Reviewed by Steve McGowan I am the kind of nerd who likes the idea of kaiju movies, but whenever I watch one I often feel massively underwhelmed. Pacific Rim didn’t do squat for me. 2014’s Godzilla remake was boring. This year’s sequel, Godzilla: King of Monsters, promised to be bigger and bolder but again, it fell mostly flat save for a few redeeming moments of kaiju battle, though the fun action of those moments do not make up for the rest of the film. The film takes place in the same cinematic universe as Godzilla (2014) and Kong: Skull Island (2017), which the producers are hoping will create a lucrative franchise like the MCU (unlikely, but it’s nice someone’s trying). Some spoilers follow, but there isn’t really much of a plot to spoil here, so feel free to keep reading unless you want to know absolutely nothing else about it than whether or not its worth your time to go see it (it probably isn’t).
The film opens with a flashback to the 2014 film where Godzilla battles MUTOs in San Francisco, where we meet our new protagonists, a family barely surviving the carnage of the battle: a pair of married scientists named Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) and Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga), who apparently lost one of their two children in the battle. Flash forward to today, the surviving child, Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) lives with her mother in a kaiju research facility in China. The facility is run by Monarch, the group that studies monsters from the previous films in this franchise. Madison’s parents are now separated, and Mark now lives his life in the wilderness, taking photos of wolves, as one is wont to do after a divorce I suppose. Emma Russell has spent her time inventing a machine called The ORCA, which can calm down the monsters using sounds. They test the thing on a giant larvae that they’re housing, a baby version of the kaiju known as Mothra.
But wait! A team of eco-terrorists attack Emma Russell’s facility! They steal the ORCA, killing everyone there except Emma and Madison, whom they abduct. The terrorists are led by a cranky old British guy named Alan Jonah (Charles Dance), and they let Mothra loose. Alarmed by these developments, Monarch enlists the help of Mark to help track down the ORCA and his missing family. Monarch is led by Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe, reprising the role from the 2014 film), Sam Coleman (Thomas Middleditch), plus some army folks. Zhang Ziyi is also in this film, and for a while I was confused by the fact that they called her character Ilene Chen, and sometimes Ling Chen. It was only after the movie that I learned those names are supposed to represent two different characters (twin sisters), and it wasn’t immediately obvious to me. Monarch learns that Jonah wants to awaken all the giant monsters lying dormant and hidden in Monarch bases around the world, for reasons, and it is up to the good guys to try and get Godzilla to help them fight them all. It is a fairly nonsensical setup for getting giant monsters to duke it out on screen, but once they appear and start fighting it is quite a spectacle to behold. If you’re a fan of the original Toho films you will probably be delighted at seeing the roster of your favorite monsters here; apart from Godzilla we see Rodan, Ghidorah, Mothra, and others that are unnamed but probably instantly recognizable by fans of the franchise.
If you came for the monster fights, I am happy to report that the kaiju fight scenes are very well done. However, the problem with this film of course, is whenever we don’t see the monsters on screen we are watching talented actors playing the most forgettable characters you’ve ever seen. Millie Bobby Brown, who showed us her amazing acting skills in Stranger Things, does not get much of a chance to shine. Ken Watanabe wearily recited ridiculous lines. Charles Dance pretty much phoned it in.
The final battle takes place in Boston, and if you’ve ever been to Fenway Park and wished, “it’s nice to watch the Red Sox play baseball here and all, but what if we could watch Godzilla fight another monster in this exact same stadium”, well, wish granted. Godzilla pretty much wrecks the place, the surrounding neighborhoods, the Pru, the Hancock tower, and eventually the entire city. I used to live a stone’s throw away from Fenway, so I really did get to see Godzilla step on my house.
I give Godzilla: King of Monsters two out of five giant lizards. Watch it if you’re a Toho fan, otherwise wait for it to hit streaming.