The 2014 version of Godzilla basically had to do one thing to satisfy fans of the franchise: be better than the 1998 version. Beyond that, Gareth Edwards’ film still worked as standalone escapism with spectacular visuals, bombastic action, and the best-looking Godzilla ever to hit the silver screen. There were just two major problems that took audiences out of the experience: there wasn’t quite enough Godzilla and there wasn’t nearly enough Bryan Cranston. Since Cranston’s character was (spoilers!) prematurely killed off in the first film, he obviously wasn’t going to make a comeback in Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Godzilla, on the other hand, is back in action and he’s brought a few new players to the monster mash.
The latest addition to the MonsterVerse has more of everything. There’s more monsters, more Godzilla, and more monsters fighting Godzilla. The downside is that there’s also more human characters than the movie knows what to do with. Michael Dougherty’s film ditches Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, and pretty much all of its predecessor’s human characters. The only returning actors are Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe), Dr. Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins), and Admiral William Stenz (David Strathairn), all of whom mainly exist to spout exposition. That would be alright if the film didn’t have several other characters who also mainly exist to spout exposition.
King of the Monsters introduces Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga), who believes Titans may be the key to saving humanity, Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler), who fears his ex-wife may be going to dangerous lengths to save the world, and Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown), their daughter who spends most of the runtime marveling at the sight of fantastic beasts. Eleven vs. Godzilla, now there’s a million-dollar idea! The film just keeps piling on characters with Thomas Middleditch from Silicon Valley playing another nerdy tech guy and Charles Dance from Game of Thrones playing another shady villain in a position of power. While the performances are all solid, the characters are mostly blank slates. The only one who brings a personality to the table is the always entertaining Bradley Whitford, who apparently modeled his character after Rick Sanchez. Rick and Morty vs. Godzilla, now there’s a billion-dollar idea!
For all the exposition and convoluted dialogue crammed in, the story is actually rather basic. Several Titans are awakened around the world and in order to keep them in line, Godzilla must take his place as King of the Monsters. The film is at its best whenever the story takes a backseat and the monsters are simply allowed to fight. While Godzilla once again looks great, it’s his fellow Titans who steal the show. The three-headed King Ghidorah dominates every scene he’s in with a triumphantly sinister presence. Mothra is every bit as beautiful as she is intimidating, making for a rousing areal battle between her and the giant Pteranodon Rodan.
King of the Monsters thankfully possesses a trait that was missing in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom: a sense of awe. We feel the gravitas of these Titans whenever they’re onscreen. We fear them while also being stimulated by their presence. The film is overflowing with mind-blowing shots that deliver on the Kaiju action we were promised. With that said, it’s hard to say how long the MonsterVerse will be able to keep audiences entertained before the novelty of Kaiju fight wears off. After next year’s Godzilla vs. Kong, exactly how are they going to up the ante? Well, both the MonsterVerse and the DCEU are under the Warner Bros. umbrella. Superman vs. Godzilla, now there’s a trillion-dollar idea!