Typical. You wait five years for a monster to show up and then four come at once. Following the events of “Godzilla”, secretive megacryptid management organisation Monarch has been working diligently to discover, catalogue and contain the various Titans which slumber across the globe but when eco-mercenary Alan Jonah (Charles Dance) gains control of the Orca, a device with the power to control the behaviour of Titans, and takes Dr Russell (Vera Farmiga) and her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) hostage, its down to former Monarch agent Dr Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) and the team to find a way to stop the released titans from devastating the Earth. But is Godzilla friend, or foe?
Writer/ Director Michael Dougherty certainly has an impeccable eye for monstrous action and astonishing visuals. The creatures themselves are stunning and the fight scenes gloriously rendered with an almost Boschian aesthetic, bringing real gothic apocalyptic sensibility to the modern monster mythology; you’ll lose count of the number of shots which could be framed and hung on gallery walls. Yes, the titanic dust-ups tend to be somewhat heavy on the dust but there’s always a beauty to what’s on screen and the clouds of dust and debris are, through hauntingly beautiful illumination, used to atmospheric effect. It’s a smart nod to the complaints that we didn’t get to see enough of Godzilla in the 2014 movie while still using the power of the unseen to heighten the drama and tension.
Where the monsters succeed, though, humanity stumbles. The turgid, petty human dramas are of little overall consequence or interest and there are so many sudden changes of heart that even Mr Burns would blanch at the revolving door mendacity. And speaking of revolving doors, there are more than a few characters who clearly ticked the ‘noble sacrifice’ on their contractually obligated sequel appearance contract. There’s an unexpected homage to “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier”’s ‘Plan-B’ sequence and a shot lifted directly from, bizarrely, “Shark Attack 3” which attempt to inject some drama into the non-monster goings-on but lumbered with clunky dialogue, arbitrary character decisions and performances which seem to come from different movies, the human portions of this monster mash-up are the film’s weakest points and it’s a shame it feels the need to cut back to it so often, especially mid-fight.
The world-building which started in “Godzilla” and continued through “Kong: Skull Island” really gathers pace here, with numerous references which lay the groundwork for the forthcoming “Godzilla v Kong” and further adventures in the Monsterverse. The movie even manages to best “Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice” for arch expository set-up by basically dumping the entire backstory for “Godzilla v Kong” over the end credits of this movie.
Beautiful to look at, magisterial at scale but disappointing flat at the human level, “Godzilla: King Of The Monsters” will delight kaiju fans because their faves have never looked better but the muddled and counter-intuitive environmental message never really rings true and further sequels will need to work out how to make the human drama matter.