Since it began life in 1954 as a potent metaphor for the mid-20th century nuclear race, Godzilla has appeared in 35 feature length films. Godzilla: King of the Monsters is the third
Where Gareth Edwards' film favoured a subtler approach, shrouding the big beasties in mystery until the third act, here we get the Titans in all their glory from early on, and from then on, regularly. The film propels us from one colossal dust-up to the next in a way that initially feels thrilling but soon becomes numbing, wearing down the audience 'til you just want the whole thing to stop. One of the chief successes with Edwards' approach was that it successfully conveyed the scale of its central figure. It felt unimaginably big in a way that created awe and unnerved. In the sequel, countless people die (both named and unnamed), cities are levelled, the world changes forever during the course of the film's events. And yet everything feels weightless, devoid of any real impact.
It is customary at this point of the review to comment on the acting but really there's not much to say. Every performer slots into their designated role and stays at this level throughout. Kyle Chandler thoroughs his brow, Millie Bobby Brown does her Stranger Things routine. 'Comedic' one-liners are dispatched by Bradley Whitford and Thomas Middleditch, orders are barked by Aisha Hinds. Doomsday prophecies and words of admiration for the rampaging goliaths come from Ken Watanabe and Ziyi Zhan. Charles Dance is at least a hoot as a sort-of eco warrior, whilst Vera Farmiga is a beguiling figure being slowly smothered by the film's awful dialogue. No one embarrasses themselves and yet I'm fairly certain Godzilla: King of the Monsters will slowly slide off of the résumé of everyone involved.
The real stars of the piece are the immense monsters. Beautifully crafted CGI blobs that they are, they are imbued with charm and personality, often causing a goofy smile to blossom on the viewer's face. The film is at its best when introducing each of them, with director Michael Dougherty crafting intricate sequences for their arrival, be it a giant bird erupting from a volcano or a huge moth blossoming out of a cocoon in the middle of a waterfall. One feels that this is what Dougherty loves, masterminding these gorgeous creatures. Godzilla: King of Monsters looks stunning (thanks to Lawrence Sher's exemplary cinematography marrying perfectly with the millions of pixels on display), in a way that rarely seems the case with modern blockbusters. You just wish that the script was just a lot better.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is half a dumb, strikingly attractive monster smackdown, half a nails-on-chalkboard, exposition-heavy, poorly-written mess. When no one's talking and the colossuses are doing their thing, it all works surprisingly well. As soon as the humans get in the way it becomes a massive bore.