a critiQal film review Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

Plot: Members of the crypto-zoological agency Monarch face off against a battery of god-sized monsters, including the mighty Godzilla, who collides with Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah. When these ancient super-species - thought to be mere myths - rise again, they all vie for supremacy, leaving humanity's very existence hanging in the balance.

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  • ...with a script that seemed to take pleasure in decimating any efforts to provide a compelling human element from the cast, this film is just visual fireworks - and murky ones at that.

When I heard about the new releases hitting home video recently, there was one that stuck in my mind: Godzilla: King of the Monsters.  Above all the other recent releases, this was the film that everyone kept saying was great.  Combine that with knowing it was a sequel to Kong: Skull Island (2017), and I had high hopes going in.

But, would Godzilla: King of the Monsters manage to live up to the hype?  Or would this be a disappointing sequel that could have been oh so much better?

Kyle Chandler (“Friday Night Lights” (TV)), Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring (2013)) and Millie Bobby Brown (“Stranger Things” (TV)) lead the cast in Godzilla: King of the Monsters.  While each do a decent enough job in their roles, there are no standouts like there were in Kong: Skull Island (2017).  Even the large secondary cast is cast into the background (ruining a perfectly good – if too brief – villain performance by Charles Dance).  Instead, despite some confusing human drama at the start, this one is all about the monsters.

The plot of Godzilla: King of the Monsters is thin.  Basically, it’s just a thinly veiled reason to get a bunch of monsters to wreak CGI havoc on recognizable landmarks  (including The Capitol Building in Washington DC and Fenway Park in Boston).  Its too bad, really, since some human drama originally seems to be the main course for this monster flick.  Instead, that kind of falls by the wayside after the monsters are unleashed, and the humans take a backseat to the CGI for the rest of the film.  Of course, there’s some predictable self-sacrificing moments that try to put the humans back in the limelight (at least for a moment or two), but those don’t have the right buildup and seem to be just the generic “heroic” stands that go with this type of CGI action flick.

And then we get to the monsters themselves.   Maybe it’s just watching this in 720p, but honestly, the CGI looked a bit murky in Godzilla: King of the Monsters.  It was hard to distinguish the face of Godzilla among all the spiny protrusions, and there always seemed to be a layer of smoke or dust in the way during most of his sequences.  True, it was kind of fun to watch the gang from the long ago Japanese films (King Ghidorah, Mothra and Rodan mainly) beating the crap out of each other, but through all the smoke and haze it looked more like a low-budget film than most viewers will expect.  After even the oft-trashed Godzilla (1998) managed to deliver solid CGI, it was a surprise this was so…murky.

A lot of comparisons have been made between Godzilla: King of the Monsters and another CGI action-fest, Transformers (2007).  While most of those have been positive toward the monsters, it seems it should be the other way around.  Sure, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) did a lot to trash the original film, but with the CGI characters given nostalgic voices, and Shia doing his best to give the story a decent human element, it seems that Transformers (2007) should win this battle.  At least the CGI in that film wasn’t murky, and the human element seemed much more a part of the big picture.

After hearing good reviews about Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and enjoying Kong: Skull Island (2017) (thanks in part to players like Samuel L. Jackson),  I was really looking forward to this sequel.  Unfortunately, it turns out to be just another CGI-laden effects spectacular that just seemed to misplace the solid human element needed to make viewers care about what happens.  Without that important piece, it’s just like visual fireworks – and even that part seems murky.

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