Review - Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Up till now the apocalypse or disaster genre has enjoyed mixed success, both financially and critically. While this film's predecessor tried to incorporate several different styles, King of the Monsters embraces one to its fullest, but is it for the best?
Following 2014's Godzilla and 2017's Kong: Skull Island, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is the latest instalment in the MonsterVerse which up till now has seen moderate success. To their credit, three movies in and they have had far more success than many other attempted movie universes, with all its films being released in very competitive movie seasons.
I am happy to report that this latest instalment is not only potentially their strongest yet, but also their most fun. Going in I was unsure about comparisons to the likes of Independence Day and the Jurassic Park movies, but after seeing the film I fully understand those links, and totally agree.
Writers Michael Dougherty (who also directs) along with Zach Shields do a fantastic job of giving us the troupes of the disaster movie all with enough restraint and finesse to give us a sophisticated and controlled epic.
While of course there are cheesy ones liners, goofy logic and a few silly jokes, King of the Monsters still gives us enough great visuals, story and character to balance that. The use of the military and titan specialists- Monarch make for a very fun and riveting story. Your enjoyment of those elements and this film as a whole will largely depend on how much you get out of these save the world stories and seeing giant monsters fight it out. But considering its a summer blockbuster, what else could you ask for?
A lot of what sells the film has to be credited to the cast who all do a great job embracing the fun and seriousness of this movie. Vera Farmiga makes for a compelling villain/ lead with some great emotional moments and convincing monologues. Millie Bobby Brown is tremendous as usual, carrying over a lot of what makes her compelling in Stranger Things without being there purely for her success or to just replicate her character of Eleven.
The habit of casting actors from big TV shows has become notorious in recent blockbusters and while we see that here with Charles Dance from Game of Thrones, his role is small enough for it not too distract too much.
Sally Hawkins and Ken Watanabe are lovable as always, giving us the majority of the best lines in the movie and while this is a slight spoiler, so be warned, I do worry as to how the franchise will continue without them as the voices of reason in Monarch. The Coulson and Fury of the MonsterVerse if you will.
Anyway back to spoiler free zone. The rest of the supporting cast all have their moments and even if lacking in dialogue they make up for it with compelling and engaging action. Credit to Bradley Whitford, Elizabeth Ludlow and Aisha Hinds the latter who plays the strong Colonel Diane Foster, who all made impressions with what they had.
My biggest problem with the film comes with Kyle Chandler and his character Mark, who ultimately goes through a fair character arc and drives a lot of action. But for me his character was too much of an stereotype, being the man who disagrees and shouts at the government organisation, which makes him come across as initially unlikable, especially when you all you want is titan vs titan, something he is against.
An opposition character like him is of course needed, but for me he didn't add as much variety and scope to his performance as the other actors. The writers seemed to use him as somewhat of a "Gary Stu", brought in as the hunter who everyone immediately listens to, who has the answer to everything.
But anyway, enough about the humans, let's get to the monsters! It is called King of the Monsters after all, and the title certainly doesn't disappoint. Godzilla is as strong as he is in the first film, making the backbone of the entire movie. Seeing him with great visuals, action and story, Godzilla rightfully owns this movie. We see him in new environments and levelled up significantly from 2014 (the atomic breath was only the beginning).
But that's what works so well about King of the Monsters, is the balancing act they manage to pull off with all the different creatures. While King Gidorah brings us the scares and power show on the opposite side of the spectrum we have Mothra. With beautiful imagery and a powerful/ significant role in the story, she manages to make those creepy insects rather epic and endearing.
Rodan brings us one of the most fun and inventive action scenes, with his symbol as a fire bird, being fully utilised.
Many could say the big set pieces especially those with Gidorah are just there as a visual effects show, but its Dougherty's use of big artistic imagery, coupled with grand music that makes King of the Monsters so fun.
Talking of grand music, Ben McCreary, whose relatively new to film, stands out by creating a riveting and powerful score that perfectly compliments its visuals. While the music may often get drowned out by the sheer force of sound effects, the use of chanting, unique instrumentation and the original monster themes has to be appreciated.
Ending the film on a riveting rock song in tribute to Godzilla is the perfect way to round off this action spectacular, with the end credits once again proving how our modern blockbusters continue to find creative ways to continue and tell stories.
An action blockbuster like this may not be for everyone, but in summer, we all need big scale action. In its two hours King of the Monsters never loses momentum and keeps the action coming at every turn. This latest epic stands out for tying all its action to the story of a torn family, mourning the past. the film always ensures it takes its time between action, with fun and engaging dialogue, that may not add jaw dropping depth, but thanks to strong performances and a well planned story, Godzilla ends on an emotional and satisfying high.