by Kevin Muller
It has been quite a journey for Godzilla. Five years ago, the big green guy got his redemption when Godzilla was released. It had been 16 years since the awful 1998 version, where the “king of all monsters” looked like a discount T-Rex, hit screens and ultimately disappointed both fans and audiences. While the 2014 version wasn’t perfect, it had improved on the look and nature of its title character. What audiences did not care for was the soap opera level acting and drama of its main characters. The total amount of monster time was far too little for many film goers. The studio listened and increased the amount of monster goodness this time around. Does the change improve or hurt the sequel?
It has been five years since the events of the first film. This time we follow the Russell family, who were directly affected by the events in the first film. Their once beautiful family consisted of two children, but due to the tragic death of the youngest son, has left the family with only one child. Emma, the mother, is a scientist who has discovered a way to communicate with the creature, or “Titans” as they are called here, using a device that mimics sonar waves. The trick is finding the individual patterns that belong to each of them. The corporation Monarch, that studies these giants, is still trying to figure out if these things, specifically Godzilla, are with us or against us. They are out to prove the former. Emma lives on one of the many bases with her daughter, Madison, while her husband, Mark, is on assignment taking nature photographs. Mark still holds a deep hatred for Godzilla, who was indirectly responsible for his son’s demise. When an Eco-Terrorist, Jonah Alan, kidnaps the mother and daughter, along with the device, it is up to Mark and the members of Monarch to get the device back while trying to find a way to help defeat the creatures Alan has awakened and save his family.
Sadly, once again, the characters, script, and plot are an afterthought, but it isn’t as bad as it could have been. All of it just comes off as manufactured drama that none of the actors really succeed at selling. Director Michael Dougherty may stage some impressive action, but his ear for dialogue and performances isn’t up to par. The cast is loaded with respected actors, many who have a collection of rewards from TV and film, and he somehow downgrades them. Kyle Chandler, who gave a memorable performance as head coach, Eric Taylor, in Friday Night Lights, is reduced to a part that makes seem like a one-dimensional actor. Anyone who has seen his performance on that television show or other projects, knows that this is far from the truth. Some of Dougherty’s actors do elevate the material. Bradley Whitford, is given many of the cheesy one liners and actually delivers them with hilarity. His quips would’ve been cringe inducing coming out of a lesser actor’s mouth. The movie is also full of exposition. It seems that actress Ziyi Zhang’s only job was to be a bridge between the movie and us. Almost all of her dialogue is filling in gaps or plot holes that movie may contain. This is a Heroes journey, so you know that the majority of these people will make it out alive. The coincidences that happen for our characters survive gets a bit ridiculous at times. The characters spend a substantial amount of time on a Stealth Plane. The plane is laughably indestructible and always seems to get them out of impossible situations. The motive, which also acts as the twist, is an under-cooked version of Watchmen. Without giving it away, it is idiotic, but when does playing God ever turn out well?
What you really want to know is, how is the action? I mean, who cares about anything in the previous paragraph? A Godzilla fan should only care about the battles and destruction. If you look through that lens, the movie is a technical marvel with some bad ass moments. Most of the battles take place in darkened areas that Dougherty stages some very impressive action sequences. Even though the movie hints at over 15 Titans, we only see four in action. This time the alpha antagonist is the three-headed beast called, King Ghidorah. The animation on all the creatures is spectacular, especially Ghidorah. He is shown as an unstoppable force that fills the sky with lightening and a sense of dread. His battles with Godzilla are the stuff that IMAX is built for. This is a film that should be seen on the largest screen possible. Rodan, another baddie, is also beautifully animated. The scale of these creatures makes them seem even more intimating too. This time, Godzilla has his own sidekick in the form of the winged creature, Mothra. The epic battles are given just the right amount of screen time to both take your breath away and forget the noticeable flaws that this film contains. For anyone who has any type of hatred for the city of Boston, specifically Fenway Park, you will love the final battle that takes place in Beantown.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a flawed film but that all goes away once you see the battles, destruction, and effects at work. Your reaction to this film can be predicted by the following question, do you really care about the human side of the story or do you just want to see Godzilla kick ass and take names? If you answered the former, you will most likely have the reaction that you read in this review, but if you answered the latter, buckle up, it is a hell of a ride.
I am giving Godzilla: King of the Monsters a 3 out of 5 Hairpieces!