Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Godzilla: King of the Monsters Review – A Monster Bore

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Movie Rating:


Godzilla has always been a tale of unintended consequences. The original monster was a parable about the dangers of atomic warfare created in the country where the bomb was dropped. After more than three dozen movies involving the big guy, we’re left with Godzilla: King of the Monsters, a follow-up to Gareth Edward’s 2014 blockbuster that helped rejuvenate the character for American audiences.

Edward’s film was visually sumptuous, evoking scale to make the kaiju battles feel positively epic. He also brought a terrific cast to make the story as much about human paranoia as it was about the monsters. This frustrated a vocal few who just wanted carnage, but effectively put the human characters and their response to the destruction at the forefront, wrapped in a visual style that was evocative and engaging.

Seeds of the previous film still bloom in King of the Monsters. Cast members Sally Hawkins and Ken Watanabe both continue to be cautious about overreaction to the titan’s emergence. The visual palette remains dark and Godzilla maintains his girth. This time, we focus on the story of a family that suffered loss during the destruction of San Francisco. Emma (Vera Farmiga) lives with her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) at an experimental station, looking for ways to communicate with the creatures that have emerged in the wake Godzilla’s first appearance. Emma’s ex-husband Mark (Kyle Chandler) became estranged after the loss of their son. While he’s headed off to hang out with wolves, she’s busy on a plan of a very different sort.

Eventually, the film devolves into a plot involving eco-terrorism, the reveal of grand kaiju such as Mothra and Rodan, and the new megamonster Ghidorah. The cast includes Charles Dance as a militarized baddie, Bradley Whitford as a half-drunk doctor, Thomas Middleditch as an ineffective spokesperson, and David Strathairn as an even less effective admiral. O’Shea Jackson, Jr., deserving of superstardom any day now, is relegated to a minor part as one of the soldiers who runs around doing stuff.

Many scenes simply don’t work, but one that’s eating at me is a minor moment indicative of the general egregiousness. The film uses hoary exposition throughout, yet constantly undercuts it with witticisms. (“Yeah, I know that already!” a character will declare, even if the audience does not.) In one appalling example, the new antagonist presents a diabolical plan. While spouting out dialogue that even a Bond villain would think was over the top, stock video clips play in the background. One has to wonder, did they spend time in an editing suite working on the presentation ahead of time? I picture the character searching stock archives for that perfect shot of mayhem and destruction to make the point hit home, thinking the whole time, “Nailed it!”

The rest of the film isn’t much better. It feels like watching the same kind of stock drivel with a bunch of dialogue on top to distract us. The general privilege of the central characters, who are only concerned about their own worries rather than the thousands dying during their narcissistic maneuverings, is mindboggling. This is a film that wants to take itself seriously, and then seriously messes up any sense of propriety. We’re meant to cry along with these creatures, but instead can feel nothing but scorn.

The kaiju, as opposed the humans, come across significantly better. The battles, slews of pixels attacking other pixels, have moments that rise to the levels expected from a summer blockbuster. A few scenes interspersed between the melodrama give the title character his due, even if the added baggage of Atlantian lost civilizations and other mumbo jumbo get in the way of some of the fun.

The film hammers home that it’s leading to a Kong vs. Godzilla faceoff by mentioning Skull Island over and over (and over), which makes the whole movie feel like little more than a world-building exercise. That may be the new normal in a cinematic landscape dominated by the MCU, but this is a prime example of a film so worried about what it needs to set up that it forgets about the caliber of the one right in front of us.

Vera Farmiga is usually a terrific performer, but she’s appalling here. She gets overwhelmed by the shifts of allegiance her character is required to make and presents them without any believability whatsoever. In fact, the members of her family, whom we’re supposed to care about, are the worst elements of the whole endeavor. The movie would be better off if they were excised entirely and we saw more of some banter between scientists and soldiers.

King of the Monsters lays a Godzilla-sized turd. It’s a stinking, festering lump of a film that breaks just about every good thing the last one managed to do.


  1. Chaz

    Cant wait to see this, I dont go into these films for well written human characters, why do critics of any kind always do this with these kinds of films? I swear no one can just enjoy fun shit anymore, its a summer blockbuster and its going to be loud and visually amazing and I could care less that the humans arent that interesting, the trailers for this blew my mind and I’m super pumped to see this over the weekend

  2. Bolo

    I thought the last American ‘Godzilla’ was terrible. Edwards has a gift for suspense and atmosphere, I’ll give him that, but his human characters were beyond moronic and boring. If you want a kaiju movie that focuses on human characters, ‘Shin Godzilla’ was actually quite good, but I don’t demand that every kaiju movie be that clever.

    ‘Skull Island’ was a lot of fun. That movie definitely understood how to treat human characters in a popcorn kaiju movie.

  3. Shannon Nutt

    I don’t know how to react to the reviews…some seem to love it, some (like our reviewer here) seem to hate it. I’m not looking for high art from a Godzilla movie, but I am looking for a lot more than the 15 minutes of monster Gareth Edwards gave us in his first film. I think we may have gotten it here.

  4. I saw it last night. Like Jason, I thought it was bad. Really bad. The script is amateur (especially the exposition), the tone is all over the place and inconsistent, the characters are two-dimensional, the monsters are boring and absent, the plot is bad (it reminds me of the second and third ‘Jurassic Park’ movies), the “extended universe” they’re creating reeks of ‘The Mummy’ and it’s awful Dark Universe set-up, and the monster battles are hardly any fun to watch. As if attempting to cover up bad CG, EVERY SINGLE FIGHT is shrouded behind clouds, smoke, pouring rain, flames, murky water, heat distortion, etc. We barely see what’s going on and when big climactic things are about to happen, we entirely lose visuals and only see the aftermath. To be honest, I’m still unsure of what happened to end the last big fight because we don’t see what happens behind something covering up the action. We only see the results and I have no idea how it got from the last thing we saw to the last thing we see. It makes no sense.

    Yesterday I ignored Jason’s sentiments and went into ‘King of the Monsters’ expecting a whole lot fun; however, the moment the credits ended (with an eye-rolling post-credits scene), I completely understood what he described in this review.

    It’s bad.

  5. Barsoom Bob

    I saw this last night also. Yes, the plot is idiotic, and some of the acting is terrible, I’m looking at you Millie Bobby Brown and Vera Famiga, but there are true epic encounters and set pieces galore. I didn’t feel cheated out of my $14 and enjoyed the spectacle. It is a popcorn movie and technically it delivered the action in spades. The criticism of the obscured action comes down to this. Like Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, they are going for the “You are there, in the midst of the fog of battle” approach. Some people like the detachment of a remote view point, but they chose the much more visceral, you are in the midst of this chaos approach and I enjoyed it. There was a round of applause in my theater when it was over. I am interested in seeing the Cinema Score for this, I think it will be B to A not C or D.

    • I don’t feel like this movie was going for the POV feel that puts you in the action. I felt like every view of the monsters was obstructed just as much when it used the POV feel as it did when the camera was flying around the action.

      • njscorpio

        The POV shots in the last Godzilla are why I love it as a 3D Blu-Ray, primarily the HALO drop and the school bus/bridge scene.

    • njscorpio

      I hadn’t watched Game of Thrones until recently, but they had some excellent battles that really had to feel like you were IN the action, but they were very easy to follow as they would steadily (and clearly) follow one character among all the chaos. It worked very well, IMO.

    • Julian

      Terrible acting by Millie Bobby Brown? That’s unfortunate, because she’s phenomenal in ‘Stranger Things’.

  6. Paul Tipa

    Are you forgetting all those badly acted and scripted Godzilla movies from the 70’s and 80’s? Sure, they were dumb but they were a blast to watch. All I can say is thank you Warner Bros. for listening to the fans and not the critics. 2014’s Godzilla was awful and irritating to watch but critics liked it. What we asked for in a sequel was a fun turn-your-brain-off-summer blockbuster spectacle and that’s exactly what we’re getting. Amen to that.

    • I keep hearing people say that this one features more of the monster-on-monster action than 2014’s ‘Godzilla,’ but I certainly don’t feel they improved the ratio of monster: humans here. They certainly went more for the turn-off-your-brain entertainment, but it’s in plodding plotting and not monster fights.

  7. Opinionhaver

    Have not seen yet, but look here: there’s like 30 Godzilla movies. You can count on one hand the number of those that have been legitimately good, even if you lost some fingers in an unfortunate wood shop accident. At this point the only thing we real fans are looking for is the chance to spend some more time with our giant buddy. I don’t care what these critics have to say, although the fact that Luke hated it probably means it’s at least decent if not downright good.

        • Opinionhaver

          Yeah Prometheus was dumb. I mean why didn’t Charlize just roll to the right or left anyway I’m happy for anyone if their taste in cinema aligns perfectly with Luke’s; I just know from experience to go the OPPOSITE way, so I expect to be pleased when I see KOTM tomorrow.

      • Opinionhaver

        Oh yes. So I just got out of my screening and, as I suspected, Godzilla King of the Monsters is, for better or worse, pretty much every Godzilla movie ever. It just so happens to be the latest one. The majority of screentime being used for human characters to relay corny exposition has been the foundation of the franchise since day one. Perhaps it is jarring to some now that they have some famous (ish), non-Japanese actors doing it, but it’s the same old thing when you really look at it. I had a lot of fun and most of the rest of the big guy’s fans should too!

  8. cardpetree

    I had a hard time staying awake during this when I saw it last Friday. Extremely boring. The only thing that saved my movie experience that day was me sneaking in to see John Wick 3 right after Godzilla was over. John Wick 3 is outstanding.

  9. Timcharger

    Deep cut:
    8:15 was the exact time when we dropped the bomb on Hiroshima.

    We will dazzle them with giant monsters, and maybe a few will learn something.

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