One of the biggest criticisms levelled at 2014’s Godzilla was that it suffered from a bad case of kaiju interruptus.
For reasons most likely budgetary – one would hate to think it was because its director Gareth Edwards actually wanted to frustrate fans – the action kept getting rudely interrupted just when the titular creature was about to clash with his adversaries.
Well, Legendary Pictures obviously paid attention to the complaints, since they had a lot invested in the concept of a shared cinematic universe – aptly dubbed the MonsterVerse.
If epic-scale destruction and creature-on-creature smackdowns were everything, then heck, this sequel would merit a much higher rating.
But there are those annoying details like story, character motivation and also just plain having to make sense.
And in those areas, Godzilla: King Of The Monsters (henceforth: G2) may do no worse than other fantasies of epic proportions – but it fares no better, either.
So it’s a bit hard to accept the kind of cold matter-of-factness with which some characters approach the idea of triggering extinction-level events (the species facing extinction being human beings).
Or that they do so while spouting dialogue that could have come right out of the mouth of Kingsman: The Secret Service bad guy Richmond Valentine. (Again, there have been more elegant eco-messages put forth on film, and clumsier ones too.)
Or that the good guys and gals are just stock characters whose three principal duties are to: 1) deliver expository dialogue; 2) perform heroic acts of sacrifice (or die senseless deaths, in more than one case); and 3) throw their arms up to shield their eyes whenever Godzilla or one of his foes unleashes a blinding bolt of energy (new drinking game!).
Five years after the destruction wrought by Godzilla’s fight with the MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms) from the first movie, little has changed.
Well, the cryptozoological organisation known as Monarch has discovered many more such creatures, and given them names (making them MITOs now?), and done a lot of other stuff that makes you wonder just how much funding they receive.
But humanity at large – and by at large, I mean some US Senate committee, chosen to (cough) best represent the interests and concerns of mankind – still can’t decide how to treat these … Titans, to give them their duly reverential title.
While the debate goes on, sinister forces conspire to force everyone’s hand, claw and death ray.
And that’s where G2 excels, with spectacular and more varied sequences of monstrous smash-and-bash.
Classic monsters from the great Toho Company making their MonsterVerse debuts include (but are not confined to) the flying kaiju Mothra, Rodan and this film’s Big Bad, the three-headed Ghidorah.
Long-time kaiju fans should mostly be pleased with the MonsterVerse interpretations of this trio, with Ghidorah being an impressively fearsome and formidable antagonist. (Miles better than the disappointing, not-really-there Ghidorah that showed up in the third animated Netflix Godzilla movie.)
Michael Dougherty, taking over the directing reins from Edwards, continues the Legendary trend of picking helmers with a small, personally stamped body of work to oversee their MonsterVerse flicks.
For the most part, Dougherty delivers the goods in terms of pacing and spectacle, although he just totally kills the momentum about two-thirds of the way through to have everyone go off trying to help a wounded Titan.
There’s not much of the macabre humour evident in Dougherty’s best known previous works – the 2015 Krampus and 2007 Halloween horror anthology Trick ‘r Treat – and God(zilla) knows, G2 could have used a little incongruity of that sort.
So ultimately, what G2 delivers are some pretty extraordinary special effects sequences sandwiching a lot of rather ordinary drama and situations.
Weighed against the majority of kaiju flicks, though, the end result is still much more satisfying than most.
Godzilla: King Of The Monsters
Director: Michael Dougherty
Cast: Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Ken Watanabe, Millie Bobby Brown, Charles Dance, Ziyi Zhang, O’Shea Jackson Jr, Sally Hawkins, Aisha Hinds, Bradley Whitford