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Film Review: Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)
Warner Bros. Pictures

Directed by: Michael Dougherty
Written by: Michael Dougherty, Max Borenstein and Zach Shields
Starring: Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Ken Watanabe, Ziyi Zhang, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins & Charles Dance

It’s been five years since Gareth Edward’s franchise-launching reboot brought everyone’s favourite Kaiju back to the big screen, with 2017’s Kong: Skull Island further teasing the expanded MonsterVerse with hints of King Ghidorah, Mothra and Rodan. Godzilla: King of the Monsters is the highly anticipated monster movie that kicks off the summer blockbuster season, promising a gigantic showdown between the titans, but does it deliver in spectacle and action? Well, unfortunately if you’re here just for the kaiju battles, you may be disappointed!

Directed by Michael Dougherty, Godzilla: King of the Monsters centres on Monarch scientists and creators of the Orca device, Mark and Emma Russell (Kyle Chandler and Vera Farmiga) and their daughter, Madison (Millie Bobby Brown). Following the tragic events of the Battle of San Francisco that left their family divided, the two have now separated, with both devoting their lives to tracking down and studying the Titans. Mark believes that they are destructive beasts that should ultimately be wiped out, while Emma is adamant that humans and Titans can co-exist peacefully.

Emma teams up with eco-terrorist (Charles Dance) to awaken and free the beasts using the Orca, believing they’ll restore the “natural balance” to the Earth, while Mark and Monarch agency try and stop the monsters and prevent the utter destruction left in their wake. And herein lies the main problem of this film; rather than focusing on the long awaited showdowns between the ancient Titans, director Dougherty instead decides to prioritise the human drama, with character’s ever changing personal motivations and incessant squabbling taking up much of the film’s lengthy runtime. It’s genuinely such a missed opportunity, with the film failing to really explore the Toho monster’s mythos and Godzilla lore/canon – there’s just too much human drama and too little kaiju action.

Unfortunately, the hugely talented cast aren’t given a whole lot to do all things considered, as many of the characters prove paper thin with a large number falling into stereotypical roles. If you’re not a soldier blindly following or barking orders, (Aisha Hinds and O’Shea Jackson Jr) then you’re a scientist spouting out Titans mythology (Ishiro Serizawa and Ilene Chen) or a crazy environmental activist (Emma Russell). To add insult to injury, Game of Thrones’ Charles Dance, Shape of Water’s Sally Hawkins and Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown are woefully underused. I also found it difficult to root for the majority of the characters, with Ken Watanabe’s Ishirō Serizawa proving one of my only real highlights. Considering the main focus is on the human drama, the script also really falls flat; stuffed with often awful dialogue that consists predominantly of exposition and dumping of franchise lore.

The film’s redeeming factor however is the size and scope of the action sequences and destructive Kaiju battles, particularly between Godzilla and King Ghidorah. The film features some really impressive effects, particularly when the main powers of Godzilla (the neon blue atomic ray) and Ghidorah (yellow lightning and gravity beams) are in full swing. There’s also some stunning cinematography on show, mainly involving the ethereal Queen of the monsters, Mothra. My interest really did pique when the seventeen titans were finally unleashed across the globe, with some really intriguing monsters designed and brought to life for this film, with highlights including the mammoth Titanus Behemoth and ancient Methuselah.

Overall Godzilla: King of the Monsters is unfortunately a real mixed bag, I had real high hopes for this film and was genuinely excited for the release, but inevitably it proved to only really set up the next instalment, Kong vs Godzilla, in 2020. If you’re looking to switch your brain of for a couple of hours while monsters bash into things and destroy cities, then this is the film for you, just beware that those moments are few and far between. If you’re looking for something a bit more meaty to sink your teeth into, I’d recommend Gareth Edwards feature length debut Monsters.