Godzilla: King of the Monsters is another strong entry in the growing MonsterVerse. Large-scale action and quirky characters combine for a fun, if not great, summer popcorn flick. The movie delivers thrills and sets the stage for another epic smackdown next year.
In the wake of Godzilla and the MUTOs’ 2014 rampage on San Francisco, the U.S. government calls for MONARCH to be shut down. But before that can happen, terrorists kidnap a scientist (Vera Farmiga) and her daughter (Millie Bobby Brown) to gain access to ORCA. Using the ORCA technology to communicate with Titans, they awaken King Ghidorah, a three-headed apex predator and Godzilla’s arch-nemesis. With other Titans starting to recognize Ghidorah’s dominance over all other forms of life, humanity has no choice but to turn to Godzilla to save the Earth.
Michael Dougherty (Krampus) replaces Gareth Edwards, who helmed the 2014 Godzilla. Edwards was better at demonstrating the sheer scale of these massive creatures and treating them like the mythological, god-like figures that they are. Dougherty has a keener eye for action, though. The movie is packed with monster melees and none of them disappoint, especially the main ones involving Godzilla and Ghidorah. Rodan gets the short end of the stick in terms of screen time. However, the set piece in which he’s introduced is arguably the best of the movie. Mothra also appears less than her fans might like, but her time is used wisely.
The human characters are generally playing variations on the archetypes we’ve seen in all sorts of monster movies. The actors do a good job with limited writing, though. Kyle Chandler is an appealing lead. Brown continues to be one of the better actors of her generation. And Farmiga couldn’t give a bad performance if she tried (she’s also the most interesting character in the movie). Charles Dance shows up in a darker version of Ron Perlman’s role from Pacific Rim.
Aside from the leads, no one does enough to really make an impression. There’s returning co-star Ken Watanbe (always good) along with Zhang Ziyi (also good) and Thomas Middleditch (basically playing his Verizon character). Other familiar faces include returning actors Sally Hawkins and David Strathairn, along with newcomes O’Shea Jackson, Jr. and Bradley Whitford.
Cinematography by Lawrence Sher is good, if a little too one-note with the color palette (it reminded me of Traffic at times). I really do wish they’d shoot movies with big monsters in the taller 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Editing is smooth; the pacing never flags and the movie never feels slow. Bear McCreary’s score is serviceable. Visual effects work is thankfully excellent. Sound design is mostly immaculate (dialog sometimes gets drowned out).