With the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, studios are racing to create their own lucrative shared universes. Not surprisingly, these efforts have been mixed. Universal’s ‘Dark Universe’ was ‘one and done’ after The Mummy. The Conjuring Universe is still scaring audiences despite a couple of clunkers (The Nun). In contrast, Legendary Entertainment has taken a slower approach to their ‘MonsterVerse’. Rather than forcing a ‘shared universe’, the studio has opted to first create decent standalone movies. Before next year’s main event pitting Godzilla against King Kong, Legendary is setting the table with Godzilla: King of the Monsters. But a lukewarm critical response may put the ‘MonsterVerse’ on hold.
It’s been five years since Godzilla’s battle in San Francisco. Now the world knows about the covert agency, Monarch, and the existence of ‘Titans’. As governments debate destroying the sleeping monsters, a group of eco-terrorists, led by Alan Jonah, have different plans. After stealing a device capable of communicating and controlling the Titans, Jonah unleashes the ‘Monster Zero’, King Ghidorah. As Ghidorah turns other Titans against Earth’s cities, Godzilla returns to re-claim his crown.
Godzilla Delivers Its Promised Monster Mash
Some fans complained that 2014’s Godzilla was too slow with not enough of the big lizard. Writer and director Michael Dougherty (Krampus) took that feedback seriously. King of the Monsters features lots of Godzilla. And this time around, he’s joined by three of Toho Studio’s most legendary kaiju. In addition to King Ghidorah, King of the Monsters gives us Rodan and Mothra. All three of these kaiju are making their North American debuts. That alone makes King of the Monsters worthwhile. There’s just something cool for geeks to see these monsters in a big budget Hollywood movie.
Clearly, Dougherty loves these old-school monsters …
Fortunately, Dougherty doesn’t’ waste the opportunity. Clearly, Dougherty loves these old-school monsters because he frames them beautifully. King of the Monsters gives audiences several stunning shots of its rampaging kaiju. Mothra’s ‘birth’ boasts some amazing visual effects that make the ‘queen’ majestic. And Rodan’s first onscreen appearance is one of the movie’s more thrilling action set-pieces. Though some of the action scenes are dark, Dougherty largely delivers on the monster action. However, more isn’t always better.
King of the Monsters a Busy Movie
King of the Monsters suffers from the same problems as a lot of Hollywood blockbusters. First, at over two hours, the Godzilla sequel feels long. In spite of all its action, King of the Monsters lags in spots. And when it doesn’t drag here and there, it occasionally exhausts, which brings us to its second problem. At times, it almost feels like there is too much going on.
At times, it almost feels like there is too much going on.
Aside from Godzilla and his ‘Titan’ co-stars, there’s a huge human ensemble with drama and subplots. You’ll be forgiven if you can’t remember all their names. In fact, you may even miss it when one relatively important character dies. Dougherty also seems to be compensating for the 2014 Godzilla’s more deliberate pacing. While there’s more action, there’s nothing here that packs the emotional punch of Godzilla shooting atomic breath down a MUTO’s throat.
Impressive Cast Plays Second Fiddle to the ‘Big Guy’
Godzilla: King of the Monsters struggles with the same issue as a lot of monster movies. How do you fill the time in between the kaiju showdowns? Like the 2014 Godzilla: King of the Monsters has assembled a large and impressive cast. Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, and Millie Bobby Brown provide the main human drama. All three actors are uniformly excellent, and Dougherty even offers a surprising twist to the characters’ family dynamic.
But like its action, there’s just too many characters jammed into the movie. Monarch scientists Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins return largely for the sake of continuity. Charles Dance is utterly wasted. His casting feels mostly like a red herring. Several other recognizable actors round out the cast, but they’re largely there to deliver punchlines or expository dialogue.
King of the Monsters Underwhelms Even as it Overwhelms
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a good, if not underwhelming, sequel. Ultimately, the latest MonsterVerse entry suffers from the same problems as many Hollywood blockbusters. It’s a loud movie that is often visually overloading. Godzilla and Kong: Skull Island were focused movies, whereas King of the Monsters almost takes too many twists and turns. King Ghidorah may not be able to defeat Godzilla, but disappointing box office returns could stop the MonsterVerse dead in its tracks.