Godzilla is back again (whether we like it or not) for another fight. Following on from the Aaron Taylor Johnson fronted Godzilla (2014) comes Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Since the aftermath of the 2014 attack of San Francisco, the world has been rocked by the presence of Titans, gigantic creatures that once dominated the Earth. Studying and tracking down these creatures is the shady crypto-zoological organization Monarch. Working for Monarch is the biologist Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga), along with her daughter Madison (Millie Bobbie Brown); they are at a Monarch base where a giant larva called Mothra is born. Emma has been developing a device known as the “ORCA” that emits a frequency that can attract and alter the behaviour of these titans, which is exactly what she uses to calm down the Mothra creature. However, Monarch are not the only people who have an interest in the device – a group of eco-terrorists led by Colonel Alan Jonah (Charles Dance) want a slice of the action, so they kidnap Emma and Madison along with the ORCA device, fleeing to Antarctica.
Desperate to find them, Monarch scientists approach Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler), fellow researcher and father of Madison to track his daughter and ex-wife. Mark is reluctant however, as he has a huge hatred for Godzilla after his son was killed in the San Francisco attack and it ultimately split his family apart. Jonah’s team in Antarctica intend to release ‘Monster Zero’ – codenamed Ghidorah – a three headed lightning spitting dragon – that has been frozen in ice. Jonah’s mission is to raise the titans as he believes they are punishment for the destruction that humans have done to the planet, and in a shock turn, it appears that Emma agrees with him, aiding the plan by controlling the ORCA to awaken the beasts upon the world. Can Godzilla stop the other monsters in their tracks? Will the Russell family reunite? Or will there be pure carnage? Of course there is carnage!
The film is jam-packed with characters, both human and monsters alike. This definitely feels like a detriment to the film, particularly with the excess of human characters, with a few too many wise-cracking side characters. But it’s the Russell family at the emotional core of the story, and in fairness to them, the leads – Farmiga, Chandler and Brown – do the best with the clunky script they have to work with. Millie Bobbie Brown, in her first silver screen role, is a suitably angsty young teen caught up in her parents’ divorce. Kyle Chandler is given some space to brood as the grieving father, but it is Vera Farmiga who is given the most focus – particularly in her eco-warrior speech reasoning for the awakening of the titans onto the earth. What’s lacking is empathy for these characters, they touch on the family losing their son but the true cost of this is to them is never fully conveyed and it cannot justify Emma’s ultimate actions. That’s the problem with this script – characters turn and make left field decisions supposedly from nowhere, and one particular death of a character is simply brushed over and truly unceremonious.
Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Godzilla had a slow burn to the action, and it feels like director Michael Dougherty of this sequel decided to turn that on its head throwing us straight into it. There are some fantastic, beautifully lit set pieces, from Mothra finally coming out of her cocoon and illuminating a waterfall with her wings, to Ghidorah landing full pelt on top of a raging volcano. There is lots of fun to be had here (whilst you stuff your face with popcorn!). What about Godzilla himself? Well, we see a whole lot more of him this time around. Gone are the cuts to news feeds outlining the fights, this time we get to see blow by blow fire breathing action. There are some genuinely scary and suspenseful moments where the big man himself is involved.
Godzilla: King of Monsters does throw some good punches, the stunning monster effects and fights will leave you in awe and it is mostly entertaining (when they aren’t over doing the exposition of the monsters whereabouts – we get it, there are lots of them!)The film is more of a visual and sound onslaught experience than anything else, it is literally bursting at the seams with creatures fighting in rain soaked, noisy battles. If you felt cheated by the lack of monsters in the 2014 Godzilla, as many fans were, you will not be disappointed by this film. However, it comes at a price for our human characters that lack depth and needed grit that you were hoping for.
Check your brain out at the foyer and enjoy it for what it is, a trashy but fun monster blockbuster.