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Godzilla may be king of the monsters but this sequel to the 2014 American reboot of the legendary Japanese franchise is king of the monster movies. That does not mean the best. When I say ‘king’ I mean more in the context of a king-sized meal or bed.
Despite having the blandest lead characters in mainstream blockbuster history, the 2014 Godzilla delivered the goods of a kaiju movie – that is brutal giant monster and giant monster action. While the titular character was used sparingly, when he did appear there was a real sense of weight. The camera shot Godzilla from below. You felt the sublime awe of those cowering under him and could witness the buildings around him buckle.
From director Michael Dougherty (who helmed underrated creature flick Krampus), Godzilla: King of the Monsters improves on some of the issues fans had with its predecessor. There’s a more gripping human story and more Godzilla (as well as Ghidorah, Mothra and Rodan) for your buck.
Kyle Chandler and Vera Farmiga star as Dr Mark and Emma Russell. One of their two kids (the other being Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown) died during the events of 2014’s Godzilla. The two are now split up. Mark has become an alcoholic. Meanwhile Emma works with Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins’ scientists from the last movie to try capture and study Godzilla and other giant creatures like him. This is to try find a way to discover how monsters and humans could exist symbiotically.
When Emma and her daughter are kidnapped by a group of radical environmentalists (led by Charles Dance), Mark is brought out of exile to help find his ex-wife. Her captors are travelling around the world, freeing skyscraper sized monsters as they believe the destruction they wreak is the only thing to save Earth from being destroyed by human hand.
The Dark Universe with movies like Dracula Untold and Tom Cruise’s (Show Me) The Mummy struggled to build a shared MCU like universe based around properties acclaimed for their villains. No one wants to watch a heroic sexy Prince of Darkness or Tom Cruise becoming a kind-hearted version of an Egyptian boogeyman. Legendary’s MonsterVerse of which this is the third entry (after Kong: Skull Island) has fared a lot better. This is by realising all that’s needed is a series of movies loosely connected by their central monsters doing what they are famous for, all while a set of different each time human characters deal with their own issues tied to the creatures.
Emma and Mark’s story is not exactly deep. Plus, it falls to the wayside (along with any commentary on environmentalism) as soon as the monsters take over. However, it provides just enough of an emotional spine in between kaiju fights to keep audiences invested. Here you have two parents dealing with grief in radically different ways and the daughter caught between them. There’s a tragedy there that is hard not to sympathise with.
All that said, the real reason to see Godzilla: King of the Monsters is its gargantuan monster brawls – the biggest put on screen maybe ever. While the worry is during these sequences the movie will descend into CGI mush, here what they resemble is Rembrandt tableaus. Or at least those on steroids – depicting giant gods dueling for the fate of the world in the midst of bright heavenly lights. The latter the effect of either an oxygen bomb designed to kill the monsters, the lightning that gathers any time Ghidorah is present or the radiation used by Godzilla to get increasingly jacked.
You watch these fights and forget you are seeing a movie. They transcend the medium, becoming almost abstract art. It’s because of them you ignore the many flaws of Godzilla: King of the Monsters. I say bring on Godzilla vs Kong.