REVIEW: GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS shines when kaiju action takes center screen, but dims when human element is the spotlight.


Godzilla: King of The Monsters presents the monster movie battle spectacles that you always wanted to see and movies like Rampage failed to deliver. But much like Godzilla (2014), it’s the bridge sequences between those fights with some puzzling acting and directorial choices that let the movie down.

Michael Dougherty’s Godzilla: King of The Monsters stages perhaps some of the best kaiju battles ever seen on the big screen. While 2014’s Godzilla delivered Godzilla fighting the mundane MUTO monsters in the background during a Pearl Harbor-esque love story between Elizabeth Olson and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, this film sets up a conflict between monsters right from the get-go. We meet Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga), a Monarch scientist who has developed a machine called the Orca, a MacGuffin that allows Monarch to essentially control kaijus (or as the Godzillaverse dubs them, Titans) through a sonic carrier wave. She develops this technology in the wake of the death of her son, Andrew, who we see was killed during Godzilla’s battle with MUTO in the 2014 version in a very Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice styled retcon-flashback. This attack and loss also led to the estrangement of her marriage with Mark (Friday Night Lights’ Kyle Chandler), a fellow Monarch scientist who helped her develop the Orca. During an attack on a Monarch outpost where we get our first glimpse of Mothra, Emma, as well as her and Mark’s daughter, Madison (a criminally under-utilized Millie Bobbie Brown) are seemingly taken captive by a band of eco-terrorists led by Charles Dance’s Jonah. From here, we learn that Jonah’s plan is seemingly to use the Orca to release the seemingly hundreds of Titans around the world at Monarch outposts free in order to save the world through the beneficial radiation they release, humanity be damned. Earth’s only hope rests in a small band of Monarch scientists, (Zhang Ziyi, Ken Watanabe, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, and Thomas Middleditch) and Chandler’s Mark, who is torn between utilizing the help of Godzilla to defeat these monsters or using the military’s resources to outright destroy these monsters.

Ultimately, it’s the human conflicts in the film that drag the film down. Whenever we have Godzilla on screen battling these Titans of old, like Rodan or King Ghidorah, the film’s big bad, the movie really shines. It’s like watching the most otherworldly pro-wrestling match you could witness on the battlefield of a bombed cityscape and it’s just glorious. It’s when we have scenes like those with Farmiga’s character elocuting on the damage that humanity has done to the world with a powerpoint showing human destruction as Chandler’s character delivers stilted dialogue about character motivation that the movie just drags to a halt. Similarly, Millie Bobbie Brown’s character does almost nothing but cry and look sad for the first hour and change in this movie, even when faced with obvious choices that any human being would take in similar circumstances. It’s frustrating as a viewer and seemingly makes you feel that Brown was basically cast to play the same character she plays on Stranger Things only with less agency and no powers. The narrative arcs that Dance, Brow, and Farmiga’s characters go through are just overly complicated, convoluted and frankly stupid at times in comparison to the stronger parts of the film and leave Chandler’s role as something of an obnoxious shrew who screams plot points at the audience for the first half of the film.

On the positives, Ken Watanabe really anchors the film reprising his role as Serizawa from the 2014 film. The film really works and is grounded whenever his character is on the screen. Similarly, the film does a good job of building Monarch up as a proactive agency in terms of cataloging Titans worldwide. There are a lot of fun Easter Eggs for fans of sci-fi and golden age Toho Godzilla films; an Antarctic Monarch Outpost essential to the plot is Outpost 32, a seeming nod to The Thing’s Outpost 31, Zhang Ziyi’s role in the film is an ode to the fairy twins who guide Mothra, plus the shoutout to Atlantis. Things like this are fun and play to the base that would enjoy this movie. Similarly, the effects on characters like King Ghidorah and especially Godzilla are pretty amazing and clearly a labor of love. Seeing a burning nuclear Godzilla is just pure eye candy and the main reason that a film like this works.

While derivative at times in terms of plot and story elements, Godzilla: King of the Monsters has enough eye candy and cool setpieces to be a definite must watch, especially in IMAX format. Godzilla reigns supreme on the screen, even if the humans around him take the shine down a little bit.