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Godzilla: King of the Monsters - DVD Review

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

THE environment and global warming seem to be the new go-to for Hollywood. First, Thanos laid waste to the population of the planet in a bid to ‘give the universe a chance’. Now, it’s the turn of Godzilla and his MonsterVerse (or world of kaiju).

But where The Avengers films (Infinity War and Endgame) married spectacular destruction to emotional devastation, Godzilla: King of the Monsters only really manages the former. In most regards, it’s monster mayhem done well but [most] people behaving stupidly.

Michael Dougherty’s film is actually a belated sequel to Gareth Edwards’ 2014 film, as well as Kong: Skull Island, which is building towards 2020 showdown Godzilla Vs Kong.

But where Edwards franchise starter owed more to Jaws than the Japanese kaiju movies, and played things really serious, this one attempts to crowd-please a lot more by delivering smack-downs galore. Yet while it works on that level, and is impressive visually, the storyline and accompanying dialogue often leave a lot to be desired.

Co-written by Dougherty and Zach Shields, the film mostly centres around the Russell family, who paid a heavy price during the climactic events of Godzilla, when their son was killed in the fallout caused by the clash of the titans.

Years later, dad Mark (Kyle Chandler) has gone off to study wolves, leaving estranged wife Emma (Vera Farmiga) to raise their remaining daughter, Madison (Millie Bobby Brown). Emma does, however, work for secret organisation Monarch, which is committed to finding and unearthing titans. And she’s designed a device capable of communicating with them, known as the Orca.

But no sooner has Orca successfully been tested on Mothra (aka Queen of the Monsters), then it is stolen by eco-terrorist Alan Jonah (Charles Dance), who together with an unlikely ally, resolves to set all of the titans free to restore the correct world order and – in doing so – save the planet.

With Emma and Madison also being taken hostage by Jonah, the path is open for Mark to return and mount an unlikely rescue, while Godzilla is forced to come out of hiding to stop the various kaiju placed in his path, including a fierce three-headed hydra who poses his biggest threat.

Contrary to some scathing reviews, Godzilla: King of the Monsters isn’t terrible. Indeed, it’s rather enjoyable in places, as well as eye-popping in terms of its effects. There is some beautiful imagery and some suitably spectacular carnage, with the fights between the monsters fairly well orchestrated.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Chandler deserves maximum credit, too, for giving it his all in the acting terms, demonstrating suppressed rage over the death of his son, and increasing understanding of a new world order. He brings depth and humanity to his central role and gives you someone worth rooting for.

But where Godzilla comes up short is in plotting and other character detail. Rather than really examine the environmental issues, or emotional consequences of messing with mother Nature, the film prefers to have its central characters – most notably Farmiga’s scientist and Bradley Whitford’s expert – make increasingly irrational and stupid decisions, backed up by some lamentable dialogue.

There is nothing to provoke thought, no sense of real consequence (barring Chandler’s committed performance), very little emotional connection and a growing sense that the stories of a troubled production were true. The monsters [and their designs] are interesting, the humans increasingly less so.

By throwing in some many fight scenes, Dougherty also runs the risk of fatigue setting in, which it does at times. At over two hours, and with a lot of scenes taking place in rain-lashed nightscapes, the film does make it difficult to see everything that’s going on, thereby raising the possibility of boredom and indifference.

The overall result is a film that undoubtedly unfolds on an epic scale, with enough eye candy to sustain interest. But the lack of enough strong characters and some wayward plotting are damaging.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 132mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: October 14, 2019