Godzilla: King of the Monsters (Movie Review)

It's been five years since Godzilla - the debut film of Legendary's new Monsterverse - returned the atomic giant to our cinema screens. Taking into account our criticisms of the first film (the main one being that it focused too much on the human characters), writers made it a mission to make the sequel more of an ensemble piece: blending a more balanced mix of monsters and humans into the story. Being the 35th film in the Japanese Godzilla franchise and despite bearing such a grabbing title, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, is as disappointing as its monsters are visually grand.

As the story begins, we meet Madison Russell, played by Millie Bobby Brown, who almost anyone with a Netflix account will know as Eleven in Stranger Things. Her mother, Dr. Emma Russel, is a leader of a group of scientists who for some reason think it's a good idea to release more giant monsters upon the world, despite Madison's brother losing his life in the chaos of the first film. Once events inevitably go out of control, it's up to Dr. Mark Russel (Madison's father) and Dr IshirĊ Serizawa (Ken Watanabe), heading their own group of annoying soldiers and Godzilla-friendly scientists to get everything back in order.

Cinema-goers may be wondering how a seemingly action-heavy monster movie could possibly be so boring. After all, long shots of certain various monsters, Godzilla included, are a feast for the eyes. Combined with life-giving visual effects, pre-production even involved performance capture for some of Godzilla's monstrous foes, creating immersive movements and lavish shots that could serve as at least ten high quality desktop wallpapers. However, even with these impressive-looking monsters, "mundane" sadly still comes to mind far too often, mostly because of the terribly-written human characters. 

As with any big action set piece, a script often requires a scene or two of downtime before the next one, letting characters breathe and allowing for personal development and stakes to sink in. In Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the bridges between the monster fights are all irritating babbles of exposition in war rooms by one-dimensional personalities. With some fantastic actors in front of the camera, it's a tragedy to see them work with a lazy script ridden with awful dialogue and character arcs that are nonsensical. It's the irritating kind that involves scenes brimming with weak and tired jokes every five minutes, despite being in intense life-or-death situations, only existing to stretch the runtime, whilst merely feigning any hints of sincerity.

Ken Watanabe as the Godzilla-loving Doctor is a welcome return from the first film, leading the only genuine, heartwarming scene in this tired sequel. Charles Dance, best known as Game of Throne's Tywin Lannister, is an unfortunate waste of talent as the film's closest thing to a human villain, acting out an arc that struggles to make sense the further it goes along.

Even though the monster action scenes are the impressive draws, these are too few and far between given the runtime and the monotonous writing. As much of a relief it is to be thrown into a monster fight after what feels like an eternity, the camera work often takes the thrill away. Heavy with too many zooms and shaky cam shots along with constant cuts away to  the human's perspective, the feelings of exhilaration when seeing Godzilla clash with a three-headed dragon only stay for half as long as you expect them to. 

Thanks to the hard work of talented visual effects artists and film score composers, this is easily the best-looking Godzilla film to date. However, the aesthetics are as far as the quality as Godzilla: King of the Monsters goes. Obsessed with furthering an entire franchise dedicated to the Legendary Monsterverse, it seems the writers and director put together a storyboard of monster fights and wrote down the bare minimum of a story to connect it together. Like looking at the destruction of a Godzilla-torn city, it is a disheartening catastrophe to see a monster movie that's so dull. 


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