‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ is kaiju movie bliss
As a movie critic, I know I’m expected to love serious cinema. I’m expected to love films with complex, relevant themes, deeply-affecting emotional material and stellar acting. And I do. I’m expected to love filmmakers like Scorsese and the Coen Brothers, who put a piece of themselves up onscreen in every movie they do. And I do.
But inside that cinema-loving critic, there’s a little kid who grew up watching and loving Japanese monster movies. Watching “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” the kaiju-loving kid completely overwhelmed the snooty film critic.
Which is a really long way of saying I loved this movie.
“King of the Monsters” finds the world lurching about in the wake of the event of 2014’s “Godzilla.” The organization Monarch is studying the way Godzilla and the rest of the monsters known as “Titans” communicate when they’re attacked by ruthless eco-terrorist Alan Jonah (Charles Dance). Jonah’s after a piece of tech created by Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) and plans to use said tech to awaken the Titans and wipe out human civilization.
Johan kidnaps Emma and daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown), but he’s pursued by a Monarch team led by Dr. Ishiro Serazawa (Ken Watanabe) and Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler), Emma’s husband and Madison’s father. Along the way, the team must weather multiple attacks from various Titans, like Rodan and Ghidorah, and find a way to help Godzilla save the planet.
This has plenty of flaws. It’s just that sitting there watching giant kaijus maul each other, it was really hard to care. The story is honestly a little ludicrous. I didn’t care. The dialogue is clunky in spots. I didn’t care. The characters do things that don’t really make sense and Mark is such a competent jack-of-all-trades, it stretches the suspension of disbelief to its breaking point. I. Didn’t. Care.
And the reason I didn’t care is that this movie actually slyly slips a message about being courageous and facing your demons into a plot that’s full of monster-on-monster beatdowns. It’s not a message that the filmmakers obnoxiously shove down your throat, but it’s there if you’re looking for it.
Of course, the real main attraction here is the action. Anyone who wasn’t into “Godzilla” because there wasn’t enough monster fighting or because Godzilla was barely in it should put a sock in it after this one. The monsters still feel appropriately massive, yet they thrash one another up in fight after breathtaking fight. And the final throwdown in “King of the Monsters” is as satisfying as anything Marvel’s put onscreen.
Of course, you don’t come to a movie like “King of the Monsters” for acting, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some good performances. Chandler only has about two settings in this film, but he plays those two settings really well. Brown shoulders the weight the story put on her very well. She has a bright future ahead of her.
Watanabe is another acting highlight, giving the film a sense of soul. And I have to mention Bradley Whitford, whose joke-cracking sidekick gives the film some much-needed levity.
In the director’s chair is Michael Dougherty, whose previous work includes writing on movies like “Superman Returns” and directing “Krampus.” He doesn’t make things seem as plausible as Gareth Edwards did on “Godzilla,” but he knows how to capture cool monster action. From that perspective, Dougherty knocks it out of the park. Getting any sort of message or deeper meaning into this flick the way he did is just gravy.
“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” is 100 percent pure kaiju cinema bliss. That’s all that it was expected to be. The fact that it tries, I think successfully, to be something that’s a little bit more deserves some recognition. The kaiju-holic kid inside me loved this movie for the awesome monster battles. The critic in me was impressed “King of the Monsters” tries to be anything more than that.