While Gareth Edwards‘ 2014 Godzilla divided opinions, I was a massive fan due to his focus on the human element alongside the gradual reveal and consequential views of Godzilla from a different perspective, as well as G’s big moments as the ultimate anti-hero. While I was excited for Godzilla: King of the Monsters, I was also apprehensive and especially with the re-invigorated link between Kong: Skull Island and another upcoming titan epic in the distance. Was I right to be concerned? It’s a bit of both with Michael Dougherty‘s fresh take on the Gigantis.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters instantly places us into the aftermath of the events of 2014 but, particularly, focusing on Kyle Chandler and Vera Farmiga‘s Mark and Dr. Emma Russell, and their daughter Madison, as they look for their son in the destruction of a flattened San Francisco but it seems, even at this stage, that something terrible has happened to them. We skip to 5 years later with the now estranged family (and an older Madison played by Millie Bobby Brown) to discover that their son, Andrew, was killed and they’ve been living separate lives and are barely connected but… Emma is very much involved as a Scientist as all across the Globe, discovering MUTO’s have been surfacing… and, you’ve guessed it, something major is about to go wrong.
Through a mix of bizarre eco-warrior behaviour and other things I’m not entirely sure about, the monsters all begin to surface because Charles Dance‘s Jonah Alan wants to restore the Earth’s ‘natural balance’ and release the monsters/titans to ‘cure’ the Earth and so forth. It’s not the most original base narrative and, as you’ll probably guess, things don’t go to plan. I guess that’s because it’s not a very smart plan. Also, they try to throw in a message about climate change and over-population but it feels oddly preachy, which isn’t that necessary when most of us are now on-board with ‘we must save the planet’, something The Day After Tomorrow did ahead of its time and with greater strength.
But, saying this, Godzilla: KOTM is very much a mixed bag, whilst most of the characters are somewhat one-dimensional, this is a Godzilla film and it doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the big moments with those who matter: Mothra, Godzilla, Rodan and King Ghidorah who all look absolutely epic. Where Edwards’ film stepped back, Dougherty’s approach is to literally give you what you want straight away but it’s almost overwhelming because it’s SO close and SO huge. I’m still to decide if he’s put on a lot of pounds over the time passed but, thankfully he’s a similar look to 2014’s, which was an awesome design.
If you’re here for the classic blockbuster, with a desire for enormous chaos and fights, then I don’t think you’ll be let down at all. Whilst that aforementioned human element isn’t quite as nuanced, the magnificent central trio of Millie Bobby Brown, Kyle Chandler and Vera Farmiga save the day with perfect chemistry and strong performances, plus an intelligent and timely flip on the usual stereotypes. The return of Ken Wanatabe is also important with a vital role to play, and we also see Sally Hawkins again but as much as we love her, she doesn’t have much time for anything too in-depth.
The overall script hits the slightly clichéd ‘explain the plot out loud’ but seems content doing that, and there are jokes to lighten the intensity which don’t always hit the mark but, oddly it doesn’t matter because, let’s be honest, we’re here for Godzilla and this kind feature is exactly what IMAX is made for. While such a screen can occasionally be overwhelming, the pure scale of the fight sequences and many knockdowns suit the monsters and the moment, I mean, who doesn’t want to see King Ghidorah and Godzilla smashing their way through a city?
On a further positive, the final quarter is the strongest section of all, throwing in the high stakes, the huge set pieces and destruction on a scale I don’t think I’ve ever encountered before. These are titans, there’s no doubt, and there’s little to no scaling back when it comes to all-out war between the major kings (and queens) of the monsters and it IS breathtaking. For all my reservations, the mighty moments? They’re incredible, exceptional and what the word ‘epic’ really stands for, there’s no holding back.
As a proper big-screen blockbuster, it ticks every box so switch off, sit back, grab your popcorn and take in the spectacle because it’s that and a whole lot more. And speaking of which, I’m going again, of course I am… come join me as I immerse in the massiveness.