Going to see a Godzilla movie is like going to a wrestling event. You go to see the fights and hope that the stories and promos are entertaining enough to fill the gaps. In a Godzilla movie, this time between fights is time spent with the human characters, and it can make or break the movie. Toho tried a number of different things over the decades, satire, melodrama and wacky sci-fi. Some were more successful than others.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters (GKotM) is no different; it’s split between two elements, the human story and the Monster action. Unfortunately, how bad one part is in this film starts to taint the other.
In GKotM you spend a lot of time with the human characters and this becomes a real problem. Why? Because they’re either boring, irritating or head scathingly stupid. The plot of the film hinges on a single scene in which a character lays out why they have instigated the events that will lead to the titular monsters running amok all over the world, killing hundreds of thousands of people. If this scene doesn’t work for you, you are best ignoring the rest of the plot and just enjoying the visuals.
In the recent Avengers films, Thanos laid out a justification for his actions that could, at a stretch, be related to. His methods were extreme and inhuman but there was a nugget of cold dark logic in there based on experience and a twisted common sense. GKotM tries for something similar but misses the logic and justification to such an extent that I disengaged from the human story for the rest of the film.
They even attempt to give the character a small redemption at the end. However, all they are doing is reducing the effect of their ridiculous plan from global devastation to global catastrophe. They are still responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and the end of a way of life forever.
The story telling fumbles don’t stop there. The hero team of the movie are no better. They stumble from one event to another adding little to no value. They witness an event and then move on to the next one in an action packed way. They exist only to be the human part of action scenes and serve up exposition and huge leaps in logic, and I mean huge. They establish that Gidorah is an alien because he is missing from historical text, other than a single reference to a beast that fell from the stars. This is information is presented as some earth shattering reveal and informs most of the third act, but all it does it provide further proof of how stupid the instigating plan is and that they should really have better researchers. It’s Prometheus level bad science.
Ok, that’s not why you’re here, but about the King and his court? The Monster action is mostly solid. The creature designs are spot on and the excellent effects give them weight, so that each fight feels devastating. One of the outstanding achievements of this film is that each of the primary monsters is given a personality. Rodan and Mothra in particular have several moments that showed real thought had been given into how these creatures interact and how they are different. For me, these two stand out as more interesting than the main event.
The fights themselves again are mostly good. There are moments when the titanic creatures colliding looks beautiful. The composition and colour of the shots have been used to great effect in the advertising. They also build up the powers of each monster at a steady pace. Although they do rely on the OMG! Godzilla is almost dead, oh no he isn’t moment one time to many for my liking.
The biggest issue is a new power given to King Gidorah. He now has a powerful storm follow him around where ever he goes. An interesting story beat but it then means that every scene between him and Godzilla is dark and streaked with rain. They look grey and drab and as well as adding so much dark movement to the shot that there are moments when it’s not clear what’s going on at all.
At its best Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a big, loud and visually stunning Monster Battle Royale. The monsters are well established and fun to see them interact with the modern world. Unfortunately, the rest is one bum note after another. At over two hours long, the film was a bit of a drag to get through but ends with a knockdown, drag out fight that will get the heart pumping, its just not enough to get me excited for what else they have to offer from the Monster-verse.