In Brief: Godzilla: King of the Monsters? Not.
Is Godzilla really the king of the monsters? When it comes to pure silver screen time, the Japanese whatever it is — and whatever Godzilla is depends on the movie — has been in somewhere between 33 and 35 films. That number, too, depends on the source.
As a comparison, King Kong has only had 11 films. Except for the original, King Kong, those films — like the flicks on the Godzilla list — have pretty much sucked. And before we go any farther, this movie suffers that same fate. It’s terrible.
By the way, next up for both monsters is Godzilla vs. Kong and it’s scheduled to be in a theater near you next March.
Godzilla films have evolved with technology. CGI and other special effects improvements managed to move the monster away from people dressed in rubber suits who stomped around on miniature villages and cities, miniature military vehicles and miniature toy people to something that looks more believable. In a way, the visual improvements have also improved the stories.
Just not enough.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters picks things up a few years after Godzilla defeated the MUTOs and tore up San Francisco and other parts of the world in 2014. By now a company called Monarch is finding ways to communicate with and control Godzilla and the other monsters. One of the scientists working with them is Dr. Emma Russell.
She develops a communication system but turns rogue as soon as the machine is done. Russell becomes an ally of a guy who wants to let the monsters rule. Some kind of ecology message is behind the madness. They travel from locale to locale where the monsters are hidden and housed and let them go.
The worst of the bunch is Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, a hydra who rules all the bad guy beasts. To save the planet, Godzilla has to defeat it, and his human supporters have to beat Russell and the other bad guys. They must save the planet from those trying to save the planet.
Or something like that.
Russell’s estranged husband and daughter are part of what passes for a plot. His goal is to save their daughter. The daughter’s purpose is to propel the story toward the pumped up climax and all other characters — including the monsters — are there to fill space and toss off cliche lines.
I guess the monsters won’t be throwing out cliche lines but you get my point.
The film’s top-billed stars are Kyle Chandler, Conjuring-series star Vera Farmiga, Stranger Things actress Millie Bobby Brown and Ken Watanabe from the 2014 version of Godzilla. They and their co-stars do excellent work in front of green screens and at various locations.
The real stars — as in all these films — are the monsters. Director Michael Dougherty and his special effects crews do a pretty good job of making the beast battles and the destruction around all that fighting look real. The destruction, the monsters and the effects are all done at an epic level and it is on that level that Dougherty, the cast and Godzilla succeed.
The story is a different story. It starts out wobbly, then trips, and ultimately falls and falls very flat.
You have a civilian popping into a military operation. He suddenly gets all kinds of decision making power. Real life says he’d be asked a few questions, thanked for the help and left at the nearest military base. The daughter also plays a part in a climax that is even less realistic than behemoth creatures taking over the world.
As usual actors die in their order of importance to the plot. I suspect many begged to be killed off before having to endure much more of this inane script. Maybe Dougherty and the producers complied.
Whatever happened with the actors doesn’t matter anyway. The film’s real stars bring home the reality of this franchise, and that reality is that reality doesn’t matter. People attending Godzilla movies only want only one thing. Carnage.
Unfortunately, in this case the carnage just isn’t that interesting.
Director: Michael Dougherty
Stars: Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Ken Watanabe, Ziyi Zhang, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds, O’Shea Jackson Jr., David Strathairn, Anthony Ramos
Creative carnage does not a good movie make. Godzilla may be king of the monsters but he’ll never be king of the box office. Give this one a not-so-Friday-friendly 2 on the 0 to 5 scale.
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Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.