30th May2019

‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Ken Watanabe, Zhang Ziyi, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds, O’Shea Jackson Jr, David Strathairn, CCH Pounder, Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, King Ghidorah | Written by Michael Dougherty, Zach Shields | Directed by Michael Dougherty

godzilla-kom-poster

Let’s get ready to rumble! Everybody’s favourite giant green monster is back for the third instalment of Warner Bros’ and Legendary Entertainment’s ongoing MonsterVerse series, following Godzilla and Kong: Skull Island, with Godzilla vs Kong due out next year. As such, Godzilla: King of the Monsters has its fair share of flaws, but it delivers what you want from a Godzilla movie, namely spectacular monster battle sequences and city-levelling on an epic scale.

Picking up roughly where Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Godzilla left off, the new film centres on crypto-zoological agency Monarch, who have been secretly keeping giant monsters – known as titans – in super-sized containment facilities around the globe. Enter military-trained eco-terrorist Alan Jonah (Charles Dance), who teams with rogue Monarch scientist Dr Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) and begins setting the monsters free, as part of a somewhat extreme plan to ultimately save humanity from itself. First on their list is Monster Zero, aka three-headed dragon King Ghidorah, but things spiral quickly out of control when it appears King Ghidorah has an agenda of his own.

Meanwhile, Emma’s estranged husband Mark (Kyle Chandler) joins forces with another Monarch faction, lead by Dr Serizawa (Ken Watanabe), who have been monitoring Godzilla’s movements. Convinced that he represents the planet’s best chance of survival, they attempt to manoeuvre him into battle with King Ghidorah, as well as other fearsome titans like Rodan the flying reptile and the mysterious, moth-like creature, Mothra.

Krampus director Michael Dougherty might not seem the obvious choice for a monster blockbuster, but he proves a relatively safe pair of hands, at least as far as the monster battles are concerned. Accordingly, the creature clashes in Godzilla: King of the Monsters are the undisputed highlight of the film, thanks to top notch effects work that even manages to work in a little personality for the creatures (or at least, allows room for the audience to project in that regard). To that end, a cheeky touch in the credits pretends that the monsters are playing themselves – here’s hoping they go the extra mile with the DVD extras and include interview segments.

Unfortunately, Dougherty isn’t on quite as sure footing when it comes to the human characters. For one thing, there are far too many of them and some of them could easily have been cut – for example, you don’t need both Bradley Whitford AND Thomas Middleditch on your Monarch team, as one snarky wisecrack dispenser is more than enough. Similarly, the dialogue is at best perfunctory and at worst downright terrible, although at least that’s in-keeping with the classic Godzilla movies.

There are other problems too, such as character motivations that oscillate wildly between scenes (e.g. Mark goes from angrily wanting Godzilla dead to flag-waving for Team Godzilla in a matter of seconds) and the unforgivable treatment of at least one key character, who’s killed off without so much as a close-up.

On the plus side, someone in production clearly has a lot of affection for the original movies, as the film is peppered with charming references to the Toho classics that range from unexpected character revelations to the inclusion of the Mothra and Godzilla themes in the soundtrack.

In short, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is by no means perfect, but it’s by no means a disaster either, delivering more than enough jaw-dropping spectacle to make up for its flaws elsewhere. It also leaves you hungry for the main event: bring on Godzilla vs Kong!

*** 3/5

Godzilla: King of the Monsters is in cinemas now.

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