If the upcoming Godzilla vs. Kong is Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, then, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is definitely Man of Steel 2. Wait, that didn’t happen, did it? I unintentionally invented that. Anyway, I think it’s sufficient enough to give you the implication of King of the Monsters within the unfolding MonsterVerse.
It’s the setup to an epic giant reptile versus giant mammal battle. Hence, by right, the film should draw enormous amounts of anticipation to pave way for Godzilla vs. Kong. Did the film draw enough anticipation, or did King of the Monsters wither them, instead?
In an exercise that gains more and more similarity with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the previous film, Kong: Skull Island’s timeline took place in 1973, way back before the timeline in Godzilla, which was released earlier but took place in 2014. King of the Monsters resumes this timeline, and takes place in the current year, albeit with a brief flashback of the battle of San Francisco in 2014.
The flashback revolves around the family of the Russell’s, where Dr Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) and his wife, Dr Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) can be seen frantically searching for their son amidst the ongoing Godzilla-MUTO battle. What happened during that brief period served as a base reference to the story that eventually rises in the film.
Flash forward to 2019, Mark and Emma have parted ways, with the latter still serving Monarch, a secretive organization that was established to study the “Titans”. Which simply means giant monsters that lurk around in our globe. Mark has gone into exile, while their teenage daughter, Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) stays with Emma. Almost all giant-monster movies started with an earthquake, so King of the Monsters decided to walk down that similar path.
A sudden, unnatural earthquake prompts Emma to return to a Monarch facility, where a mysterious larva is stored. Ken Watanabe reprised his role as Dr Serizawa of Monarch, joined by a few new faces like Charles Dance and Zhang Ziyi. Dance played Alan Jonah, an eco-terrorist, and Zhang played Dr Ilene Chen, a mythologist of Monarch. At this juncture, I am not even sure what weird terms will MonsterVerse bring us next. Maybe ‘cut-all-that-crapist’?
A couple of tussles ensued, and Dr Serizawa decides to recruit Mark, and pick him up with a chopper right in the middle of a Nikon camera ad. Oops, sorry, for those who haven’t watched, I meant in the middle of a wildlife photography session. But really, this is one of the primary issues that I have with the film. Bad ad placements. They are so bad, tasteless and attention-grabbing that they hurt my eyes. Now, I’m even less inclined to purchase a Nikon, an Airpods or a Dell.
Not only are they daring enough to serve you with obvious ads during the first act, I reckon that your patience will be constantly tested by Mark’s erratic behavior and his tendency to raise up his voice. Director Michael Dougherty might have given Chandler the wrong script, as Mark’s characteristic exhibits traits of an unwillingly retrenched Monarch employee, rather than a grieving father who had left Monarch gracefully.
At the very least, the first half of the film is lucky to have a mega element that engulfs any weak traits that the plot might show. That is, the anticipation of another ‘King’ that will eventually battle Godzilla. Yes that’s Ghidorah, the three-headed dragon that you’ve seen in the trailers. Even with the fact that they unveiled Godzilla pretty early within the film, my anticipation never subsides.
As soon as Ghidorah makes his grand entry into the story-line (a stupendous one, that is), King of the Monsters starts to show its weaknesses, one by one. For a start, the events of the story paused momentarily to make way for a debate about our planet’s overpopulation and threat to our Mother Nature. Sadly, none of the characters in the film is Thanos. Not even close, that you can bet your last penny that the session is snooze-worthy and is no more than a crappy attempt by Dougherty to educate the masses on what’s happening in the MonsterVerse.
Just because that scene was inserted into the midpoint of the plot, and things did go spiraling downwards from there onwards, it became increasingly clear that bad omens do exist in films. I didn’t want to believe that King of the Monsters was mutating into a bad film, but now, I have to.
The outlook of the world sure does look bleak with the reveal of Ghidorah. And the same can also be said for the film, and even, MonsterVerse. Instead of gaining composure and traction from the entry of a capable Monster-villain, the film further entangles itself into an absolute mess of confusion and absurdities.
The story just won’t converge into one solid direction. Instead, it was branching out, exploring each possibility to shove more and more science-defying, ridiculous ideas into the minds of the audience. Huge air pocket within deep sea levels that only a ‘nuclear submarine’ can reach, really? That’s approaching ‘our-Earth-is-Unicron’ level of bulls**t presented in Transformers: The Last Knight (2017). And I can assure you, brain diarrhea is real.
Inevitably, when the film tried to present more and more of such ideas to the audience, my mind started to shut. I was getting increasingly numb and unperturbed by all those ground-shaking stampedes, fiery explosions and howling giant monsters. Yes, the world within the movie might be nearing an apocalypse, but there’s just a significant amount of disconnect that can’t be ignored. You feel shielded. Somehow, you don’t believe that apocalypse is happening. And neither did the characters in the movie. Ken Watanabe aside, the whole cast line-up fell prey to film-wide charisma cleansing, which left them being unexciting and bland.
If there’s one thing that kept me from dozing-off amongst those colossal battles, it has to be the ceaseless attempt by the characters to wow you with their shallow lines. To clarify, the film is military heavy. Military personnel takes up approximately 60 percent of the characters you see on screen. If each one of them have a random, silly line to present in the movie, you know you’re out of luck. In perhaps an attempt to make the film even more interesting, any event within the plot that involves some incoming things, be it a missile, a crash, a monster, or a donut, will prompt an army personnel to initiate a countdown. That, is pretty “scary”.
Of course, to be fair, there are some aspects that King of the Monsters delivered with intense conviction. The promised Kaiju showdowns are pretty impressive. Part of the thrills comes from what you hear, as Bear McCreary effortlessly put together spot-on sound effects and scores that underline those monstrous fights. I found those ancient-chanting inspired soundtracks to be creepy and suspenseful at the same time. The monsters roar and growl with realistic intensity, and the sound that Godzilla emits while charging up his atomic breath is definitely the pièce de résistance .
Even in its best performing field, King of the Monsters did not soar high without any hiccups. Yes, when the camera angles and choreography feels right, the battle scenes can be powerful and realistic. Yet, during some points of the Kaiju battles, childish antics strike again, be it the unnatural, sped-up movements of the giant monsters, or the exaggeration of what happens during the battle. Yes, how Godzilla is supposed to literally ‘stand’ on top of the ocean is still subjected to hot internet debate and ridicule.
If King of the Monsters is the first film out of the three, then, I guess all can be forgiven. But being the third film, with Godzilla (2014) and Kong: Skull Island (2017) being solid films in their own rights, I think the audience are entitled to demand a certain standard out of the film.
The first Godzilla worked because of the memorable and savage MUTO, the relevance of the depicted world and the excitement surrounding the reveal of (rebooted) Godzilla for the first time. Kong: Skull Island worked because of the enticing performance from Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson and the ‘pre- Captain Marvel’ Brie Larson, combusting with fast paced plot and tense monster-fight choreography. King of the Monsters inherited very little of those qualities which made its predecessors great.
Addict Verdict, AV:
Godzilla: King of the Monsters tells a story about primitive giant monsters going into battle with each other, with equally primitive dialogue scripts and plot development. To enjoy the film, movie-goers need to adapt themselves towards a primitive mindset, and focus on monster battles alone, ignoring any brain-work and bypassing all the bombastic and absurd ideas presented within the film. Godzilla might be the King of the Monsters, but the film is still far away from being King of the Monster-movies.-The Film Addict
Originally published at https://www.thefilmaddict.com on June 7, 2019.