After a five-year hiatus, everyone’s favorite giant lizard monster has returned in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the third and best film so far in Legendary’s ever-expanding MonsterVerse.
While 2014’s Godzilla did have some stunning imagery and a final battle worthy of its namesake, it spun its wheels far too long with character development that went nowhere and a lifeless plot that lurched along like a slug.
If the 2014 Godzilla resembled something of a responsible big brother, then this 2019 sequel is undoubtedly the more impulsive and hyper-active little brother by relation. In most cases, I could see myself aligning with the former, but when it comes to monster movies, it seems I fall in line with the latter.
The story revolves once again around the shadowy organization Monarch, where Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) has created a device known as Orca that can keep Titan creatures like Godzilla at bay. The Orca is summarily stolen by eco-terrorist Alan Jonah (Charles Dance), who plans to use the device to summon the ominous Monster Zero from its Antarctic prison and “restore balance” to the Earth’s natural order. It’s up to Emma’s ex-husband Mark (Kyle Chandler) and his estranged daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) to team up with Godzilla to stop the fearsome Monster Zero and the other Titans that it conjures in its wake.
Director Michael Dougherty, the mind behind campy cult classics like Trick ’r Treat and Krampus, is a near-perfect fit for this particular installment. Where Godzilla director Gareth Edwards waited an hour to show us Godzilla in full and then a half an hour after that to show him in a proper battle, Dougherty wastes no time getting the monster melee under way.
He knows exactly what kind of a movie he’s making and it’s clear that he’s having a blast doing so. His exuberance for the material and passion for the existing Godzilla franchise was infectious even for someone like me who is typically on the fence about this genre.
Like its predecessor, King of the Monsters sports a stellar cast that tackles their admittedly one-dimensional roles with admirable aplomb. It’s no secret that the human characters in these creature features are typically underserved to make way for their mammoth computer-generated counterparts. However, if that trade-off allows for more time to spend with Godzilla as he dukes it out with likes the pterodactyl-like Rodan and the three-headed hydra Ghidorah, then I deem it a necessary sacrifice.
The silly and sometimes incomprehensible storyline is hung with just enough character motivation to give context to these splendid and transcendent battles.
It’s easy enough to recommend watching a larger-than-life film in the IMAX format for the enhanced picture. But more often than not, I’m recommending IMAX these days for its enhanced sound quality.
This is a perfect example of a blockbuster using its immaculate sound design to make otherworldly noises sonically convincing. It’s not just enough to hear Godzilla roar; you truly do need to feel it to get the maximum effect.
Packed with old-fashioned movie magic, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a step in the right direction for a series that I hope will continue to embrace the joyously campy aspects at its foundation.
Coming to theaters this weekend
Dark Phoenix, starring Sophie Turner and James McAvoy, is the latest film in the X-Men series concerning the transformation of Jean Grey into the powerful mutant Phoenix after a mission goes awry.
The Secret Life of Pets 2, starring Patton Oswalt and Eric Stonestreet, follows up the highly successful animated comedy about a misfit band of animals who go on adventures together in the big city.
Late Night, starring Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling, tells the tale of a late-night talk show host who teams up with a new writer on staff to try and turn the show around in the face of falling ratings.
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