Melodrama Mire in ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’

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HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 2.0/5.0
Rating: 2.0/5.0

CHICAGO – Everyone’s favorite city-flattening radioactive reptile, “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” gets stuck in a mire of third-rate-TV-network domestic melodrama in this disappointing follow up to the thrilling 2014 reboot. But before I roar about the many ways this misbegotten miscreant messes up, let’s throw a few pebbles of praise.

The design of Godzilla continues to be exactly right. This is where special effects have been used to enhance, but not obliterate the design that made the big green guy so popular in the first place. And the CGI design on Mothra, Rodon, and King Ghidorah is impressive as well. Rodon in particular is born out of a mexican volcano, and looks pretty awesome, and King Ghidorah (the three headed monster) is usually pretty cool. All the creatures look like they’ve been hitting the gym in their time away from the screen, but they look and sound like impressive big budget versions of themselves.

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Is It My Breath? ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

The story, such as it is, involves a quasi-government agency called “Monarch” which is in charge of discovering, studying and keeping track of these titans. The great Ken Watanabe, as Dr. Ishiro, returns from the first film to stare aghast as the digital destruction before him. Bradley Whitford handles the quips, at lizard brain level. Then there’s Oscar nominee Vera Farmiga and the usually reliable Kyle Chandler as husband and wife, with “Stranger Things” star Millie Bobby Brown as their daughter. They’re a family who were not part of the first film, but are written as though they were. They lost a son in Godzilla’s flattening of San Francisco, and the strain ripped the marriage apart. However, Farmiga’s character has come up with a sound wave machine to be able to talk to the animals, and communicate with the titans in hopes of wrangling their power.

Watching this battle royale sequel to 2014’s big budget Hollywood version of “Godzilla,” I couldn’t help but wonder who thought it would be a good idea to stick this messy family melodrama in the middle of a Godzilla movie. The monsters themselves are suitably awe-inducing, will them all joining the fun and flattening cities from Boston to Tokyo. But the human characters are even worse this time around with some truly awful dialogue that’s not even so bad it’s good. This is the kind of a movie where Millie Bobby Brown has to call her mother a monster, and the line doesn’t elicit chuckles of any kind, whether intentional or unintentional. It just kind of lays there flailing and flopping.

The fights themselves are just okay, save for a genuinely thrilling finale where the kaiju bashes Boston to bits. I lay most of the blame for the story at the feet of writer/director Michael Dougherty. The script here is so bad, I wanted to seek out exactly who I needed to blame so I can avoid his work in the future. While the previous Gareth Edwards film was criticized for having too little Godzilla in it, he at least built up a genuine sense of suspense while we waited… so when the big did show up it was a real thrill. Dougherty doubles down on monster battles, but keeps them obscured with digital rain and doesn’t stage the battle royales with much of an eye for excitement. They get a little drab and hard to make out.

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He Has Risen: Rodan in ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

I like the idea of Warner Brothers Monster-verse, which clearly sets up an upcoming battle between Godzilla and King Kong. After hitting things out of the park with the first two entries, ‘King of the Monsters’ is a big swing and a miss. And the knowledge that Michael Dougherty is involved in upcoming installments doesn’t make me hopeful for the future.

“Godzilla: The King of the Monsters” opens everywhere on May 31st in IMAX, RPX and regular screenings. See local listings for format theaters and show times. Featuring Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Bradley Whitford and Ken Watanabe. Screenplay by Michael Dougherty and Zach Shields. Directed by Michael Dougherty. Rated “PG-13”

HollywoodChicago.com contributor Spike Walters

By SPIKE WALTERS
Contributor
HollywoodChicago.com
spike@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2019 Spike Walters, HollywoodChicago.com

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