Mindless Monster Mayhem
Chris Kavan - wrote on 06/11/19
Godzilla is a great summer blockbuster - that doesn't mean it's a great movie, but that it essentially fills that spot you've come to expect over the summer: it's big, it's loud, it's fun and, yes, it's dumb. It's the WWE with giant monsters instead of sweaty dudes, with humanity being the destructible environments around them. The actual human characters are given a cursory role to play but, come on, you're here because you want to see big monsters fight it out and that's pretty much what you get.
The film starts with a family losing a son (and young brother) during Godzilla's initial attack. This causes a big rift leading to Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) throwing herself into research for the secretive organization Monarch, hoping to understand the monsters - with her daughter, Madison (Stranger Things Millie Bobby Brown) in tow. Meanwhile Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) after struggling with alcoholism, has become a nature photographer, choosing to live a more solitary life, though he still tries to connect with his daughter.
Dr. Russell has reached a breakthrough when her device lets her communicate with one of the creatures, soon after dubbed Mothra, only to find the elation of this discovery short-lived when a mercenary group led by Jonah Alan (Charles Dance) slaughters the rest of the team, taking the good doctor, her daughter and the machine with him. That leaves our core Monarch group Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe), Dr. Ilene Chen (Ziyi Zhang), far out Dr. Rick Stanton (Bradley Whitford), Dr. Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) and PR point man Sam Coleman (Thomas Middleditch) no choice but to track down Mark in order to use his skills, as well as his connection to his daughter, to get them all back.
The film then falls into a debate between whether mankind should kill all the monsters or let some live because they may actually be beneficial to mankind (you know, when not destroying major cities). Of course some people have more extreme visions of how this will play out, leading to unleash the movies big, big, BIG bad - the three-headed Ghidorah - and the team soon realized the only monster that can challenge this new monster king is Godzilla who, though widely reported missing, has just been chillin' in the ocean.
The film works best when it is in full-on blockbuster mode - Godzilla and Ghidorah fighting it out - Rodan (the literal firebird) flying and charring the place and Mothra being the Queen to Godzilla's King. And the end it just goes wild, unleashing all kinds of crazy monsters - and this time it's the city of Boston that's caught in the middle. But all this mayhem comes at a price and that price being that despite a pretty damn good cast, all the characters are given a short shrift.
That is especially true of Bobby Brown - who has some of the best, emotional scenes, but never feels fully fleshed out so it's just hard to care about what she's going through. And while Whitford and Middlemarch provide some much-needed levity, their characters are both so paper-thin, it's hard to respond with more than a chuckle. Even major deaths don't have hardly the impact they should. If the film could have found a better balance between the monsters and the humans, I think the film would have done much better with audiences and critics. As it stands, King of the Monsters is a lot of fun - but it's purely in blockbuster mode here. One hopes the big showdown between Godzilla and Kong can find a bit more heart without sacrificing the thrills.