Godzilla: King of the Monsters, a sort-of follow up to Gareth Edwards’ fantastic 2014 film, opens this weekend, and we saw it so that you don’t have to.
1. What is it about?
King of the Monsters exists in the same universe as the 2014 Godzilla movie, which is a universe in which giant creatures called Titans exist on Earth. For reasons that have nothing to do with anything other than driving an otherwise weak plot forward, the titular monster is a good monster who is interested in protecting humans (but definitely not human infrastructure) from the bad monsters, which is pretty much all of the rest of them.
These monsters have been tracked, studied, and now contained by a pseudo-government worst-kept-secret society called Monarch, which are the only people who get that Godzilla is on our side, and are trying to keep the military from killing him. The fact that the first movie basically established that Godzilla is unkillable isn’t important.
In this sequel, Kyle Chandler and Vera Farmiga are a divorced couple who lost their son when Godzilla wiped out San Francisco. Now, Farmiga works for Monarch and lives in one of apparently dozens of “secret” facilities with her teenage daughter (Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown) and one of the creatures (CGI’s Mothra.) Chandler turned to nature photography to learn to cope, but is quickly brought back into his ex-wife’s escapades. Charles Dance plays an eco terrorist who has decided that the best way to save life on earth is to unleash these monsters to wipe out life on earth. Bradley Whitford, Ziyi Zhang, David Straithairn, Sally Hawkins, and a whole lot of others ensure that basically every scene is overcrowded with familiar faces. Ken Watanabe is the only actor from the original film to return, which probably means he needs a new agent.
2. What other monsters are in this one?
Honestly, it’s probably easier to list the monsters of this universe that aren’t in the film: King Kong and Mechagodzilla. Otherwise, the studio basically took every other creature from 65+ years of Godzilla films and crammed them into this movie. There are a few that are recoginzable to casual Godzilla fans like yours truly, including Rodan, Mothra, and Ghidorah, but there are a bunch of others that pop up in the mnay, many “destroy random cities” sequences.
King Kong is the odd one missing here. It makes sense once you realize that they are obviously saving him for next year’s Godzilla vs King Kong, but the mutilple references to Skull Island are a bit jarring once you catch on that we probably aren’t going to see Kong. And Mechagodzilla is presumably missing because he doesn’t really fit this mythology, which stipulates that the monsters have been on Earth for millennia.
3. Is it at least entertaining?
No. This is a poorly conceived, very poorly executed mess of a movie.
For starters, there are way too many characters and way too many plot twists to a) keep track of and b) reasonably fit into a slightly-over-2-hour film. I’m assuming that most of the characters were given names, but I stopped caring early on and only bothered to learn Millie Bobby Brown’s character’s name—Maddie—because it seemed like Kyle Chandler’s character mostly just says (or, at least as often, shouts) her name throughout the movie.
The bigger issue, though, is that the creators of these films have painted themselves into a corner. We know from the first movie that Godzilla basically can’t be killed, and he is the title character, and we know he’s coming back, so there’s never any dramatic tension in his fights. Ghidorah, Rodan, and Mothra, though, have a related problem: like Godzilla, they are impervious to anything the humans through at them, and mostly can’t kill each other, either. So the movie fairly quickly boils down to: humans talk, humans try and fail to shoot conventional weapons at the monsters, monsters fight each other to a draw. Rinse, repeat… for over two hours.
Movies—all movies—exist in their own universe that is entirely separate from our own. I don’t have a problem accepting that these movies exist in a world where giant monsters are real but have existed since, well, basically since forever, with only one creature per species. So movies do not need to follow things like the Laws of Physics, since those exist in our universe, not the universe in the movies.
That said, I do expect a movie to be consistent with its universe. If you’ve established, say, that the giant monsters are real, then cool. But you can’t have a universe in which in one scene, the Air Force fired a whole lot of missiles at Rodan, and he’s able to easily blow them off. But later, that same Air Force firing (we assume) the same types of missiles, do manage to hurt Rodan.
But on top of all of that, the movie is almost a collection of really dumb scenes stitched carelessly together, rather than something trying to drive a story forward. For example, we get a scene early on where American fighters throw a ton of missiles at Rodan, and while it seems to anger him, he’s able to brush it off and continue. But later, the same type of fighters fire what we have to assume the same type of missiles and manage to hurt him.
One of the more ridiculous points happens somewhat early on, but also with Rodan. I can’t tell you how or why it’s so stupid without revealing a small spoiler about the movie, so if you want to see what I’m talking about, click the spoiler area below.
The worst part of all of this, though, is that in the end, the movie is really quite boring. By about the third or fourth time a hero is being threatened by Ghidorah and Godzilla shows up moments before the hero dies, there’s little left to hold anyone’s interest.
And if one more character just happened to have a whole bunch of conveniently prepared visuals to help them illustrate the point they were making, I was going to scream.
4. Will my kids like it?
My guess is that kids are going to find the movie to be loud and long and aggressively stupid, just like adults.
5. What’s it rated? Why?
The movie is rated PG-13 “for sequences of monster action violence and destruction, and for some language.”
The first part of that is obvious. Not quite as clear from the MPAA’s description is that the movie has a pretty high body count. We expect a whole lot of implied deaths when monsters ravage cities, but in addition to that, there are dozens of people who get shot, including one execution-style. There’s no blood, but lots and lots of bodies laying around. And on more than one occasion, people get eaten. The violence is much more akin to that seen in King Kong.
The bad language is downright pervasive. The MPAA only cares about what words are said, and not how often and by whom, so because no one says the “F” word this movie gets the “some language” description, but the “S” word is used throughout the movie, including multiple times by the teen Millie Bobby Brown.
6. Is it worth seeing in 3D?
It’s not worth seeing in any dimension, but because the showtime happened to work out for me, I did see it in 3D. One of the very few things I can say that’s positive about this movie is that at least it doesn’t do that obnoxious 3D thing where characters throw things at the screen just because. Overall, the 3D is relatively subtle, although there are a few scenes that show Rodan’s volcano from the top of a church, and the 3D effect made the cross on the church look like someone in the audience was holding a cross in front of the projector, which I found more than a bit distracting.
7. When’s a good time to take a break to go to the bathroom?
Most of the middle of the film has to do with monsters fighting each other, so getting up during any random monster fight will mean you miss a much of costly CGI, but not much else. There’s also a too-long sequence in a submarine that can be safely skipped.
8. Are there any extras after the credits?
The first part of the credits show a bunch of headlines about how the movie’s main human villain was apparently right. They are laugh-out-loud ridiculous.
There is also a scene at the very end of the credits, but disappointingly, it’s not a surprise King Kong appearance.