driver’s seat then this film would’ve been so much more enjoyable.
Just look at the images. During the film when the action is happening it’s easy to get caught up with what is going on with these monsters yet these humans just get in the way. King Ghidorah is a frightening sight to see:
The teeth to the roar and everything in between while watching the movie you know King Ghidorah is here to fight and he ain’t scared of no Godzilla. What makes things so frustrating is that the monsters do a good job at giving an idea of the story elements to the point that we did not need the humans to explain what was going on. A good example is the relationship between Mothra and Godzilla. Once Mothra hatches from her cocoon in search of Godzilla, instead of letting the film explain what we are watching, the characters have to tell us and it is less impactful.
Another beautiful shot above. To say these Titans carried the film is an understatement because all the memorable things happen because of their involvement.
In Godzilla: The King of the Monsters, the humans are the virus and the Titans are the antidote, and the film takes its plot figuratively and literally. A movie with a great cast of actors and a hefty budget but overall it is disappointing. There isn’t a relatable character in the whole film, the plot doesn’t make sense and logic gets thrown out the window even right after it’s stated out loud. It feels like someone was just going through the motions when they wrote this movie and didn’t revise their drafts.
The monsters are the most enjoyable part of this movie. If you want to see some giant kaiju create chaos and rampage a city and laugh at some humans then this is your movie. If you’re looking for a smart, well thought out action movie then this is not it. There is a post-credit scene that sets up the Godzilla vs Kong sequel so if you want to stay through the credits then give it a watch. This is one that can be watched on the small screen but to get the full effect of the monsters then go to a theater and watch it unfortunately you will not be able to fast forward through the parts with the humans there.
[All Mames Wey]
Godzilla: King of the Monsters was released in theaters on May 31, 2019
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