Updated: Jun 13, 2019
A Review of Godzilla: King of the Monsters
By Kelly M. Hudson
Several years after the last attempt at giving us a Godzilla movie, Hollywood has come back with a sequel, this one more firmly set in the Monarch Universe that was established in Kong: Skull Island but still very connected to the initial movie in this series. The last film was very divisive amongst fans, some liking it, others angry because we didn’t get to see enough of the monsters. The trailer for this version certainly promised to deliver on the monster action, but does it?
Convoluted plot time: there is a device that was created by Vera Farmiga’s Dr. Russell character that allows the humans to “control” the Titans using soundwaves that mimic the communications of the big creatures. Someone is using that device to prematurely wake up the Titans that have been discovered since the events of the last movie, starting with a giant one called Monster Zero. This brings Godzilla around, of course, and we get a nice, if brief battle between the two before Monster Zero flies off, Godzilla swimming in pursuit. In the meantime, more monsters are awakened and it turns out that Monster Zero, who is really Ghidorah, is able to control the other creatures, all except Mothra and Godzilla, who are its natural enemies. Oh, and Ghidorah is from space, originally. In the midst of all of this, we get a fractured family drama playing out, as separated mother and father Dr. Russell and Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) are on opposite sides of the conflict, with their daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) caught in the middle. Ghidorah gets more powerful, Godzilla gets hammered due to American military intervention, and the world is on the brink of utter apocalypse. The humans have to find a way to revive Godzilla and let him go to work to save the planet from ruin and destruction. Whew.
We do get plenty of monster battles. The new version of Rodan is pretty stinking awesome, as is the new iteration of Mothra. And Godzilla does his Godzilla thing, don’t you know. Ghidorah is a great villain and the final fight really does deliver. So a rating just based on the monster action alone would score this movie near-perfect. But…those danged humans get in the way again. And again. And again. It’s pure Hollywood, dumbing the story down to get everyone involved, and I suppose that’s what they have to do, but I object to this kind of storytelling, where most of the peripheral characters exist simply to say pithy, funny lines and that’s it.
The internal drama of the family at odds with one another is tepid, to say the least. Yes, there is a through-line, yes, it does tell a complete story, where characters change and grow, but it’s done in the most paint-by-numbers, plug-in-the-story style. In other words, it’s not very compelling and for me, at least, distracting to the real story, which is monsters stomping the shit out of everything that moves. Add to this what I call the “Armageddon Effect” (named after the movie) where everything that can go wrong does, just to “add suspense” to every breathing moment of the movie. Got to fire a nuke off? Well, darn it, the rockets got damaged so they won’t fire. Looks like a character will have to needlessly sacrifice himself to set it off! The helicopter needs to land inside an airplane, but doggone it, the bay doors are stuck! What will we do? On and on and on.
Also, since I’m complaining: I can watch just about any movie made these days and see humans haplessly drive through explosions and run and narrowly dodge falling debris and other various threats. I don’t need that in these films. I paid to see Godzilla and the monsters fight, not another human screaming about their child or someone desperately driving to save another character’s life. It’s clichéd and not very interesting (to me, at least).
So where does this one end up? I’d still say, based on the strength of the actual monster carnage, as a pretty decent movie, better than the first one, but not on the level of Kong: Skull Island. If you like Godzilla, you’ll like this movie. In fact, there are parts you’ll love. Just try not to get bored when you sit through seemingly endless human melodrama. Cut some of that out, and you might have a classic on your hands.
3/4 Buckets of Blood
Kelly is the author of dozens of stories and dozens of reviews, he likes to write, he likes to read, he likes going to the movies, and he loves to laugh. He hails from the wilds of Kentucky and if you'd like to see more of his work, check out his website www.kellymhudson.com