It’s been five years since our last Godzilla outing, and the blockbuster films that dominate the theaters have never been more powerful, not to mention more expensive and demanding – demanding of audiences for critical success and, of course, for financial riches. Of course, the riches outweigh the successes every time in terms of “importance.” Still, the spectacles screened before our eyes nowadays, with their connected continuities and post-credit stingers, fight tooth and nail for our attention and wallets, pushing out smaller films and crafting a near monopoly for themselves.
Five years is a long time to be resting. Godzilla: King of the Monsters has a less cynical approach to big budget destruction and creature features, with a genuine heart and wonder-filled set of eyes for beasts dueling above men. It’s refreshing to see actually, despite the movie itself not being very good. Above all else, it appears that those behind the camera dug and believed in what they were doing, like excitable filmmakers plucked from obscurity and granted all the cash in the world to build and tear down whatever they want. This isn’t exactly that situation, but it feels close to it.
King of the Monsters is sanctimonious in bad places and incoherent in even worse ones. It’s about a sect of eco-terrorists looking to unleash as many titans (giant monsters) as possible, to destroy society and rebuild anew in a better, “saved” Earth. It’s about a father looking to save his daughter and redeem himself to his family. It’s about a godly being called upon to fight, once more, for a population most vulnerable and a world on the brink. The story itself reminds one of a Roland Emmerich type movie, not just for its faux complexity and faux Michael Bay-ism, but also its faux grand scale. No matter how big Godzilla and crew are, no matter the fights they have, I never felt anxious or wowed by the size of it all. This isn’t to say I didn’t feel anything from the monsters, but it certainly didn’t come from the fighting for the sake of it.
A character dies out of nowhere, but it was so confusing visually (the picture too dim and the edit too quick) that we had to be told via on-screen graphics. The villainous plan is up its own butt (as it should be), but the movie presents it as if looking down on everyone, especially in one extended expositionary speech. And while there are differences in design, the monsters share a color palette too stale, far and away missing the costumed uniqueness of the Toho productions.
Silly with big ideas, the imagery of the creatures make for a staggering light show not seen since the last time I went to see fireworks. These moments of blue and yellow an red pack a punch, as do the body language of the monsters themselves. The fights may not have the OMG-ness we’d like, but the performances of the fighters do. We see Godzilla get put through the wringer and come out to fight again and again. Watch closely, and you’ll be able to read a vastly more interesting story from the titans’ movements and reactions than anything from the ground-level humans.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters assumes a lot about its place in moviegoing today, but understands very little. Things have changed since the majesty of the first new Americanized Godzilla in 2014 and even since that new Kong movie. The landscape requires either something better or something bigger. To rely just on brand appreciation and occasional moments of bliss is not enough. Unfortunately, this is where we’re at. Go big, go best, or go home. Not enough room for the inbetweeners or for experimentation – not that King of the Monsters has much gusto.
It does have heart and a definite sense of wanting. That should go a long way. It should.
RATING: 1.5 / 5
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is playing all over the city and metro area now.