Godzilla: King of the Monsters takes VFX terror and awe to a skyrocketing high. Those who are out for blood (and radiation) should see this on the biggest screen possible.
Any sensible moviegoer should know that Godzilla is the star of any given Godzilla show. Human characters naturally play second fiddle to the story. After all, the roots of this franchise has always occupied a B-level form of entertainment. You don’t go to this movie looking for Shakespearean character depth. The whole point here is to watch monsters beating the heck out of each other. Right? Hence, it does not bother me that King of the Monsters’ top priority is to showcase more epic monster fights. Actually, this is a course correction to the shortcomings of its 2014 predecessor when it comes to adrenaline department.
Once again, the sequel hails Godzilla as Earth’s unlikely defender. The monster’s intention for saving humanity has always been unclear – the film though offers a quick reasoning that titans are Earth’s “last line of defense” against alien invaders. One of which is the fabled King Ghidorah – a three-headed, beam-blasting dragon which serves as Godzilla’s primary rival for apex predator. The dragon sends out a siren call to awaken all the other dormant Titans around the globe, with one mission in mind: smash everything. This includes a pterodactyl Rodan emerging from a Mexican volcano and a luminous giant moth Mothra which thankfully, has an allegiance to Godzilla.
On a visual level, King of the Monsters is an arresting work of art. There are plenty of money shots here that deliver pure spectacle. It helps that these creatures are crafted with such detail and passion. Ghidorah’s heads seem to have their own distinct personalities. Mothra delivers lyrical beauty through its large flapping wings. Godzilla even gets beefed up and a character comments on its physical upgrade (“Has he been working out?”) With several kaijus in the picture, it only makes sense to make the monster look stronger and more able. Godzilla lights up his nuke-powered tail and lets loose a terrifying roar, followed by an atomic ray. The film instantly commands your undivided attention.
Aside from the top notch visual effects, director Michael Dougherty, along with cinematographer Lawrence Sher, present the terror and awe through human POVs first before finally zooming out to a series of wide shots to remind the audience how massive the stakes are. Aided by The Walking Dead’s musical scorer Bear McCreary, the film takes its rip-roaring action to a skyrocketing high. There’s a thrilling high-speed chase which pits Rodan against a bunch of military aircraft. Elsewhere, most battles are set at night time with only the blue phosphorescence coming from the Godzilla’s back to light up the proceedings. If you don’t want any darkness (similar to Game of Thrones’ Battle of Winterfell) to taint your viewing experience, you’ll have to watch this in an IMAX theater.
Surprisingly, the human connection has also improved. Instead of being just powerless ciphers of the first film, the human characters take a more proactive role in joining the battle. In here, Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) and her daughter Madison (Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown in her debut movie) develop a bioacoustic machine called the ‘Orca’ that can be used to communicate with Titans. Unfortunately, eco-terrorist leader Alan (Charles Dance) abducts them, uses the device to release Ghidorah and allows it to decimate the overpopulated planet in an attempt to restore “ecological balance.” Sounds like someone has a Thanos savior complex.
On the other hand, crypto-zoological organization Monarch enlists Emma’s ex-husband Mark (Kyle Chandler) to help them track Orca’s signal across the globe, as the bad guys release one monster after another. The rest of the supporting casts – Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, Bradley Whitford, Zhang Ziyi and O’Shea Jackson Jr., are mainly present to spout scientific arguments, explain them in layman terms or act as narrative devices. While character motivations can get muddled and the film’s environmental subtext is immediately dropped in favor of more action, the film does not let you dwell on these narrative flaws. The visual splendor is always ready to sweep you off your feet.
The potential of Legendary Entertainment’s MonsterVerse can be summed up in the films’ explosive third act royal rumble. Godzilla: King of Monsters is an electrifying and fantastic kaiju extravaganza that satiates one’s appetite for destruction. Suffice to say, if you’re into this stuff, it’s an excellent choice for a popcorn blockbuster. Otherwise, this can end up numbing to the senses.
As references to Kong: Skull Island are made to set up the upcoming Godzilla vs. Kong in 2020, I’m definitely sticking to see more of what this franchise has to offer.
4 out of 5 stars