Godzilla is an international cultural phenomenon that has inspired 35 total films. The gigantic ocean lizard is one of the most iconic creations in global entertainment history. Originally created by Japanese filmmakers in 1954, Hollywood has generated three total Godzilla films, the latest being “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.” It was a visually stunning display of CGI perfection, yet also a disastrous compilation of storytelling.
Godzilla got the proper digital enhancements it deserved in 2014’s film, titled solely “Godzilla,” yet the massive reptile only received seven minutes of screentime at the very end. We were forced to be drowned in a dull, almost comical plot involving boring characters and the creation of two radioactive creatures, called MUTOs, before we got to see Zilla square off against the two, which by itself was spectacular, yet wasn’t able to save the film.
Director Michael Dougherty listened partially to what the last film in the Godzilla franchise did wrong and created a film in which we see Godzilla battle more than one creature, this time including the mother of all beasts. “King of the Monsters” does a remarkable job giving audiences what they want by crafting truly magnificent CGI monster fights, but doesn’t quite do the job in terms of delivering a film that touches all the right chords.
What this film fails to do is have a plot that involves some grounded reason or characters who are interesting. Take 2005’s “King Kong,” directed by Peter Jackson, or “Jurassic Park” from Steven Spielberg in 1993. These films are memorable due to their groundbreaking visual effects and exciting action, of course, but they were effective because the films weren’t just about the creatures on screen. We had characters who, while not moving us to tears, made us care. We wanted to share their adventures and feel their fear, awe and adrenaline. “King of the Monsters” instead puts a bunch of B-level actors on screen and rushes through writing a plot that is not only completely ridiculous but also sloppy.
To sum up the conflict in this film in the neatest way possible, a group of scientists faces the decision of whether or not to save the order of nature by involving Godzilla and are stuck on what to do with the hibernating Titans — other gigantic monstrous creatures that are hidden all over the world. By almost directly copying the last two “Avengers” films, Vera Farmiga plays a scientist who feels that the only way to save humanity is to correct its unsustainable practices of overpopulation, pollution and exploitation by having the Titans awoken using a digitally enhanced communication device and wreak havoc on the world. This goes against the wishes of pretty much everyone, including her daughter, played by “Stranger Things”’ Millie Bobby Brown, and her ex-husband, played by Kyle Chandler.
Much of the film is spent inside technological facilities, in which Kyle Chandler and his team of one-lining military agents and scientists discuss what to do with Godzilla and track the other creatures around the world on a tracking screen. Not one character in this film is the least bit interesting or fun. One may rightfully ask the question, why would a brilliant scientist think that releasing a bunch of monsters into the world will save humanity?
Despite a chaotic story, “King of the Monsters” is still, in fact, an enjoyable film. What it lacks in story it makes up for in jaw-dropping visual effects and gorgeous CGI. Not only does Godzilla look incredible, but his arch-rival in the film, King Ghidorah the three-headed dragon, is a visual miracle and an absolute joy to behold on screen. Its fight with Godzilla is one of those too-good-and-too-ridiculous-to-be-true movie moments that shouts pure fun and entertainment. Also rivaling Zilla is the fire-bird Rodan; plus he gets some assistance from Mothra the giant bug. There are several other creatures we only get glimpses of in fictional news videos, which is slightly disappointing considering how impressive and imaginative they look. Needless to say, these are some of the most amazing-looking monsters in film history.
Where Godzilla fails in the story, it succeeds in visuals, making this an overall pleasing film. What disappoints me is the creators of this film didn’t spend the five years since the last film came out coming up with a story that wasn’t a complete mess or pathetically stupid. It would have been nice to label “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” an overall great film, but its weak characters and horrendous writing weighs it down to be a simple popcorn film that is mesmerizing to look at but kind of irritating to pay attention to. While it is more entertaining than the last film and has an upgrade in screentime for its creatures, it’s still suffering from typical Hollywood blockbuster chaos.
Final Grade: B-
Dominic LeRose is a staff writer for the Daily Cardinal. To read more of his work, click here.