When will the studios realize that sometimes the fans just want to see the monsters fight? Obviously, the original Gojira (1954) and Godzilla (2014) did show that the lovable lizard who smashes cities can be packaged in a human drama that is both engaging and harrowing. Unfortunately, Godzilla: King of Monsters (2019) uses generic dialogue to fill in tons of exposition in order for the audience to buy into a bigger meaning and a shoehorned-in message about environmentalism that is nothing more than a lame excuse for character motivation. When the monsters are in the movie they’re cool, but everything surrounding them is weak, completely forgettable, and unfortunately used to simply pad out the runtime to over two hours.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters was a bigger let down than any of the monsters in the movie
Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) and her daughter, Madison (Millie Bobby Brown), are working with Monarch to develop a system to help control or interact with the various titans now known to exist on Earth. Five years earlier, Emma and her now ex-husband Mark, (Kyle Chandler), were in San Francisco when Godzilla destroyed much of the city. The incident sent their lives in different directions, but Mark comes to Emma’s aid when she is kidnapped by a rogue militia who looks to make money on the Titan’s existence.
I’m leaving out many of the plot details here, but the human drama is heavy in the foreground of this film. The monsters you want to see in a Godzilla movie have motivations different than you may expect. Again, I don’t have an issue with a story being grounded with human characters, but it doesn’t have to be bland, generic, or feel like it just pulled lines from film history to fill in the dialogue. I like a little bit of camp in my giant monster movies – and I’ll remind you that I defended Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018)! Everything about this film felt contrived and tonally inconsistent.
In fact, the only character that felt like he knew what this movie should be was played by Bradley Whitford. Chandler and Farmiga were far too serious and were in constant contrast with Whitford and Thomas Middleditch (who I’ve enjoyed in many things…but his character here doesn’t make any sense at all). I suppose it’s possible to just like everything as it is, but this movie reminded me of some horrible gumbo made from the previous week’s school lunch leftovers: too many different flavors all in one pot that never quite feel like they work together.
The only parts of the film which I truly enjoyed were when the monsters were given their rightful place in the foreground of the story. Godzilla’s design is really cool in both the 2014 film and this one. Mothra looked so awesome, and the styling of Rodan was really cool as well. There were some others that I don’t know by name that were fine as well, but the big bad was probably one of the cooler elements…well, mostly. Ghidorah, the three-headed monster shown in the trailers, gets some really cool visual moments – but I didn’t always love how the CG looked on screen. It wasn’t ever bad, but some times it looked better than others, which seems to be a frequent problem in many of the CG-heavy movies lately. The downside to the monster fights for me was the overall look of the moments. There is so much not shown at times that it makes me long for the old films where it was obviously a guy in a suit standing in a constructed mini-city – but at least you could see what was going on.
I wanted to walk out of Godzilla: King of Monsters thrilled and on a fun buzz of a popcorn movie full of mayhem and action. Instead, I left making the joke to no one in particular: “More like King of Expositional Dialogue.” Among this movie’s many crimes, the complete waste of O’shea Jackson, Jr is unforgivable. He is excellent in everything I’ve seen him in and here he is barely utilized at all. GKoM earns the Not a Total Waste of Time rating.