Godzilla: King of the Monsters, directed by Michael Dougherty, has a watchable and mildly entertaining 30-minute film buried inside its bloated 132 minutes. If 90% of the scenes involving humans were chiseled away, you’d have a quirky movie that wouldn’t quite rise to the heights of 2014’s Godzilla, but would at least give audiences the adrenaline-blast they claimed was missing. King of the Monsters is full of shockingly bad dialogue that may have audiences unintentionally laughing, with pitiful attempts of comedy included, that nobody could possibly laugh at. Even the few instances of monster-filled bliss are far too short, immediately plunging King of Monsters back into an incredibly dull story that we couldn’t care less about. With the talented cast and crew behind it, King of the Monsters could have elevated the Hollywood franchise, but unfortunately, it falls so short that a nuclear bomb couldn’t wake it up.
After the events of Godzilla (2014), the world is coming to terms with living amongst giant mythological monsters, referred to as “Titans.” Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) believes that creatures like Godzilla and the newly-hatched Mothra are meant to restore the planet to an ancient order. Her estranged husband, animal behavior specialist Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler), sees the Titans as a dangerous menace. When Dr. Russell and her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) are whisked away by an eco-terrorist organization bent on controlling the Titans, Mark must join forces with the government to find his family. When the chaotic three-headed King Ghidorah emerges and uses its alpha power to compel the other Titans to aid in attacking the world, Godzilla must return from hiding to defend its planet.
The primary complaint about Garth Edwards’s Godzilla (2014) was that there wasn’t enough of what audiences claimed they wanted — total monster pandemonium. Instead, the film focused more on how the chaos affected the world on a more human level. The brilliance of giving viewers only flashes of mayhem is that it made the final showdown all the more awe-inspiring. It wasn’t quite art cinema, but it also wasn’t the mind-numbing and careless destruction of the Michael Bay Transformers series. Unfortunately, director Michael Dougherty created an incredibly boring and awkward film, that only occasionally has the monster clashes audiences craved.
Godzilla movies are not known for their human drama — that is all well and good, but there is no excuse for the talented cast of King of the Monsters to be completely wasted. The supporting cast that includes Ken Watanabe, Ziyi Zhang, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, O’Shea Jackson Jr., and David Strathairn, has nothing to work with. These are great actors who are clearly struggling to get through ridiculous dialogue and plot developments that steal elements from other well-known franchises. The only decent human moment in the entire film is a short sequence showing Chandler entertaining his children in a bear costume, and giving Farmiga “bear kisses.” (Seeing Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights dressed as a bear was a sight I didn’t know I needed.) While the last movie might have been a little cold and humorless, the jokes aggressively forced into King of the Monsters are shockingly amateurish. When audiences complained about the slightly uninteresting human characters in the last film, were they really wishing for characters cracking jokes about Titan genitals? How about pointing out that “Ghidorah” sounds like “gonorrhea”? While Dougherty’s previous films 2015’s Krampus and 2007’s Trick ‘r Treat were able to take monster mayhem and weave in dark humor, here it seems like the comedy has been dialed down to what an elementary school boy would write and then delete because even he knew it wasn’t funny. King of the Monsters often resembles a subpar Fox prime time show about shadowy government organizations, that you couldn’t care less about.
The fight sequences in King of the Monsters are decidedly okay. King Ghidorah does have a playful, stop-motion-like animation style to him. Mothra and Rodan both look impressive and are given moments to shine in battle. The main problem with these monster sequences is that there is no real grandeur or scale to anything. Having Ghidorah’s heads be animated in an interesting and quirky way is useless if the camera is pushed too close to him. Showing the size and majesty of Mothra and Rodan is ruined when the shot abruptly cuts away to human nonsense. The creatures aren’t being treated like the important mythological beings the film claims they are. The fight sequences are markedly less interesting, memorable, and brutal than they were in the last film. There might be more of them in King of the Monsters but they are without a doubt weaker.
If 2014’s Godzilla felt like Jurassic Park, hiding the beasts in darkness and only giving us brief but exciting moments, King of the Monsters resembles the vastly inferior Jurassic World series. The monsters are underutilized and less interesting. Incredibly unnecessary human stories are included to weakly push forward a franchise’s bland plotline. There is no reason that a Godzilla film can’t have both interesting, well-written characters and adrenaline-pumping monster fights that highlight the full scale of these creatures. Unfortunately, King of the Monsters uses all 132 minutes to fail at both. Here’s hoping next year’s Godzilla vs Kong either figures out how to better integrate humans into the world of Titans, or simply exists in a wasteland controlled by just monsters.