After Kong: Skull Island seriously impressed me in 2017, I had high hopes for the next chapter in this Monster-verse. Godzilla: King of the Monsters director and co-scripter Michael Dougherty was responsible for the best Halloween film this century in Trick R’ Treat, and felt like a safe pair of hands to lead this project. Sadly despite having almost everything going for it on paper, Godzilla II is a shockingly poor effort that is a glaring missed opportunity.
Gareth Edward’s Godzilla had its fair share of problems but it at least had the nucleus of an interesting idea. Kong seemed to learn from those mistakes and redressed a certain imbalance, delivering a popcorn-friendly blockbuster that revived interest in the franchise. The ad campaign for Godzilla: King of the Monsters made a point of addressing some further concerns, mainly in the look of the creature, and how often he would be seen onscreen. So far, so good.
As great as Godzilla looks (and make no mistake, he looks amazing onscreen), it all gets lost in a film with no clear purpose or direction. The story is all over the shop and makes very little sense. Then throw in haphazard visual images that (whilst looking beautiful) only assault your eyes because it’s nearly impossible to make out what the hell is going on, and you have a very frustrating movie-going experience all round. It’s not Transformers 2-levels of bad, but it’s not far off. If you have the stamina to make it through a fight scene there are some cool moments to pick out, but these are far too infrequent, with clouds and rain obscuring the nuts and bolts of every fight set-piece. It’s a wonder the audience doesn’t get epilepsy after watching this.
The plot is ludicrous and involves Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga), estranged from her husband Mark (Kyle Chandler) and who is still suffering from the loss of their son during the attacks of 2014 (the events of the first Godzilla movie). Dragging her teenage daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) along with her, Emma teams up with an eco-terrorist group funded through the trafficking of Titan DNA led by ex-military man Colonel Alan Jonah (Charles Dance). He has his own plans to resurrect the Titans living under the Earth in an epic battle for them to reclaim the world. Monarch, the crypto-zoological agency who harbours their own secretive agenda, thinks that the only way to stop them is to unleash Godzilla to fight for mankind.
The film has amassed an impressive roster of acting talent who are all, uniformly, wasted here. Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds, O’Shea Jackson Jr., David Strathairn, Ken Watanabe and Zhang Ziyi all deserved so much better, and it’s a real shame to see this ensemble fall by the wayside of poor writing. And for a monster film the human characters are actually onscreen a hell of a lot, but are never really doing anything interesting.
As mentioned before, Godzilla looks incredible and he certainly raises excitement levels when he’s onscreen, but for me there’s not one single fight scene of genuine worth that will stay with you for very long. Kong had memorable set-pieces but given the opponents Godzilla has to face (namely Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah), I rightly expected a lot more effort in making these monster fights at least memorable. There’s the odd scene that is done well, but for a monster film of this calibre it should have been overflowing with cool moments, and it simply isn’t.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters had everything going for it and it still manages to screw it all up. It’s a very disheartening film to watch as I wanted to love this and was willing to give this a lot of slack. The finale of the film delivers a pretty bleak and damaging world, and I honestly can’t see where they can take the story next. But we are due to have Godzilla v Kong coming up soon so hopefully they can once again find the enjoyment factor and bring this franchise back to calmer waters.
Cast: Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds, O’Shea Jackson Jr., David Strathairn, Ken Watanabe, Zhang Ziyi Director: Michael Dougherty Writer: Michael Dougherty, Zach Shields, Max Borenstein Certificate: 12A Duration: 131mins Released by: Warner Bros Release date: 29th May 2019