Story: After the destruction of 2014’s Godzilla , a group of folks get together to try to stop more
Kaiju Titans from awakening and wreaking havoc. (Does that read like a lazy effort? I’m just setting the mood for the film itself.)
Genre I’d put it in: Sadly Overhyped American Kaiju Stories
Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Original: Based on the Toho Studios series. Part of the Legendary/Warner Bros. MonsterVerse.
Gotta say: What the hell happened? This was one of the most anticipated films in my 2019 roster. The trailers looked incredible. The CGI was outstanding. So again, what happened?
Well, it’s pretty easy to suss out; the script is garbage and the editing is shite. Michael Dougherty. My dude. Trick ‘r Treat is one of my all-time favorite anthology films. Krampus is family horror perfection. But this? This is lazy storytelling. This is editing with a chainsaw. This is a beautiful mess that could have been so much more than it ended up, if only care had been taken with the story.
As it stands, we’ve got Kyle Chandler and Vera Farmiga as Mark and Emma Russell, who lost their son during the events of Godzilla’s SanFran rampage. Millie Bobby Brown plays their surviving offspring Madison, who worships her mom and is iffy on her dad after he bailed post-tragedy. At least I think Madison worships Emma. Madison does seem to follow Emma’s lead on everything, but it’s as if Brown wasn’t given any motivation for her character’s actions in that regard; it’s all shuffling after mom for…reasons? Sure.
As the story plays out, we find that ecoterrorists – lead by Brother Numsie Lannister himself, Charles Dance – want to wake the Titans so the behemoths can reboot the earth. Y’know, by destroying huge chunks of it (along with millions of humans) so it can go back to a more natural state. Good thoughts, poor planning. Because once these puppies gear up, getting them to do what you’d like isn’t exactly in the cards. Cue the slam-bang Kaiju action! Well, cue it, and then cut away from it over and over again. Pity most of the fighting scenes are either chopped up into the humans’ scenes, and/or so dark it makes The Battle of Winterfell look like high noon. It’s tough to really get a hold of what’s going on onscreen when the rapid editing makes these scenes feel like watching a strobe light. There are scenes where each Kaiju gets his/her moment of introduction, and the camera stays on the action. So I know the battle scenes could have been done in a similar cinematic way. Y’all done dropped the ball.
The dialogue is pretty cringe-worthy too. Poor Ken Watanabe’s Dr. Ishiro Serizawa is saddled with the bulk of the groaners. I heard so many clichéd platitudes that at the halfway point I was just about to note “what’s with the fortune cookie BS?”…and then Serizawa lampshades it all by saying he read all his prior statements in a fortune cookie. Doesn’t make the lifeless dialogue falling out of that character’s mouth stop though. It keeps going, pulling me out of the story entirely.
As for the monsters? Hellz yeah they’re awesome. The CGI balances realism with the rubber-suit look we all love, and it’s pretty damn perfect. Watching Ghidorah’s heads snap and strike at each other is just what I never knew I needed. Same goes for Mothra’s first emergence from her cocoon; even in larval state she’s a badass. Credit to the designers and techs that brought these classic monsters to life; the overall look is straight outta Toho, but there’s just enough tweaks to make me ooh and ahh all over again. They even added a slight rubbery look to Rodan in close-up. I loved it, and I wanted them to get a better story than the one they’d landed in.
King could have been an interesting rumination on the after-effects of a Kaiju’s massive destruction, and the toll it takes on individuals and families. Or there could have been more heft to the ecology subplot, with a deeper dive into the motivation behind these characters. Heck, this could have just been a biff-pow monsterpalooza with zero intellect behind it. But in trying to wrap everything into the story, the film ends up giving us nothing but a look at monsters that deserved far better than this effort. Aiming to get butts in seats isn’t good enough here. If this MonsterVerse is to continue – and the epistolary end credits set things up nicely for next year’s Godzilla vs. Kong – there needs to be a solid narrative backbone in each film. Cribbing from films like Jurassic Park, Geostorm and Toho’s own Godzilla vs. King Ghidora makes for an action packed ride, but nothing we haven’t seen before.
Tl;DR: Catch it on Netflix.