Looking back on my Godzilla review from 2014, I spoke of how it felt like a party where the main character (that would be the fire breathing title one) wasn’t invited until halfway through. You expected Godzilla to be there the whole time. That left a level of disappointment, but the Gareth Edwards reboot of the franchise was worth the wait in the end. The sequel Godzilla: King of the Monsters RSVP’s the main attraction early on and he brings some familiar friends to the shindig. That doesn’t make the party better.
Michael Dougherty takes over directorial duties in a follow-up that feels bigger with its sprawling cast and action sequences. It also feels more cluttered and more like a prelude to what’s coming next in the MonsterVerse (Godzilla vs. Kong). That’s not an issue shared by 2014’s predecessor. Monsters picks up five years after the events of Godzilla when the creature managed to save the world and leave some collateral damage. That includes the young son of biologist Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) and animal behavioralist Mark (Kyle Chandler). The parents have reacted differently and separately from the tragedy. Dr. Emma still believes in Godzilla’s global saving abilities, but in a dangerous way that teams her with an ecoterrorist (Charles Dance). Mark’s grief is directed toward Godzilla. Daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) is caught in the middle.
The family drama pits the estranged couple on opposites ends of the battle. More monsters are awoken from their slumber in various Monarch stations to wreak havoc. It results in the destruction of monuments in quite familiar Independence Day/Transformers style fashion. Toho stalwarts Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidorah are the aforementioned party dwellers joining the fray. The big fights are shot in destinations where the forecast is either a downpour or so dark that it’s often frustratingly hard to tell what is happening.
In addition to the Russell family, lots of recognizable actors are left to mostly stand and gawk at the monstrous activity. The film does have the distinction of adding another performer to the trifecta of prominent N.W.A. members (speaking of monster verses!) from Straight Outta Compton. In Kong: Skull Island, we had Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell) and Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins). Now we have O’Shea Jackson Jr. (who played his dad Ice Cube in Compton) as a soldier. David Strathairn, Sally Hawkins, and Ken Watanabe reprise their 2014 roles while Bradley Whitford, Thomas Middleditch, and Zhang Ziyi are fresh gawkers. There’s not really a human performance to highlight. Just as Bryan Cranston earned some rightful criticism for his wild overacting in Godzilla, here we have Kyle Chandler often speaking in an intense and earnest hoarse whisper that is perhaps more annoying.
There’s a brief middle section where Godzilla is given a unique wakeup call. It transpires underwater where we discover the iconic radioactive creature’s original habitat. I found this to be the most well-constructed and engaging sequence. It hints at ancient stories that would probably be cool to explore. This doesn’t last long and before we know it, we are back to the dimly lit and rain soaked above ground CG brawls. They’re occasionally fun, but they will fall straight outta mind in short order. Maybe King Kong getting in on this will brighten things up.
** (out of four)
For my Godzilla (2014) review, click here:
For my Kong: Skull Island review, click here: