New from Al and Linda Lerner on Movies and Shakers: Godzilla: King of the Monsters

This Godzilla falls flatter than the buildings he and other monsters crush around Fenway Park. Action fans are the only ones who can rejoice seeing this hyper-active second offering starring the super-size reptile with a cold heart of gold. If you crave good writing and story telling, this isn’t it. The lame dialogue and plot is reduced to filler between the action sequences.

The 2014 reboot of the Godzilla origin directed by Gareth Edwards took in over half a billion bucks and was pretty well received. He was criticized at the time for waiting too long to put the lead monster on camera and neglecting the human drama along in favor of special effects.

This time, Writer/Director Michael Dougherty and co-writer Zach Shields have the legendary monsters, known as Titans, screaming, soaring and battling in the first minutes. The kaiju fight scenes are masterfully CGI choreographed, but it feels like Dougherty inserted this action just for the effect. In each new kaiju encounter, Godzilla and his monster opponents get to show off new weapons and tricks.

That plot surmises that Earth has been inhabited for millennia by Titans; skyscraper-sized behemoths of mystical legend of which Godzilla is one. The Titans are entombed far beneath the surface throughout the world. Monarch, a quasi-government agency, has been formed to find, study and determine if humans can co-exist with these creatures.

The contrivances of this plot become inane as we meet Monarch scientist Emma Russell (Vera Fermiga), her estranged husband and Zoologist, Mark (Kyle Chandler), and their spunky young teen daughter, Madison (Millie Bobby Brown). We learn, via flashback, that the Russells lost their son during the first Godzilla rampage.  

Fermiga gets drawn into an eco-terrorist plot to unleash the Titans on the world. Chandler is enlisted to stop the carnage, rescue his daughter and spout a few wisecracks along the way. Attempts at relevance come and go as the plot weaves in reference to idiotic government interference, climate change and even Eastern Mythology. None of these threads are well developed. Ken Watanabe is the only returning character from the first film. He’s the scientist with the steely eyes, clear vision, and the proper Japanese pronunciation of “Godzilla.”

The Titans are the centerpieces of this movie and visually, for the most part, they don’t disappoint. We find Godzilla, on the other hand, lacking in some of the elements that make him both fearsome and “lovable.” In the moments where his face is close-up interacting with a human, we expect to see something, anything, in those eyes or face. After all, Godzilla, as he has in the past,  has gone to war to help humans. Those emotional  nuances from the special effects team never happens.

The flying reptile Rodan is a fiery winged killing machine. Mothra, Queen of the Monsters, is beautifully lethal. Godzilla’s major opponent is the three headed dragon Ghidorah. Game of Thrones fans will swear these three remind them of Dany’s children. 

The huge climactic battle to determine the alpha among the Titans plays like a night at WWE. It’s Wrestlemania for monsters. You will have your own favorite bad scene from this movie, but look for a totally inept Bradley Whitford encouraging Godzilla to get off the mat and keep fighting. We almost expect him to turn to the camera and beg the kids to clap their hands to bring him back, ala Tinkerbell in Peter Pan.

The MonsterVerse is taking a page from Marvel, so stick around to the very end of the credits for a tantalizing clue of what’s to come. Next up, in March 2020, is Godzilla vs. King Kong. Based on the first two entries we know the visuals are going to excite. Hope there’s a human story that can match the monsters next time out. The best we can say is this Godzilla is not totally Godz-awful.

Warner Bros.                  131 Minutes             PG-13

from Movies and Shakers

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