Courtesy of Warner Bros.
In Gareth Edwards 2014 stunner “Godzilla” - a reboot of the famous and popular Kiju - it wasn’t some loud and obnoxious slugfest between monster and men, it built genuine suspense by shrouding the skyscraper tall beast in the shadows, (a similar tactic used in films like “Jaws”) and forced you to have a connection with the human counterparts - it didn’t seem so much humans were the problem, but the solution.
In the 2019 follow-up: “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” humans are no longer the solution - they’re most defiantly the problem.
But I’m not sure that if the human element were removed from Michael Doughty’s lifeless sequel if the next stop on Warner Bros’ expanding MonsterVerse would still rule the seas. The ragin’-cagin’ smackdown between the catalogue of muddily looking CGI creatures (also known as Titans) wouldn't be enough to save the day, because even those sequences lack spark. If you were one of the many who complained that “Godzilla” (2014) should’ve shown more of the monster, you’ll most certainly get your wish here - and trust me, that’s not a good thing.
Picking up five years after the events of its far superior predecessor, the new film tries to imagine a post-monster world, tackling serious issues regarding Global Warming, and sustainability on our planet. San Francisco has been turned into a memorial, earth is dressed with secretive underground posts run by the not-so-ultra classified agency Monarch, and the government is flexing their muscles in biomedical weapons trying to kill all remaining monsters.
None of that is ever engaging (save for a scrawny Thomas Middleditch trying to bring some humor to his role) - so Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) who, along with her teenage daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown - “Stranger Things”) and ex-husband Mark (Kyle Chandler) have been slapped into the middle of this mythology in an attempt to make audiences feel a connection with the MonsterVerse - and the tragedy that’s broken up their family. But the film would rather spend more time with Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (a returning and convincing Ken Watanabe) who pleas with government officials how the world needs Godzilla to restore the planet, and that the big scaly guy likes humans too. Sorta hard to believe when he destroyed several national landmarks - but hey, dinosaurs were also our friends in “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” and we saw how that turned out. When will humans learn?
Helping the cause in keeping the monsters alive is a giant MacGuffin, created by Dr. Russel, in the form of an ORCA, a machine used to “speak” to various Titans by mashing up their “bio-acoustics,” which - in turn - gets her into deep waters with rouge terrorist Jonah Alan (Charles Dance whose only facial expression is scowl) who wants to use her device to, well, it’s never made clear.
Still, like most arches that take shape in “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” none of these minor details actually matter. After Emma and Madison are kidnapped by Jonah, there’s a twist midway through with a side-flipping character who plans to use the ORCA to conjure the rest of the planet’s Titans, many of which are contained in Monarch’s various outposts. Drawing eerily similar comparisons to mad-titan Thanos philosophy, said character believes that unearthing all these monsters will bring balance to the universe. Yeesh.
The Titans are unleashed all right, as many of the films monsters duke it out for total supremacy, meanwhile the clueless and daffy humans gawk over computer screens figuring out how to stop the CGI madness. Among those humans are returning cast members Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn - but also the additions of Ziyi Zhang, O’Shea Jackson Jr, Anthony Ramos, and a wacky Bradley Whitford - who all just appear without explanation, giving the allusion that any actor could waltz onto screen.
And on the monster side we’ve got Mothra, a giant and gorgeous looking moth with an allegiance to Godzilla; a three headed dragon by the name of King Ghidorah; and a winged pterodactyl like Rodan, yet even those Titan battle royales aren’t something to behold. Mostly because Doughty makes the horrible decision of showcasing many of these beatdowns in the middle of hurricanes and monsoons, effectively keeping things in the dark, before moving back to the shaky human POV. Some of the wider shots remind the audience how massive in scope these monsters are, but at every corner there’s no intensity.
Not to mention Mark and his band of Monarch pals manage to be everywhere they need to be at once thanks to a massive super-sonic jet, and that’s only a small fraction of the films “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” non conspicuously tries to rip-off. Not at any fault of this overqualified cast who try their best to make the films events seem plausible (specifically Brown who is the best thing in the movie) - it’s just the script only affords them the opportunity to stand and basically do nothing.
Too bad “Godzilla” (2014) was the springboard for the Marvel Cinematic Universe of Monsters, because now the world building is causing a cluster of exposition that merely seems in place to set up future events. And this woefully inept inclusion proves that theory, as events aren’t remotely exciting and the plotting feels paper thin. If the next installment in this MonsterVerse (“Kong vs Godzilla” due out in 2020) is as narratively incomprehensible as “King of the Monsters” - God help us all.