As someone who was a fan of Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Godzilla reboot, with its gradual build-up approach something of a fresh take on the usual big budget action tentpole standard, it’s a real shame that he wasn’t on board this epic-in-scale-but-limp-in-execution sequel that ignores all traces of subtlety and banks on overt simplicity instead.
The idea behind Godzilla II: King of the Monsters lays the foundation for what could be an interesting take on questioning just how much of a threat is the titular creature, and should the US government utilise him as an ally. Dr Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe, just one of many respected actors who is inexplicably involved here) believes so, advising the powers-that-be that Godzilla is more a benevolent force and is our only likely saviour against the hordes of other over-sized species (dubbed “Titans”) that have started to show their presence in the wake of Godzilla’s attack.
Of course, we wouldn’t have much of a movie if the government agreed with the well-meaning Serizawa, so why not throw in a kidnapping subplot and a cartoonish eco-terrorist for good measure; Charles Dance clearly enjoying himself as the aforementioned terrorist Alan Jonah. A shadowy organisation known as Monarch garners much of Godzilla II‘s traction, with Vera Farmiga as Monarch scientist Emma, who lost her son in the attack from the first film and has dedicated the last 5 years to creating technology that has the ability to both communicate and control the Titans; cue said kidnapping arc when Jonah steals the tech for himself, using Emma and her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) as collateral.
I wonder if Emma’s concerned ex-husband (Kyle Chandler) will come to the rescue?
Perhaps feeling that the original Godzilla relied too much on its human characters, King of the Monsters opts for an emphasis on its Monster bi-line, delivering not only a juiced-up Godzilla (which is sadly how he is described by the supposedly amusing Bradley Whitford) but a volcano-birthed winged creature known as Rodan and a three-headed Ghidorah, who can regenerate severed limbs and summon hurricane-like storms. Now, i’m certainly not opposed to some mindless battle action between outer-worldly creatures, and I imagine that the 12-15 year age market will salivate at some of the imagery director Michael Dougherty (Krampus) has conjured here, but much of what transpires on-screen between Godzilla, Rodan and Ghidorah fails to impress due to each sequence unable to differentiate themselves from one another; extreme close-ups, rapid cuts, and an emphasis on night-time battles mean it’s difficult to even distinguish what’s taking place before you.
Whilst the action fails to inspire, and the impressive ensemble cast – which also features O’Shea Jackson Jr, Sally Hawkins, and Zhang Ziyi – are bogged down under ludicrous dialogue, the moments Dougherty decides to pan-out and allow his audience to take in the imagery are truly awe-inspiring; some of the wide shots of Godzilla and Ghidorah charging towards each other are oddly beautiful in how they are sculpted. But sporadic moments of beauty and grandeur aren’t enough to overshadow what is ultimately an unintelligible actioner that’s components are ironically both bloated and shallow.
About Godzilla II: King of the Monsters
The new story follows the heroic efforts of the crypto-zoological agency Monarch as its members face off against a battery of god-sized monsters, including the mighty Godzilla, who collides with Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah. When these ancient super-species—thought to be mere myths—rise again, they all vie for supremacy, leaving humanity’s very existence hanging in the balance.
Godzilla II: King of the Monsters (M) is screening in Australian theatres from May 30th 2019.