EVER since Marvel discovered that the insane level of star power film studios had relied on for so long was pretty much dead (remember when you’d go and see a film purely because Adam Sandler was in it?
Seriously, that was a thing once) and people were now more interested in sprawling franchises, each with their own interconnecting storylines and characters – every other studio has been playing catch-up.
Whilst none have connected as well as Marvel (DC seem to be finding some solid ground after many false starts, Transformers appears to be trying for a reinvention with Bumblebee and Planet of the Apes is done and dusted) it isn’t for the want of trying.
Godzilla King of Monsters is the third in the “Monsterverse” after the first Godzilla and the actually quite good Kong: Skull Island and offers largely the same premise and tone as the first time we met the giant lizard – namely wanton destruction on a global level, ear-shattering set-pieces and not a huge amount of anything else.
Monarch, the secret government agency we met in the first Godzilla, are still monitoring a whole bunch of different “titans” around the world, housed in various things such as dormant volcanoes, block of polar cap etc. Something called an Orca (a device that can communicate with the monsters and calm them down) has been developed by Dr Emma Russel (Vera Farmiga), mother to Madison (Stranger Things’ Mille Bobby Brown) and ex-wife to Mark (Kyle Chandler). As a result of a previous rampage, the family have suffered a catastrophic loss and no longer speak.
Enter Stage Left Alan Jonah (Charles Dance) an eco-terrorist who has clearly watched Infinity War.
Agreeing with Thanos, he believe the only way of saving the planet is to wipe it out and start again – using the Titans to do his dirty work. After stealing the Orca he manages to set the Titans free, including the legendary Mothra and Alpha Titan – the three-headed King Ghidorah. There’s only one monster who could possibly save earth… guess who.
What follows over the next two-plus hours is pretty much a straightforward sequel, with a law of slightly diminishing returns. The original offered us Bryan Cranston, Elisabeth Olsen Aaron Taylor Johnson in the leads – giving the film some real depth and gravitas. Here, despite best efforts, the cast don’t bring much to the table.
Kyle Chandler, as ace as he is, resorts to type, Oscar winner Sally Hawkins and Ken Watanabe collect their cheques and fulfil contractual obligations competently and Mille Bobbie Brown makes sure the marketing department have something other than a load of 50 year olds running around.
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It’s a satisfactory film, if it does already feel a little dated. I missed the characterisation of the original characters, which seems to have been sacrificed for Universe building. Stylistically it feels like a step back too — the sheer scale of destruction on display becomes impossible to progress (once you’ve seen a giant thing destroy a city in ten seconds, there’s nowhere else to go) and whilst fan-favourite Mothra comes close, none of the titans have anything resembling a personality beside Godzilla. If neither the humans nor monsters give us anything to care much for… what are we watching? I missed Kong’s humanity and his conflict – hopefully that will resolve in the forthcoming Kong vs Godzilla.
So it’s a big, EXTREMELY LOUD, bombastic spectacle that is perfectly adequate in the grand scheme of things, but for a franchise looking to settle in for the long haul, it feels like they’ve started treading water already.