Whether you would like Michael Dougherty’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters or not, ultimately depends on what your expectations are when you enter the cinema. If you’re looking for a no-nonsense battle royale of territorial Kaijus, then you’re in for a fantastic visual treat. But if you’re expecting the movie to have an equally engaging human drama, then you may feel a bit shortchanged. Thankfully, all I really wanted when I got my tickets is to see godlike monsters beating the crap out of each other and making humans realize how puny they are in the process. Godzilla: King of the Monsters gave me just that…and not much more tbh.
Taking place after the events of 2014’s Godzilla, Michael Dougherty’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters brings us to a world where MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) have started appearing all over the world, disturbed by the ecological destruction brought by humans. Monarch, the cryptozoological agency tasked by the government with tracking and studying these massive titans, has been attacked by an eco-terrorist organization led by Colonel Alan Jonah (Charles Dance), who made it his mission to reduce the human population in order to restore balance in nature (something tells me he will get along well with Thanos). Colonel Jonah aims to do this by awakening as much MUTOs as he can to lay waste upon humanity.
However, the Colonel may have gotten more than what he bargained for, when one of the titans that they awaken is the three-headed dragon King Ghidorah aka Monster Zero. King Ghidorah is powerful enough to rival Godzilla as an alpha of the Titans. Other MUTOs all over the world start to awaken from their slumber, including the fire demon Rodan and the mystical Mothra. As these gods clash for dominance (because we’re merely Godzilla’s pets), the human civilization gets caught up in the battle. Now it is up to a team of Monarch scientists to make sure that whoever wins this war of the gods is on humanity’s side.
If Kaijus had their own version of an Avengers movie, Godzilla: King of the Monsters would be the fitting equivalent. Legendary Pictures’ “MonsterVerse” to Marvel’s MCU. This gathering of cinema’s most iconic giant monsters in one epic battle royale would be orgasmic to Kaiju fans, akin to seeing your favorite superheroes together for the first time. Much like how the Avengers get to have the best scenes, the Kaijus in Godzilla: King of the Monsters get to enjoy the film’s most beautiful shots. Rodan has his majestic moment during an intense chase scene with fighter planes. Mothra basks under a glowing green light as he spreads his wings under a waterfall. Godzilla and King Gidorah also has their own smackdown shot ala “Civil War”.
The film unapologetically gives the spotlight to the giant monsters, albeit at the expense of the human interactions. Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ 2017 movie Kong: Skull Islandis a good contemporary example of how dynamics between the human characters and the monsters can be the soul of a Kaiju movie. The monsters bring the grandness and the spectacle, but the human characters are what gives the film heart. In Godzilla: King of the Monsters, scenes with the human characters felt shallow and meh, that it’s hard to empathize with their individual motivations. It was a huge waste of the stellar cast who I’m sure would have done a terrific performance had they been given a better material. At one point, Dr. Emma Russel (Vera Farmiga), just explains away a major plot development TED Talk style, complete with a couple of stock videos to go with her presentation.
It also didn’t help that the movie is overcrowded with characters, many of them not really bringing much weight to the storyline. Did we really need that much supporting characters just to deliver snappy one-liners? Does the movie really need to have as much as 17 monsters? Trimming down the characters wouldn’t really change the plot, but it will definitely be less confusing.
If anything, at least the spectacle displayed by the monsters clashing, more than made up for the inadequate human drama. The eye-popping effects coupled with the epic Kaiju clashes are a huge visual treat. If you want to know what it feels like to be so small, then go see it in IMAX. A larger screen gives justice to larger-than-life characters that make it feel like major cities are just their playground sandboxes.