GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS takes, as 34 prior romps since 1954 had shown, frequent long naps. But the biggest bad boy of all eventually wakes up, usually pissed, ready to stomp and sizzle cities that lie in his path. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
It may be ‘good to be the king’ but it can get lonely at the top (of the food chain) and for this 2019 retrofit extravaganza the 394-foot tall, fire-breathing reptile has carnage competition from stalwarts Rodan, Mothra and Ghidorah. Plus a slew of secondary ‘titans’, awakened by foolish mortals, the two-legged, somewhat off-kilter ‘scientist’ variety. Millions will pay the price for their fiddling. But—would survivors of those sacrificed millions pay homage via the gigantic box-office toll required to monster-zero-out the budget and blurb costs lavished in order to refurb childhood favorites to such seat-shaking CGI grandiositude? Crank the Godzilla Theme.
Third in the ‘Monsterverse’, this follows up 2014’s Godzilla (more successful), and temporarily left 2017’s Kong: Skull Island as a stand-alone (a cool one). A few characters return from the first go, furthering cast clout with an impressive array that includes Kyle Chandler (never yet seen this guy where I didn’t 100% like him), Vera Farmiga (same as with Kyle), Charles Dance (for icy villainy disguising inner mirth), Bradley Whitford (for pithy wisecracks, like he did on The Cabin In The Woods), Ken Watanabe (because, well, Godzilla), Sally Hawkins (‘cuz she’s a great, goofy, good sport) and Millie Bobbie Brown (there must always be a kid, in mortal danger from and yet simultaneously sympathetic to large, dangerous creatures who might floss with them).
Sonic-level mayhem directed by Michael Daugherty, who co-wrote the cluttered script with Zach Shields. In the manner of many late-model “superhero” redo’s, the plotline is too dense for such basically comic book material, and at 132 minutes it runs a good 20 past what’s necessary. There’s no faulting the cast, since they’re all solid pros, but we don’t engage with them to get involved beyond seeing how well they react in awe, disbelief or shock to the size and ferocity of the whole reason to watch in the first place: the monsters. The effects are state-of-art fine, with a special nod to the sound crew. Working against their enjoyment is that too much of the action is placed against dark and/or wet settings (why has this become a trope?), and often cut too quickly. A bit of confusion—uh, who just got killed when I half-blinked?—is likely to accompany obvious synapse-firing—how did they (people and critters) get from points A to G so fast? And so on. Yet beating up on a flick where everyone obviously tried their best is cheap shot territory, and when the movie is essentially a nostalgia-saluting goof from the get-go, why flail it for lack of perfection? May the Mothra twins refuse to sing at your funeral.
Box office was kingish but not truly ‘zillian, $110,500,000 in the States (26th) and Canada, $276,100,000 (20th) abroad. That was, er…costly: estimates for production ran $170-200,000,000 and then $100-150,000,000 more for marketing. Slkreeeonk!
In the way to be squished, crisped, snacked or at least rendered agog: Zhang Ziyi, David Strathairn, CCH Pounder and Thomas Middleditch.