For the amount of Godzilla movies there are in the world, it’s a little nuts to think that we still haven’t gotten the definitive “American” version yet. It’s not that we particularly needed one– the Japanese studio Toho handles the big lizard just fine– it’s just hard to fathom that Hollywood still hasn’t gotten the formula right. Admittedly, Gareth Edwards came the closest with his 2014 take on the mythical monster, yet it failed to drive up much interest from both the mainstream and the die hard fans alike. Still, Legendary and Warner Bros. persisted.
This time, they hired Trick r’ Treat and Krampus director Michael Dougherty to direct the sequel to 2014’s Godzilla, the third film in their so called “Monster-Verse” (the highly underrated Kong: Skull Island being the second). With the previous ‘Zilla film having been lambasted for a lack of the titular monster and a weak story, it was up to Dougherty to turn this franchise around. Did he? Eh!
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a nice throw back to the good old days of the Kaiju beat ’em ups; the Destroy All Monsters and Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah type. It’s got it all: Godzilla throwing down harder than any fighter, Mothra curb stomping Rodan into oblivion, Ghidorah’s three heads of doom tearing up the world– everything you’d want from a ‘Zilla flick is here, and it works, for the most part. You’re just going to need to dig deep into a pile of dog shit to obtain the sweet, Gojira gold.
What we get in return for the monster mash is a lame cast of characters who come off as drunk hooligans, stumbling from point A to point B, and a story that seems to forget its own narrative at points. On top of that, you get a weaker dose of the social commentary one would expect from a Godzilla flick. Unfortunately, none of it sticks the landing; Dougherty clearly has something he’d like to say about the state of man, but his points come off as surface level and just rather unnecessary in the grand scheme of things. The lack of Dougherty’s style and touch was disappointing, to say the least.
It doesn’t help the film’s case when the acting is borderline unbearable at times, as if the characters’ names in the script were nothing more than the caricatures they portrayed. It is especially disappointing when the likes of Vera Farmiga, Ken Watanabe, and Sally Hawkins are in your cast, and you *still* don’t know how to use them correctly. It’s not that the acting needed to be top of the line, but to have a little charm and charisma on screen can go a long way.
Top it off with constant exposition dumps and try-hard Marvel-like humor that undercuts any form of tension and you’ll eventually have the urge to smash your face into the chair in front of you; frustrated with just how bad a lot of this movie is.
Yet none of these issues matter once the Kaiju go toe to toe for world domination. King of the Monsters really owns up to the selling point of watching your favorites duke it out, with the first fight occurring within the first 20 or so minutes– one that will sure have die hard ‘Zilla fans lose their complete shit in theaters. From there on out it only gets bigger, better, and as intense as possible, culminating in what is the coolest action sequence of the film: the city of Boston gets absolutely demolished by the powers that be. Thinking back, the destruction of Fenway Park might have gotten the biggest cheers of the night, most of which probably came from my Red Sox-loving ass.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters deals with the same duality issues that its predecessor dealt with five years ago: a wonky tone caused by the constant mish-mash of weak characters and monsters, only this time it’s more extreme. The characters in this one are much weaker, but the Kaiju and the fights are infinitely better, so it’s borderline impossible to say which one is better. It’d be more honest to say that the 2014 Godzilla was a better made movie, but no way in hell is it more enjoyable than King of the Monsters.
Let’s be real here: no one’s watching a Godzilla movie for the plot, so just don’t think too much. Have a few drinks, get a little fucked up, and spend 2 hours and 11 minutes of your life watching a bunch of behemoths beat he ever living shit out of each other. We all deserve to have a little fun every once in a while, just try not to think too hard.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters
dir. Michael Dougherty
Opens Friday, 5/31 pretty much everywhere (though the Hassle recommends the Somerville Theatre or your local mom & pop multiplex)