After the lacklustre reviews and reception to the previous film, the spectacle still made enough box office dollars to greenlight a sequel and kickstar a “Monsterverse” with Skull Island and a pre-announcement of Godzilla Vs Kong for 2020. This time around we get a broader cast with Vera Farmiga, Kyle Chandler and Millie Bobby Brown coming into the mix. The teasers have promised us a slew of monsters with Mothra, Rogan and the three headed Ghidorah. While this had all the promise of epic action monster filled mayhem, the film instead spends way too much time focusing on the humans and their confusion and trapsing around the globe to different dig sites chasing an eco terrorist. All of this results in the biggest disappointment with a small portion of the film focusing on the monsters and way too much time on the one dimensional human characters with a really weak and stereotypical script.
The film is set in the current day with 5 years since the last installment. The world is rebuilding after Godzilla saved the human race from the titan attack. The agency tasked with tracking down all of the Titan sites Monarch are monitoring and securing the other titans who seem to be thawing out, defrosting and uncovered as the world is searching for Godzilla after he mysteriously disappeared after the events of the first film. Dr Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) and her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) are living in a rainforest in China trying to figure out how to communicate with Mothra. When Emma is captured by the eco tertrorist Jonah (Charles Dance) who is trying to release the titans to cleanse the earth of the plague of humanity, it is up to the crew at Monarch and her husband Mark (Kyle Chandler) to free her and stop the titans from being released and destroying the world. Oh and Godzilla is in there somewhere as well right?
My biggest issue with this film is the awful script filled with stereo typical cliched lines, predictable scenarios and one dimensional characters we spend way too much time with. Instead of setting the monsters free and watching them fight, we are subject to an endless slew of human interactions that offer nothing of significance to the story apart from exposition machines. Oh and there are a couple of monster fights that fill out maybe 20 minutes of this 2.5 hour film.
The score is grand and sweeping from Bear McCreary. MCCreary incorporates themes from Akira Ifukube’s previous work in Japanese traditional Godzilla films. While this is definitely the highlight, the unique roar that was given to Godzilla in the first film has all but disappeared in this version. The long roar with the winding wail at the end was such a thrill to hear in the cinema in the previous film and is a definite missing component in this sequel.
The creatures themselves are gorgeous. The attention to detail on Mothra is particularly when she opens her wings is breathtaking. There is a detailed colour and patterns that are completely mesmerising. This is accentuated when she emerges from the waterfall and the combination of light, water and colour transforms the screen. By comparison the three headed dragon Ghidorah looks cheap and awful. There is a particular scene in a football field with Madison that looks horrible now and will definitely not age well. It’s a shame because in far away shots Ghidorah looks amazing, partricularly when lightning is pulsing through it. There is a shot in Mexico that pans out next to a large cross that looks incredibly beautiful. And then there’s Godzilla. the big guy looks pretty much the same as the previous film. The lightning/radiation effect that pulses through his body and tail does look much mroe detailed this time around, and there are a few underwater scenes where he looks odd floating in the water.
There have been films in the past that show too much of the monster and then some that expertly show just enough to have great balance, but also well rounded and interesting human characters. Regrettably this film doesn’t know which one it wants to be and drifts somewhere in the middle, delivering an incredibly underwhelming experience. The end of the film does build the hype for the Kong Vs. Godzilla film due out next year, but after this underwhelming installment it may be back to the drawing board for Godzilla films if they can’t get the balance right.
Godzilla : King Of The Monsters is in cinemas Thursday May 31.
Review by Alaisdair Leith