Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Godzilla film is something of an enigma in the world of big-budget blockbusters, an intimate look at humanity set against supermassive monster action. This sequel, King of the Monsters, flips the script in a few ways, dialing up the action and bringing it to the forefront. The result is a slightly uneven but very satisfying spectacle, one that I’ve never seen the likes of before.
Michael Dougherty, who helmed horror cult favorites Krampus and Trick ‘r Treat, is in the director’s chair for this film, the next in a line of small-scale horror directors that suddenly have a franchise in their hands. The result is a fresh perspective on the genre, taking Gareth Edwards’ excellent use of human point of view and running it right up against the surreal nature of giant monsters. Throughout the film, I found myself constantly awestruck by the way scale was presented, and absolutely enthralled when Godzilla and other kaiju were onscreen. Dougherty often sticks to a human perspective, making fights feel dangerous and real, and making the gorgeous wide shots even more spectacular. While the film’s pace is a bit choppy in the opening act, I felt that once it found its groove, it was thrilling.
The plot is part of what holds this movie back from legendary status, as it retreads beats that we’ve seen dozens of times in other blockbusters. The story follows the Russell family, made up of Emma (Vera Farmiga), Mark (Kyle Chandler), and Madison (Millie Bobby Brown). Emma is a Monarch scientist who believes she has a device that can communicate with Titans like Godzilla. What follows is a series of betrayals, reunions, and revelations that are all pretty predictable. It’s not a necessarily bad story, but it definitely could have been so much better. There are plenty of interesting ideas and bits of commentary that the film never follows through on, which is a shame.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Like the story, the characters in this film fall flat for the most part. With a cast this packed with talent, it’s a real letdown to see such generic characters. None of the actors turn in bad work, but none really stand out either. The lone bright spot is Ken Watanabe’s Dr. Serizawa, who can always be counted on for selling ridiculous dialogue. Charles Dance is very underused, as is Millie Bobby Brown, who is making her feature film debut here. Just like the film’s story, the characters all feel like wasted potential, especially with how talented many of the actors and actresses are.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Likewise, Bear McCreary’s score is booming and epic, with exciting swells and a truly excellently chanted theme for Godzilla himself. The sound design is also strong, with weather effects swirling almost constantly and the roars of monsters piercing the air. For my money, there is no better monster effect than Godzilla’s fearsome and awe-inspiring roar.
That being said, we’re here to see monsters. And man, do the monsters in this film deliver. Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah are all brought to life in the biggest way possible, in such a way that they become fully realized characters themselves. Fights look spectacular and gritty, and are never anything less than believable. I can’t begin to think how much work went into the effects work here, but it shows. This effects in this movie looks incredible.
If you go into King of the Monsters looking for meaningful plot and characters, you’ll likely be disappointed. The story does have its affecting moments, but overall, it’s the action and sheer spectacle of it all that really matters. If 2014’s Godzilla was a titan-sized riff on Alien, King of the Monsters is Aliens gone nuclear, an exercise in constant escalation and intensity. Go see it on the biggest screen possible, and you’ll be rewarded with the most soaring and large-scale film in a long, long time.