Godzilla returned in 2014 with the visually stunning but somewhat flawed reboot by Gareth Edwards and kicked off what WB/Legendary is calling the Monsterverse, bringing Kong into the mix with Kong: Skull Island. The third entry in the franchise is here, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and it’s kind of a mess of awesome kaiju action and visuals but a terrible plot and boring characters.
Picking up 5 years after Godzilla, the secretive organization Monarch has found and contained 17 more MUTOs, now called Titans, and are dealing with a congressional hearing to determine if they should be put under control of the military. One of Monarch’s scientists, Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) has developed a device called the ORCA, which can send out an auditory signal to calm, lure or basically do whatever the plot requires to the Titans. She is kidnapped from a facility in China monitoring Mothra, along with her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) by Alan Jonah (Charles Dance), an eco-terrorist with an army of mercenaries. Drs Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Graham (Sally Hawkins) recruit Emma’s ex-husband Mark (Kyle Chandler) to help them track the ORCA and rescue Emma and Madison. The main issue with King of the Monsters is that most of the characters are extremely boring and flat and it’s a slog getting through Titan-less scenes because you don’t care about anything that is happening. The only human character we really care about is Serizawa because we had the whole previous movie to get to know him (and Ken Watanabe just exudes gravitas) but all the new characters are not even stereotypes or archetypes, they’re just uninteresting, flat blanks. Bradley Whitford tries to do something with his comic relief character but it’s not enough and Charles Dance seems game to really dig into the smarmy villainy he’s known for but isn’t given anything to do. Even though Aaron Taylor-Johnson wasn’t particularly interesting either, I definitely prefer the pacing and simplicity of Gareth Edwards’ movie.
The Titans almost make up for the lack of characters and plot and if you were one of the people who disliked the teasing of fights in Godzilla 2014, King of the Monsters is jam-packed with kaiju action. Ghidorah, Rodan, and Mothra all join their old buddy Godzilla in new, updated versions and they all look great, especially Ghidorah, who basically steals most of the movie away from Godzilla. They have their iconic sounds from the Toho classics but they have the same epic scale and power as Godzilla does now, like Rodan basically creating horrifying winds by just flying over an area and Ghidorah generating a category 5 hurricane around himself. The battles between the monsters are great, especially Godzilla’s rumbles against his arch-enemy, although with the aforementioned hurricane it does put the battles in the dark and in the rain, which is a bit annoying and the movie overall is incredibly dark and murky. Old school Godzilla fans will definitely appreciate some of the touches brought in by director Mike Dougherty and his team though. The classic Godzilla theme is back with a new version by the excellent Bear McCreary and there are also old school plot devices like the Oxygen Destroyer as well. The one area where it seems like a missed opportunity is in the other Titans, there are 13 other monsters that get unleashed but they are all kind of stupid (one is literally just another MUTO from Godzilla 2014) and it feels like there could have been at least a few other classic Toho monsters, like Gigan, Biollante, Anguirius, etc, getting some cameos. There are lots of references to Kong and Skull Island though, to build hype for next year’s title fight between the King and the God.
If you’re an old school kaiju fan or just enjoy big monster battles, King of the Monsters will definitely satisfy in that regard but the rest of the movie is kind of a mess with an extremely scattered plot and boring, uninteresting characters. I’m still excited for Kong vs Godzilla but hopefully, that movie focuses more on its title characters and less on whatever the humans on the sidelines are doing.