Big ol’ monsters bashing into each other makes up the premise of Godzilla: King of the Monsters and it certainly delivers. A perfectly enjoyable spectacle, you’ll have fun with the special effects and the commendable sound design. The cast are very much below par with their performances but that doesn’t matter. You’re here to see monsters not Oscars.
Following the unique Christmas horror Krampus (2015), Michael Dougherty directs the sequel to Gareth Edwards Godzilla (2014) and the third installment in Warner Bros. ‘Monsters’ universe following Kong: Skull Island (Jordan Vogt-Roberts, 2017). Continuing the general trend of quality, King of the Monsters is pretty average throughout in terms of plot, dialogue and acting but is mostly impressive in terms of its special effects and monster designs. The set pieces are strong enough to keep you engaged even though the down time scenes are littered with some below par performances that aren’t helped by a weak script that offers super cheesy and at times cringe worthy lines. The characters have no chemistry and nobody plays their role believably or with any effort. That is likely a combination of poor directing and a cashing it in attitude from the cast but that is merely speculation on my part. Thankfully though Godzilla himself and the rest of the monster cast look great (if a bit grey) and for the most part the monster fights are exciting and make the film worth watching.
The film picks up five years after the initial attack on San Francisco in which top geo-biologist Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) and her ex-husband Mark Russell lost their son Andrew. In the subsequent years leading to the present day Emma has been building a prototype device known as “The ORCA” that broadcasts a similar signal that the “Titans” use to communicate with the purpose of calming them and potentially controlling them. Witnessing the birth of the larvae form of Mothra with her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) and using the device to calm her, the touching moment is cut short as Alan Jonah (Charles Dance) and his band of eco-terrorists kidnap the both of them with the intention of using “The ORCA” for their own nefarious purposes. Subsequent events lead them to awakening “Monster Zero,” Godzilla’s strongest rival, who serves as the main antagonist to the plot.
The plot is simple and actually fits the Monster movie genre quite comfortably. Themes typical of this genre such as the environmental issues humans have caused by uncontrolled growth and the problem causing attitude of shoot first ask questions later government military outfits tend to take are satisfactorily explored throughout the story. Unfortunately however the script itself suffers from odd dialogue choices that favour cheesy and cringe-worthy lines that often are delivered as though they carry philosophical and relevant weight but actually come off in a moderately embarrassing fashion.
This is not helped in any way by the cast’s performances. Nobody (not even Charles Dance) stands out as giving a particularly good portrayal with Ken Watanabe (who plays Dr. Serizawa) coming the closest, but unfortunately he suffers with having to deliver some of the most extreme pseudo-philosophical lines. Millie Bobby Brown does her best but it is clear that Michael Dougherty is not quite the standard of director that is able to draw out a good performance from a relatively inexperienced film actor. Most of the actors in this film have proven in the past that they are able to give great and sometimes excellent performances in their previous projects. Unfortunately however, for whatever reason, none of the cast does themselves justice in King of the Monsters.
Godzilla himself on the other hand looks great as do the majority of the other monsters with Mothra taking the centre stage. For the most part the monster’s have their moments of being clearly in sight, showcasing the work of the special effects team and allowing for some quite spectacular moments. Sadly the camera work doesn’t quite live up to the standard of Gareth Edwards Godzilla as the scale of the monsters is not always adequately portrayed as it was in the first installment. There are a few moments where you do really get a sense of how large these monsters are but they are far too few.
Where the film does really shine however is its sound design. The screams of the monsters, the tumbling of the buildings and insanely heavy footsteps bring about some truly excellent moments as the monsters seemingly exist in the world around you. Hearing this film on a quality sound system is vital to its enjoyment. The rest of the film is enjoyable enough but much of the spectacle is lost without surround sound allowing you to hear every roar, punch and atomic breath in all of its glory.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a perfectly serviceable addition to the Warner Bros. ever growing “Monsters” universe. On par with Godzilla (2014) and better than Kong: Skull Island, (2017) King of the Monsters moves the story of the franchise along in a fine way that doesn’t offer up anything particularly special but also nothing particularly terrible. It’s an adequately enjoyable spectacle, especially in relation to its sound design, even if the cast not directed all that well. It’ll be interesting to see how the next film that is hinted to in this stands up against the rest of the films in the franchise and this film does well enough to hold interest and begin building excitement for the next installment.
Written by Alfie Smith