Fans have been eagerly awaiting the next installment in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures monsterverse for 5 years now, and Godzilla: King of the Monsters finally takes over theaters everywhere on Friday, May 31st.
Written and directed by Michael Dougherty (Superman Returns 2006, Krampus 2015), the film picks up after the events of 2014’s Godzilla as the cryptobiologist organization Monarch is under pressure from the government to come up with an effective containment solution to avoid a repeat of the destruction the titans brought. The government favors extermination, while Monarch believes in a more peaceful coexistence. Meanwhile, Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga: Orphan 2009, The Conjuring 2013) and daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown: Modern Family series, Stranger Things series) use their invention Orca, a bioacoustic machine that they hope can control the monsters. With good intentions, their goal is to calm the newly birthed Mothra before being set upon by eco-terrorist Alan Jonah (Charles Dance: Alien 3 1992, Game of Thrones series) who wants to unleash all 17 titans worldwide to bring ‘balance’ to the world.
Afterword, Monarch tracks down estranged husband and father Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler: King Kong 2005, The Wolf of Wall Street 2013), co-creator of the Orca, to consult on all things titan and recapture the device and his family. The eco-terrorists travel to Antarctica to wake the terrifying King Ghidorah, or Monster Zero as he is called in classified files, and use him and Orca to wake titans all over the world… and that is when the fun starts.
The first film in the ‘verse, 2014’s Godzilla was generally well-received, but criticized for not having enough monster on screen. The newest installment more than makes up for that, with Godzilla and King Ghidorah taking up the lion’s share of action scenes and all the monsters lay waste to a sizeable amount of cities across the world. The four major players from Godzilla lore are beautifully rendered and given their own personalities. Mothra is much more battle active than in the past, using webbing strong enough to trap the mighty Ghidorah. Then Rodan emerges from a volcano, a flying colossus reminiscent of a pterodactyl with lava running through its veins. His strength is so great that simply flying above a city will collapse buildings and send anything not nailed down spinning into the air.
All this in mind, Ghidorah is fittingly the scariest of the bunch. A three-headed dragon/hydra and Godzilla’s most terrible foe. The CGI teams should be proud of their work as Ghidorah’s three heads move with snake-like locomotion, independent of each other but still as a single, horrid creature. He is so powerful that he creates hurricanes around him as he travels, not needing to directly engage the world to destroy it. When he does, it’s with electric breath that disintegrates anything it touches.
The king, Godzilla himself, returns with the same design as the previous film, very beefy with a head that looks a bit too small for his body, but the same awesome power to be the chief rival of Ghidorah. There can only be one alpha titan that the rest will serve, and it’s up to the humans to help ensure its not Ghidorah, who will certainly bring about the world’s end if allowed to be the king.
Beyond the creatures themselves, there is a lot of acting talent on the human side that is wasted a bit, including Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai 2003, Letters from Iwo Jima 2006), Bradley Whitford (Cabin in the Woods 2012, Get Out 2017) and Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon 2000, Rush Hour 2 2001). They are thankfully light on the science jargon, but the script does spend too much time with them, traveling from city to city by flying fortress, submarine, and small aircraft. They are not unlikable, but a few too many scene jumps, one liners, and reaction shots could have been better spent on monster battles. Additionally, the family story with the Russell’s is fine and does not feel wasted or in the way, and is the best of the non-monster parts of the film.
Then there is the overall action, which simply put, is riveting. This is what Godzilla fans came to see and it is everything they hoped for. Rodan laying waste to a squad of fighter jets with ease, Mothra coming to life and fearlessly engaging the more dominant monsters, and Ghidorah’s scraps with Godzilla are all amazing. The scale of their power is so far beyond what humans can deal with, let alone control; it’s downright humbling. The best weapons they can muster are nothing to the titans, and there comes a point where they have to go all in on one side of the monster war or die.
Certainly living up to the hype, Godzilla: King of the Monsters does not pretend to be anything that it’s not. It is not without flaws, but it maximizes its strengths and minimizes weaknesses, allowing the titans to mostly take center stage and deliver what is certainly the action hit of the summer. It wastes little time in getting the beasts out of hibernation, and if it were not for too much time spent with the humans, it would be a wall-to-wall action fest.
True Godzilla fans, this is what you have been waiting for, and for casual viewers, it will be money well spent for a fun over-the-top action romp. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives Godzilla: King of the Monsters 4 out of 5 stars.