If it’s been too long since you’ve had an uncontrollable urge to chuck Raisinettes at a movie screen while your ears bleed and your eyes bug out, congratulations—Godzilla: King of the Monsters is here for your cinematic enjoyment. Solidly in the camp of bigger-is-better and more-is-never-less, the latest big monster flick is sure to fill any void that may have been created in the time since we last got a Michael Bay-helmed Transformers flick or a film from the Roland Emmerich School of Colossal Disaster Mayhem… assuming such a void exists.
After a brief intro that picks up where 2014’s Godzilla ended, Monsters fast-forwards five years to a time that has been notably monster-free. Scientist Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) has been working in China to secretly incubate the giant, larval Mothra in a hidden outpost of Monarch, the hush-hush organization dedicated to researching the big monsters. Just as Mothra is born, the fiendish Alan Jonah (Charles Dance) kidnaps Emma and her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) to force Emma to help him defrost the three-headed nasty monster Ghidorah at another Monarch secret base in Antarctica.
Emma’s ex-husband Mark (Kyle Chandler) is naturally brought in to track down his ex-family, but, oddly enough, the presence of two new gargantuan monsters in the world complicates things. And that’s before Godzilla hears all the noise and comes back to join the fun himself. Before long there seem to be more monsters than people in the world, and the outlandish levels of global destruction kick into high gear.
There’s no doubting that Monsters is as big and loud as you can imagine (and worthy of a watch if only for the special effects and CG work), but without the self-awareness that was such a vital part of, say, the Transformers flicks, all that “sturm und drang” just lands with a dull thud. As hard as it is to believe, it’s almost as if everyone, from director and co-writer Michael Dougherty (Krampus) on down, is taking this thing seriously. How else could you explain grandiloquent bon mots such as, “Sometimes the only way to heal our wounds is to make peace with the demons that created them”? Are we watching a mega summer monster flick or reading Sartre here?
From there, Monsters only goes farther downhill as were treated to everything from an umpteenth attempt to take down a skyscraper-sized monster with piddly machine gun fire or the plight of respectable actors such as Bradley Whitford, who’s saddled with spouting what one could only surmise is an attempt at comic relief.
Though it’s (hopefully) doubtful anyone in the audience legitimately thinks the movie is meant to be high-brow cinematic fare, it’s a little surprising that the filmmakers do. Had they kept their tongues firmly planted in their collective cheeks (see Kong: Skull Island), we may have been onto something here. Back in 2017, I proffered that Transformers: The Last Knight was “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing but a good time.” Godzilla: King of the Monsters just plain signifies nothing, and there’s the rub.