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Movie Review: "Godzilla: King of the Monsters" Is Fast Paced Fun


GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS
Starring Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Bradely Whitford, Sally Hawkins
Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, Ziyi Zhang and Ken Watanabe

Screenplay by Michael Dougherty and Zach Shields
Directed by Michael Dougherty

Reviewed by Paul and Patrick Gibbs

 Out of Four


The King of The Kaiju, Godzilla, came roaring back to the big screen screen 2014, and director Gareth Edwards made a big splash. While most of the human characters were lifeless and the setup took too long, the Jaws approach that Edwards took teasing the appearance of the big guy lead to some amazing images, and it went with the "Godzilla as an anti-hero that defends humanity against other monsters" approach, which we frankly find to be a lot more fun then the simple stomp stomp "Run away!" version that Roland Emmerich used so badly in his 1998 debacle.
This newest version was highly enjoyable for most Kaiju fans, and if you didn't get chills and start fist pumping when Ken Watanabe said "let them fight", we feel sad for you.

"There are Stranger Things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
than are  dreamt of in your philosophy."
(Images Courtesy Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures)

As the follow up begins, we meet Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) and Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga), who lost their son Andrew during the the battle between Godzilla and the MUTOs in San Fransisco.
Five years later, Mark and Emma have separated. Emma and their daughter Madison, (Mille Bobby Brown) both work with Monarch, the mysterious crypto-zoological version of S.H.I.E.L.D.,  to track down and study Titans, giant God-like monsters that once dominated the Earth. The pair investigate an enormous egg inside a temple in China. It soon hatches, giving birth to a giant larva that Monarch dubs "Mothra". Emma is able to communicate to Mothra and other Titans with a device called the "Orca", capable of emitting frequencies that only Titans can respond to. Mothra becomes docile, until a surprise development puts both Madison and Emma in danger. Mark is forced to jump into action to rescue them along with  Ken Watanabe's Dr. Ishiro Serizawa and a plucky group of monsterologists or whatever you call them,  but of course the real hero/star of the film is Gojira, aka Godzilla.

Mothra to the rescue.
(Images Courtesy Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures)

Where the last film arguably took a little bit too much time with the slow build, King of the Monsters favors a "hit the ground running" approach that is reminiscent of The Mummy Returns in having a breakneck pace that just keeps going, rather than the usual ups and downs that tend to work best for an action thriller. That definitely results in a disjointed and confusing film, and to say that the plotting is messy would be a huge understatement. But the movie gives Godzilla a lot more screen time than the last one did, along with his various famous monster colleagues and foes, and the action is relentless and often wildly fun. Much like Kong: Skull Island, this is nothing more and nothing less than a very expensive B-movie.

The fiilm is given the gift of a strong human cast, which makes it all the more unfortunate that the characters are underdeveloped to the extreme. It's great to have Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown lending her considerable presence to the film, but her role makes little sense and we learn practically nothing about her, other than the fact that she is the sprodigious daughter of Chandler and Farmiga's characters, who are only moderately more well drawn. The three actors rise above their poor writing to deliver likable (if not truly engaging) performances), and others fair even better. Bradley Whitford's comedic science guy, Dr. Rick Stanton (literally named after Rick and Morty) almost steals the movie, but the award for best human still goes to Watanabe, who lends his role in these films a sense of earnest gravitas that might be laughable if he didn't do so well.

The fact is that this is a stupid film. The reason it works as a piece of grand scale entertainment on a level that Emmerich's version did not is that there is a level of joy and enthusiasm about it's stupidity, and an infectious love of the films it is based upon. In the end, if you're excited by the idea of a movie called Godzilla: King of the Monsters, you're probably going to have a lot of fun here. If not, it's unlikely the film will win you over. This is a movie for people who want to have fun watching giant monsters smashing things thing while they fight each other. And on the level, it delivers the goods. While it would have been great to have a solid story and genuinely compelling human characters, that's not what anyone is going to this film to see. This is a large scale spectacle that makes great use of an IMAX screen. If that's what you do in expecting, you'll have a great time.



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