A lot of people shit on Gareth Edwards ambitious 2014 remake of Godzilla, but I liked it, and appreciate it for what it was trying to do. I completely understand why folks took issue with just how little screen time the titular big guy wound up getting, despite the fact that he almost NEVER got tons of screen time…but whatever. What we got WAS pretty rad…but yes, there simply wasn’t enough of it. At least two key moments could’ve been so cool had they not cut away, especially that Hawaii airport sequence, but what we got really only whet our appetites for MORE monster mayhem. Given that Godzilla (2014) made a decent amount of scratch at the Box Office ($193 million world-wide) a sequel was inevitable, especially when Warner Bros. and Legendary seem to be clamoring to get on the ‘shared universe’ band-wagon. Originally, Gareth Edwards was set to return to the director’s chair but, for reasons, had to bow out, leaving the spot wide open for another up-n-coming director who I also admire, Michael Dougherty (Krampus). When I heard that he was taking up the reins, I was totally cool with that call. I loved both of Dougherty previous flicks, Trick R Treat (2007) and Krampus (2015), very much appreciating his taste in color and lighting, but also his well-portioned doses of humor. Given the cult following both of those previous flicks have generated, he was a logical conclusion, in my opinion. I was also really curious to see what he could pull off with a serious budget.
So, today didn’t start off too great. My fiancé and I have recently uprooted from our stuffy little urban lives in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia and hit Small Town, Vancouver Island, and I think a bit of system shock finally caught up to me today, after a whirl-wind last few months, going back to the death of my dad. Anyway, I think the drastic change in…well…everything, nailed me between the eyes, and put me into Bitch Mode. It was inevitable that I would eventually find and check out the nearest 4 Auditorium theatre (it’s so cute, compared to the friggin multi-plexes I’m used to). Figuring that maybe getting my snarly attitude out the door and away from my lady could be mutually beneficial. Wanting to make sure I see this flick on the Big Screen, I piled into my ritzy ’97 Mirage and made the idyllic 22 minute sea-side drive to the next major town to check out my new theatre set-up (not bad, actually) and watch some kick-ass Kaiju action fuck some shit up!
King of the Monsters opens in the aftermath of the destruction brought about by Godzilla’s battle with the two MUTOs in San Francisco. In an effort at self-preservation, the cryptozoological agency MONARCH has gone forth and rooted out numerous Hibernating Monsters of Intimidating Size and set up either containment or surveillance measures. At one of these sites, a scientist named ‘Emma’ (Vera Farmiga) and her daughter ‘Madison’ (Millie Bobby Brown) are on the verge of testing a prototype communication device to attempt contact with the massive beasts when a group of mercenaries storm the facility, kidnapping them and stealing her tech, while also inadvertently releasing the Kaiju housed there; a gigantic female moth named ‘Mothra’. This event sets off a catastrophic chain reaction that culminates with the release of the fearsome, 3-headed space dragon ‘King Ghidora’ aka ‘Monster Zero’. This evil, bad-ass motherfucker puts out the call and monstrous, city-leveling destruction ensues, especially when our boy ‘Godzilla’ shows up.
This flick definitely makes sure it stays away from the criticisms plaguing the first movie in this series, as it loads on the monster action once the momentum gets rolling! Given the dark, shitty mood I was in when I arrived at the cinema, I was a smiling Mofo when I popped out 2 hours and 12 minutes later. I had a ton of fun with this movie and, having said that, have to acknowledge that I got exactly what I hoped I would get from it. I had faith in Michael Doughtery and in my opinion, he delivered! I can definitely see him continuing in his upward trajectory with this one on his resume’. Which isn’t to say that all is perfect…it’s not, there are some issues…which I may as well knock off here…
I ALMOST feel that King of the Monsters ran about 10-15 min too long. There was a point partway through the narrative where things were starting to feel episodic and repetitive. How many times are we going to need Godzilla to get knocked down and struggle valiantly, only to inevitably tap into some reserves or something, and spring back into action. But, though redundant, most of those scenes where pretty damn kick-ass! But back to the Negative. There was also come connective tissue lacking for a few scenes, or plot holes (how did ‘Madison’ just waltz out of that facility?). In conjunction with this, there was a clunky-ness to some of the editing along the way too. Certainly not a deal-breaker, but I did notice it. A few of the jokes also fell flat and a couple moments of melo-drama were overcooked but hey…we’re talking about a movie who’s source material was a guy in an awkward zipper suit trashing miniature cities, with firecrackers being shot at him…so a little melo-drama is easily forgiven, given the fantastical trappings of the movie. The one other issue was the pushing of believability…yeah yeah…it’s a movie about a giant fucking radioactive lizard, I know, but there was one area where I was pulled out of what was going on: Too many scenes have people within easy striking distance of collateral damage around the feet of these monsters as they destroy everything in the area and the number of squished humans is noticeably minimal.
Getting back to the Good…the monster mayhem was tons of fun for this here intelligent savage! While it didn’t quite have the grandeur of Gareth Edward’s vision in 2014, Doughtery definitely did his own thing and it worked in the confines of the story and the style. There were some clever moments and cool uses of environment and powers, all coupled to a Sound Design made to smash you around! LOTS of shit goes *Crash*, *Bang*, *Boom* and my inner 8-year old was a happy camper. Complimenting that was a creative-but-epic Music Score by Bear McCreary, which worked beautifully in many scenes (listening to it now as I type this). On a technical level, King of the Monsters knew its shit! The CG, while obviously CG, was amazing! The attention to detail, especially in the Kaiju designs, was great and the whole thing was captured with a slick, pricey-looking sheen. There are numerous action beat examples I could cherry-pick for discussion, but it’s better if you just check it out yourself.
The cast is Above Average, with Farmiga and Brown putting in the effort, while surrounded by the serviceable services of familiar faces like Ken Watanabe (Inception), Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water) and David Strathairn (Sneakers) returning from the first movie, joined by Raymond Chandler (Super 8), Charles Dance (Alien 3), Ziyi Zhang (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Bradley Whitford (Cabin in the Woods), and O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Den of Thieves) in among other faces you undoubtedly recognize. There isn’t any really bad acting on display, they all do what they need to, to propel this awesomely ridiculous movie from big crazy action scene to the next…cuz that’s REALLY what we’re all there for anyway, right?!
In a nutshell, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a solid sequel, and addition to this blossoming shared universe concept over there at Warner Bros., and I had a blast with it. Seeing it in a brand-new theatre may have contributed to the novelty, but the movie itself knew what it was and went for it, and as a result, I had many a grin plastered on my normally sour mug in the darkness as ‘Godzilla’ and fellow monsters wrecked each other…and everything around them. The movie looks amazing, in almost every way and is complimented by a fearsomely aggressive sound design. Just from a technical stand-point, I think King of the Monsters is a Win. The story is silly and is just there to guide you through the large-scale madness, but it works in the context and as an extension of its predecessor. If you liked the ‘first’ one, but didn’t think there was enough monster smash-n-crash, rest assured that they take care of that problem here in this flick. If this type of movie is your jam…then I’m sure you’ll dig this, especially if you just shut your brain down and get lost in the destruction and atmosphere. Given the subject matter of the story, I would recommend finding the biggest screen you can to feast your looking balls upon the spectacle.
*I missed the 3D showing, but still had a kick-ass time in 2D. Some of the imagery would be very cool in the Third Dimension, especially when the monsters face off in their various exotic locales.
**I loved the many call backs to the classic Godzilla movies, especially when I realized how the character played by Ziyi Zhang fit in as a reference to Mothra…someone knew their cinematic Kaiju lore!