GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS (2019) is a kaiju royal rumble of epic proportions

If you were disappointed by the lack of Godzilla action in the 2014 film, don’t worry, this is a kaiju royal rumble with more than enough Godzilla action to go around. Also, if you like the 1998 Godzilla, which has no connection to this film, then I suggest you need to go back and rethink your decision.

The undisputed king of the monsters returns in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the sequel to 2014’s Godzilla, which this time sees Godzilla in a battle royale against a slew of classic Toho kaiju villains. But it wouldn’t be a modern monster film without a hefty human story element which is unfortunately also what holds this film back from greatness. Directed this time by Michael Dougherty, it adopts a slightly different feel and approach to its predecessor.

Everyone walking through the theatre doors and paying to see this movie is looking for one thing… insane, large scale, and loud Godzilla vs monster action. Yes, a good story obviously helps, but monster vs monster action is the focus here. What can be confirmed is that the action is massive, thrilling, and beautiful throughout the entire film. It is handled and executed to near perfection. The final action sequence of 2014’s Godzilla between the beast himself and the MUTOs I thought was magnificent, I got genuine chills. Not only does this sequel rival the intensity of that final battle, but there are a number of battles sprinkled throughout the film that will be remembered. The variety of monsters involved leads to a variety of battle types which means it’s not just the same thing over and over.

These battle sequences are on a scale so epic that they’re ripe for consumption on an IMAX screen. Not only are they loud both audibly and visually, but they are stunning with impeccable visual effects. The effects work on this movie is just incredible, not a single shot of Godzilla or any of the other monsters looked even slightly out of place, with every shot polished brilliantly. The battle sequences put Godzilla in a royal rumble with Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidorah and each one of these beasts is so unique that they all really pop out on-screen. What the film does very well through sound design is make you feel the sheer size of these beasts when they appear. Whenever one shows up it’s this grandiose moment that will leave you in awe at what you’re witnessing. The fact that they nail the introductions and follow through with each of the monsters’ subsequent appearances makes the action more than worth the price of admission.

Now, we have to talk about the story, the plot, the tissue that ties together all of the action sequences giving us a beginning, middle, and epic conclusion. On one hand you have the story of all of the monsters, their goals, what they’re after, their history, and their clashes. Some of this is explained to us by human characters because obviously, none of the beasts can talk. All of this is interesting. The backstory behind the beasts and the narrative behind all of their actions was thrilling stuff. However, the core story is concerning the humans and their journey through the film as they are who you spend the majority of time with.

These human elements of the film weren’t great. They weren’t all bad, but they weren’t really all that engaging either. The main characters that the story focuses on are thinly written, to the point where there’s actually not a lot to them besides generic character descriptions. Among them, Millie Bobby Brown plays ‘daughter’, Vera Farmiga plays ‘scientist parent 1’, and Kyle Chandler plays ‘scientist parent 2’. The way their relationships develop and the paths they take don’t feel natural, rather it all feels like an excuse to get at least one main character near the action in some way. I get why there has to always be a human present, it’s for the audience engagement, to emphasise the scale of what is going on, and how the destruction affects the people of the Earth. But these stories take centre stage and they’re not funny, emotionally impactful, or all that thrilling.

These human-centric scenes really do bog down the film as when you go from large-scale action scene to family drama back to large-scale action scene it’s jarring and definitely felt. Some scenes are a bit of a chore to get through, either they’re filled with story exposition, attempts at emotional storytelling, or the occasional attempt at humour. Since the emotion and humour don’t work, it’s a major disappointment that this much focus is still placed on that. None of the humour hit whatsoever, like nothing. I think this is an issue that the film is very dark thematically, as it’s dealing with worldwide destruction, and the humour just doesn’t fit with the tone. The film would have faired better had it gotten rid of the humour entirely where you could have then gotten rid of Bradley Whitford and Thomas Middleditch‘s supporting characters because they do nothing for the plot aside from the occasional comedic jab.

That being said, there are some performances that do shine through the thin story. Millie Bobby Brown who plays Madison put in a very strong performance and does a lot with the little she is given. She actually makes something out of the relationship with her parents in the film and brings some weight to what is going on. As a young actress with her work here and in Netflix’s Stranger Things, she’s got big things ahead of her. Ken Watanabe is just about the only returning character from the first film and his character may be the most engaging because, like us, he’s more interested in seeing the monsters fight it out. The man gave us the infamous “let them fight” quote so he’s instantly memorialised as awesome. As I mentioned, Kyle Chandler and Vera Farmiga play shells of characters and honestly don’t bring a whole lot that makes them unique. Charles Dance is in here as a cut-and-paste villain and there’s no real intrigue into his character which is pretty much a waste.

Is Godzilla: King of the Monsters a let-down? Considering it was third on my most anticipated films list for 2019 then in a way you could say it didn’t reach its full potential. But I don’t regret going to see this as despite all of the plot issues regarding the human characters and how that stuffs with the pacing and progression of the story, it’s still damn epic. The action is beautiful, stunning, and will put you in a state of awe. It’s massive as promised, and seeing all of these kaiju go toe-to-toe is worth every cent it cost to see this. If you’re a fan of the monster movie then this is a must-see as Godzilla is and will always be… king!

7.5/10

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