This rarely happens to me.
Usually, when I have a stance on anything involving the entertainment that I voluntarily consume regularly, my thoughts on a particular item within that realm are that video games, television, or, as expected from this blog, films tend to be pretty clear concentrate. This movie is good with a few downsides, or this complete dumpster of cinema has one defining redeeming factor. When I considered the whole package and how I feel about it, there is usually no need for me to try to reconsider my stance, even if it was for something that I was excited for and was ultimately let down by. But let me tell you what Godzilla: King of the Monsters did that very few films had made me want to do after watching and am here now writing this review.
I want to love this movie.
Micheal Doughtery takes the role in the director’s seat for the follow-up to the 2014’s film that managed to give new life into the franchise for western audiences, even if it left some folks wanting more for the big green dinosaur himself. And in that respect, this movie not only gives more lovely screentime for the titular monster but introduces the likes of other famous Toho monsters such as Mothra, Rodan, and the towering might of King Ghidorah.
Without a second doubt, they are the main reason anyone should check out this third outing for the Monsterverse. Some of the weight and scale from Gareth Edwards’s film has been lost a bit due to just how faster monsters move with less emphasis on just how big they are compared to us little humans that were much more plentiful predecessor. However, they still managed to make for some awe-inspiring spectacle. The big four effortlessly steal the show. While their individual screentime may not be perfectly balanced with Mothra and Rodan somewhat taking a backseat to the age-old rivalry of Godzilla and King Ghidorah. They at least have one big moment that certifies why they have remained among the golden crop of Toho’s destructive creations.
While the King of the Monsters’ action doesn’t match the level of peak Steven Spielberg perfection that was the last film’s 20 minutes, it certainly comes close at times and is much more plentiful to boot. Watching these titans clash is nothing short of a total crowd-pleaser and will leave the franchise’s fans wanting more. It’s pretty easy to follow for the most part if bogged down somewhat through the constant edits to the human characters and excessive use of smoke and rain effects that muddles the action visually though not to the point it becomes incomprehensible.
Another component of this film that is also firing on all cylinders is Bear McCreary’s musical score. A musical composer of God of War fame, McCreary brings the right amount of great new themes while bringing in well-done remixes of classic tracks such as Akira Ifukube’s Godzilla theme Yūji Koseki song for Mothra. On its own, the music is just great to listen to due to the variety he brings to the table, but it elevates the film itself to a whole new level.
When trying to understand this movie’s intent, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is just one big crazy monster bash fest. And you know what? That is not my issue with this movie. Other features have done the same thing, such as Pacific Rim or Kong: Skull Island can be summarized as a big-budget B-movie to great success. The deciding factor in my mind will always be the execution. And in this case?
There are some really mammoth-sized issues at work here.
My past few paragraphs were written to describe half of the overall film. That 50 percent made for some pretty good popcorn entertainment. The other half overall? I’ve seen some of the most inane storytelling and characterization in any big blockbuster flick, even for monster movie standards. Ranging from scenes that are honestly boring to downright obnoxious in their narrative decisions.
This may be a monster movie. And there is no reason to expect the writing to be on the level of Shakespeare. However, it’s also not a free excuse for the script to not be exempt from criticism. And coming from the writers of Trick ‘r Treat or even Krampus, it feels woefully undercook as if it was still the first draft. As I alluded to, this movie loves its monsters. Who doesn’t? However, it becomes apparent that logical narrative progression was way put into the background too much for my liking.
While the monsters are the film’s main focus when it’s time for spectacle, the plot gets going entirely because of its human characters. They are the center of that other 50 percent, and they dragged the film down considerably. You can shove each of them into a few particular boxes, such as the ones that come across as pointless, boring to watch, or the few that go into the territory I like to call “Oh my god, what are you doing and stop doing? that.” They really don’t have much to reach the bare minimum for decent character writing that would make these people at least fun to watch. There is an attempt to have some sort of family drama, but it’s barely explored, and everything is almost told rather than shown.
It’s such a shame because this film also happens to have a really talented cast of actors. And they certainly not giving bad performances by any means. The highlight by far is Ken Watanabe Serizawa’s who feels the closest to an actual person. With his character arc culminating in a very well-done callback to the 1954 film that still works on its own merits. That’s sadly the highest the film ever reaches, however. And because this cast is so talented across the board, it frustrates me to see how they are all wasted with this lackluster script. Why is Kyle Chandler telling everybody how stupid they are even for situations his character should have no idea about whatsoever? How can you turn Tywin Lannister into a mere errand boy? Sure was kind of Vera Farmiga (Whose character writing, in particular, deserves its own post on just how bluffing awful it is) to spend the effort to make a PowerPoint presentation about how humanity is the infection on Planet Earth. What a total shame.
One of the more mixed aspects of Godzilla: King of the Monsters is its use of fanservice. Not shocking knowing this movie is just one big throwback to the Toho franchise. Some callbacks are really cool to see and fit nicely in the narrative. Others might go over a casual viewer’s head, but don’t hurt this film’s flow. And a few that just are flat-out poorly done. One, in particular, is meant to be a homage to one of the 1954’s most key moments but literally comes out of left-field with no buildup and is almost instantly discarded just as it was introduced. That is fanservice done poorly and hurts the movie more than anything.
My most important criticism of this film is just how in conflict it is with itself. I believe in earnest that it wants to be a big crazy monster mashup. In the mix of that, though, are various discussions (In really drab exposition sequences too) about the role humans and monsters must play to coexist and family drama that also takes the center stage that would serve as a better fit 2014 film. It just destroys any sense of tonal consistency, especially in an apocalypse-level event with characters spouting off cheesy one-liners that don’t fit at all (The humor isn’t as terrible as Micheal Bay’s Transformers, but it some dour comedy).
And that’s really my stance with Godzilla: King of the Monsters. It’s one of those movies that I adore one second and then somehow loathe it the next. I love the monsters but find the human characters terribly uninteresting. The spectacle is really cool, but I could care any less about why it all going down in the first place. You get the point. In some sort of a real love-hate relationship, my feelings about this movie are confusing and chaotic, just like the film itself.
Talk about poetry.