Godzilla II: King of the Monsters

2019-06-07 13:40
 
A scene from 'Godzilla II: King of Monsters.'

WHAT IT'S ABOUT:

Five years after Godzilla wreaked havoc on Chicago, Dr Emma Russell has finally broken the code on how to communicate with Godzilla and other Titans like him. This is not a moment too soon as an eco-terrorist organization unleashes a succession of other Titans on the world – including Godzilla’s arch nemesis and rival apex predator, King Ghidora. As different human factions squable over how to deal with the new threats, humanity’s last hope may lie with Godzilla himself.

WHAT WE THOUGHT: 

When Gareth Edwards took on the gargantuan task of bringing Japan’s biggest and most classic movie-monster to a new generation of filmgoers, he came up with something that was significantly less effective than his own low-budget monster movie, Monsters, as it delivered far too little of the titular monster and far too much of instantly forgettable humans doing largely forgettable things. It was an improvement over the ‘90s Godzilla, to be sure, and it wasn’t exactly terrible but it, ironically enough, made little real impact. That it was surrounded on both sides by Guillermo del Toro’s far superior monster movie, Pacific Rim, and its own sister film, Kong: Skull Island – which still wasn’t great but was a solid improvement over its predecessor – left Godzilla as the runt of the pack when he should have been leading it.

While there are apparently still plans to have the showdown that some of us have been waiting for with next year’s Godzilla vs Kong, the powers-that-be decided that we needed another stop-gap before that momentous occurs. Presumably, Godzilla II: King of the Monsters (minus the “II” in the US) is supposed to whet our appetites for next year’s big showdown, while also reminding us of a film that may have come out all of five years ago but, I’d wager, few of us actually remember. King of the Monsters, however, is such a drab, uninspired misfire that it neither inspires nostalgia for Edwards’ Godzilla nor holds much promise for Godzilla vs Kong, which is written by this film’s director/co-writer, Michael Daugherty.

Gareth Edwards is long gone from the franchise (he opted to do a Star Wars film instead and, really, who could blame him) but his replacement was, let’s say, a bit of an odd choice. Daugherty gets a lot of credit for his screenplay for X-Men 2, but the rest of his filmography as both writer and director is made up of a string of duds like X-Men: Apocalypse and d-grade horror like Trick ‘r Treat (nope, me neither). Sadly, while Godzilla may have gotten away from its director, Daugherty never had a grip on the material in the first place.

The worst thing I can say about King of the Monsters is that it reminds me of Michael Bay’s Transformer movies. Not the Bay-free delight that was Bumblebee, to be clear, but the loud, obnoxious, incoherent and mind-numbingly boring Transformer films that came before. It doesn’t have Bay’s less than wonderful sexual politics, but otherwise, all of the much-maligned director’s worst traits are on full display here.

Like Bay, Dougherty has assembled a truly A-list (or, at the very least, B+list) cast who are there largely to provide information dumps and to cash their very easy paychecks. Like Bay, it also feels like Dougherty uses these famous faces to obscure the fact that the characters they play are horribly written – nondescript, at best; utterly perplexing, at worst. And, despite the fact that the monster count in this film is far higher than in Edwards’ Godzilla, there are more of these intolerable human characters as well.

For a film this lacking in character, it sure is over-stuffed with characters. And, for a film with this much plot and this many Titan-sized action set-pieces, it’s alarmingly unengaging. And boring. Let’s not forget boring. The plot overcomplicates what should be a fairly simple story and is defined by the actions of characters who seldom make any sense whatsoever in a two-hour-plus runtime that feels both overstuffed and interminably long. Even the big monster-on-monster action that most of us came for in the first place is completely ruined by ADHD editing and murky visuals. You can barely make out what’s going on and when you can, it’s really hard to care and even harder not to get enormously frustrated with endless scenes of murky brown-grey things bumping into one another. And I saw this in 2D; I can only imagine what it’s like in colour-and-brightness-sapping 3D.

Needless to say, the dialogue is absolutely terrible as great actors are forced (for big bucks, no doubt) to deliver one wretched one-liner after one another. I’m not expecting Oscar Wilde here but a modicum of wit or even a joke or two that actually lands would have made this whole dour and joyless affair a whole lot more fun. There is one bit of fun to be had here, actually, and that’s that there is something hilarious about watching a brilliant actor like Bradley Whitford (sorry Josh Malina) treat his truly atrocious “quips” with the blasé contempt that they deserve. It’s like watching a massively stoned Josh Lyman and it’s bloody fantastic!

That’s right. The only fun thing about this Godzilla flick is watching an actor look for all the world like he is purposefully tanking his own performance. Not that he’s in it anywhere near enough to justify the price of admission.   

I hate to do so as it is getting a bit stale, but, once again, I must invoke Jurassic Park. Arguably (really?) the greatest monster movie ever made (I know, I know, they’re Dinosaurs but, in this case, same difference) and one of Steven Spielberg’s very best films, Jurassic Park’s note-perfect balance of spectacle, wonder, humanity and Dino thrills set the template for modern monster movies. It’s just a pity that almost no modern monster movie has been arsed to actually follow it. Godzilla: King of the Monsters, though is something else. Why embrace your inner Spielberg when you can embrace your inner Michael Bay, apparently.

Honestly, it really shouldn’t be this hard to make a halfway decent Godzilla film but Godzilla II: King of the Monsters looks more and more boring and cynical the further away I get from it.

Oh, and the post-credits scene is a total waste of time as well.


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