I’m having a hard time remembering a recent movie I disliked as much as Godzilla: King of the Monsters. And, look, I can appreciate a bad movie. Remember Venom? Now that’s a bad movie, but it’s also remarkably watchable and insanely entertaining on about eight levels. I wish Venom had been in Godzilla: King of the Monsters. (Alas, Venom is not in this movie.) Instead, it’s just filled with a lot of stupid characters who all do stupid things to the point that the “plot” is just some crazy afterthought of nonsense. What a mess.
Okay, yes, if you saw Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla from 2014 and thought, “Um, I’m mad, there’s not enough action in this movie,” well you are in luck. Edwards’ version was almost a master class in how to build anticipation, then let it all come soaring out in fiery rage. That’s why, at the end, we felt that adrenaline rush. The movie was designed for us to feel that way. That’s the way it works.
But here’s what happens: People see the ending to 2014’s Godzilla and wonder, well, if I felt that rush at the end of the movie, why can’t I feel that rush during the whole movie? Why can’t I just feel the nice thing all the time! It’s because our bodies don’t work that way. When a movie is just nonstop monster action, guess what happens? It all becomes the new “normal” and it becomes boring. And this is the approach Godzilla: King of the Monsters takes. It just felt like the same scene over and over again. “Oh, look, there’s a monster – and now here come some jet fighters to shoot missiles at it. Oh, dang, the missiles didn’t work, again. Well, maybe next time. Oh, wow, it’s next time again already.” (More on these monster fights in a bit.)
Well, here comes the part I’ve been dreading, trying at all to explain the plot of Godzilla: King of the Monsters. [Deep breath] All right, here we go: Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) and Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) lose their young son during the carnage that ensued in Godzilla’s fight with the MUTO during the events of the first film. They are now estranged, with Mark spending his time studying wolves (as one does after a Godzilla attack) and Emma living on a secret research facility with her daughter, Madison (Millie Bobby Brown), unearthing Mothra.
A team of “bad guys” (it’s not super clear who these people are, so “bad guys” will have to suffice), led by Colonel Jonah Alan (Charles Dance), infiltrate the base, kill all the researchers, then kidnap Emma and Madison. Only then, for reasons not super clear, it turns out Emma is working with the “bad guys,” because she has decided the only way to honor her dead son is to release all the monsters hiding on Earth in an effort to lower the world’s population – because this would put an end to overpopulation and suffering. (Obviously, Emma saw Avengers: Infinity War last year along with the rest of us.)
None of this makes sense. I don’t even think it’s trying to make sense. In reality, this is all just an excuse for the filmmakers to have a lot of monsters on the screen at the same time. And, sure, I get that’s the end goal in a movie like this. But it would have been great if a little more thought had gone into the whole thing.
Moving on: a secret government group studying the monsters recruits Mark to help try and stop Emma. So here comes another very odd choice. This team – which also includes characters played by Ken Watanabe (reprising his role from the first film), Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins (also back), O’Shea Jackson Jr., Thomas Middleditch, and Zhang Ziyi – spends about 90 percent of this movie on an airplane. But, as you may expect, there’s not a lot of fun to be had when your heroes are just literally hanging out on an airplane for over two hours. (I do love Bradley Whitford in this movie. He seems to be the only actor who kind of gets it. In one scene he’s drinking out of a flask for no reason. I like to think this isn’t the character and more Whitford realizing what kind of movie this is and just having fun with it.) Additionally, there’s no sense of where anyone is in Godzilla: King of the Monsters. One moment they are flying to Antarctica. The next they are flying to Mexico. Well now let’s fly to Boston! On the way to Boston, let’s stop over and shoot at some monsters Yee-haw! The whole movie is just a nonstop rerouting of flights.
But back to the monsters: the other disappointing aspect is every single monster fight occurs at night and in the rain. Now, this is a VFX trick used to hide CGI flaws and maybe do some effects for a little less cost than if what we were watching were happening in full daylight. So what we get is monster fight after monster fight happening at night, in the rain. Now, you may be wondering why it keeps raining all over the world and why it’s always night? Conveniently, a lot of the monsters show up with their own pre-built storm clouds. Just their existence creates sun-shielding storms. At one point in the movie a major character dies, but it’s so dark there was no way to really see this happen. I think even the filmmakers realize this because the very next scene is a picture of this character with the word “deceased” written next to the picture.
My absolute favorite part in Godzilla: King of the Monsters is, about halfway through, from their airplane (of course), the team is monitoring a monster’s heartbeat. We actually hear the heartbeat monitor “beep beep beep” sound like you would in a hospital drama. Bradley Whitford says, “Come on, big guy!” Then we hear the flat-line sound “beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep” and everyone looks sad. It was hilarious. I wish the whole movie was like this. It could have been up there with Venom. Instead, it’s a movie with a convoluted plot and makes no sense (having no plot would have been much better) with nonstop, barely comprehensible monster fights that just go on forever and keep happening. There were times when even Godzilla looked bored. At one point he just goes away for a big part of the movie so he can take a nap and “recharge.” (I’m not making that up.)
Honestly, we shouldn’t wake him up again until there’s a better movie.
‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ opens in theaters May 31st. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.