Godzilla returns in Godzilla: King of the Monsters for his second outing in Legendary’s MonsterVerse, the sequel to 2014’s Godzilla, and the character’s 35th appearance in film overall.
It’s a marked step down from the 2014 outing, stuffed with world-building exposition, big explosions, and pretty colors, ultimately falling flat and spoiling the goodwill engendered by Godzilla and 2017’s Kong: Skull Island.
Packed to the gill with accomplished and interesting actors from basically everything (the cast boasts 25 Emmy nominations, 5 Oscar nominations, and 7 Emmy wins amongst them) they’re are all going through the motions in this boring and nonsensical narrative. It attempts to expand the franchise mythos and create compelling human characters to counterbalance the dozen or so monsters that we really came to see, all while inserting a neat eco-warrior slant that the movie doesn’t even seem to care about that much.
(Despite attempting to sell a “we’re destroying the world and this is our punishment” message, the franchise loves to destroy bastions of education and liberalism, first San Francisco in Godzilla, and here Boston; RIP Red Sox and SF Giants).
It’s a tough sell making the primary antagonists emotionless FX characters, something the Transformers franchise, among others, have struggled with. But Godzilla: King of the Monsters leans so much into its human characters, to diminishing returns. When characters are dispatched (often suddenly and dispassionately), the movie doesn’t even linger enough to allow these ostensibly tear-jerking moments to land, let alone resonate.
This stellar cast (for work done elsewhere), including Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, and Millie Brown, tries to ground the proceedings and anchor us to something tangible, but the Hector and Achilles to the monsters Athena and Hera, they are not.
The erstwhile protagonist of the film has relatively no interaction with our human guides, try as it might to create some emotional bond between our two factions. In fact, Godzilla is absent for long stretches, not making his (their?) first significant appearance until nearly 90 minutes in. That’s like making a Superman movie and only giving him 42 lines!
So with such a boring plot, by the time the main showdown arrives in the third act, the spectacle can’t help but feel like a letdown. Did we watch Bradley Whitford zoom around in his Red Skull plane for 90 minutes, just to get to this?
There are plenty of teases and setups for next year’s Godzilla vs. Kong, which we can only hope ditches the humans and just let the monsters fight for a brief and tidy 70ish minutes, though I’m not counting on it; after all, more TV stars need some movie paychecks!
Godzilla: King of the Monsters: 5/10