Directed by: Michael Dougherty
Written by: Michael Dougherty, Zach Shields
Starring: Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds, O'Shea Jackson Jr., David Strathairn, Ken Watanabe, Zhang Ziyi
Runtime: 132 min
The new story follows the heroic efforts of the crypto-zoological agency Monarch as its members 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.
King of the Monsters is the sequel to 2014’s Godzilla, and the third movie in Legendary’s MonsterVerse, which also includes Kong: Skull Island. In 2020, Godzilla vs. Kong is scheduled to be released.
As some of you might know, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is one of my Most Anticipated Movies of 2019. Not because I expected it to be a beautifully written, heartfelt story with fully-developed characters who I would immensely care about. I was incredibly excited because it’s freaking Godzilla and from the few images that I had seen, it looked absolutely stunning. I didn’t need an Oscar-worthy screenplay or amazing performances. I just wanted a decent and logical (this last word is important) narrative with reasonable characters, and tons of monsters fighting to the death against each other. So, my expectations were neither complex or as high as some other people might have.
Unfortunately, I left the theater extremely disappointed. I can’t deny the impeccable VFX and the infinite amount of wallpaper-worthy images spread across the entire film. Some scenes are filled with jaw-dropping cinematography, astonishingly gorgeous monsters, and the fights feel so real that the sound design alone takes you to the edge of your seat. However, when the two pillars of any movie (story and characters) are so far away from even remotely working, there are no technically perfect aspects that can save the film from a disaster. I wrote this exact last sentence a few weeks ago regarding Game Of Thrones, and I will stand by it. I’m always the first guy to praise exceptional filmmaking skills, but if I have to choose between a technically seamless movie, and a film with a fantastic story and fully-developed characters, I have no doubts that the latter is the indisputably right choice.
Ultimately, that’s the huge problem here. The screenplay is loaded with some of the laziest exposition scenes I’ve seen in the last few years. Characters continuously have some sort of presentation to explain something in a completely unpredictable conversation randomly. Generally, a movie like this always has some kind of cliche secondary characters who are either a nerdy scientist, a comic-relief guy, a duo of bantering personalities or a military general who always wants to attack something, even though everyone knows it’s not the most intelligent decision. King of the Monsters has all of these types and more! More?! Seriously, Michael Dougherty and Zach Shields overstuff the narrative with so many unnecessary, useless, stereotypical characters who stretch the overall runtime and extend the periods between the massive fights, turning them into minutes of complete boredom.
I yawned during a Godzilla blockbuster. Yawned. How sad is that?! I really enjoyed Gareth Edwards’ 2014’s Godzilla. At the time, the most common complaint was that there wasn’t enough Godzilla in it. Most of the characters were well-written, despite that some could have been more fleshed out. King of the Monsters is (kind of) the other way around: there are dozens of monsters and bone-crushing, titanic fights, but they literally forgot to write a captivating story with compelling characters. In the first installment, even though I also wanted more Godzilla, when he actually shows up, I was so freaking excited! Since I had to wait for the third act to watch the Titans fight, the build-up that was generated and its payoff actually made the time spent with the human characters worthy.
This sequel was doomed from the moment the characters were written. There are a lot of fight sequences, and I wrote above that unnecessary characters extend the periods between these scenes. The dilemma is that those periods need to exist, making the whole thing look like a double-edged sword that the director is trying to avoid. On one hand, you can’t have an action set piece after another action set piece consecutively, otherwise, these will lose impact over time and become monotonous, so you need to spend time with the horribly-written human characters. On the other hand, you can’t have dumb characters with unclear motivations on-screen for long periods, otherwise, the audience will fall asleep of tediousness or get annoyed, so you have to insert a massive fight sequence again, hence making the audience gradually lose interest in those scenes.
King of the Monsters continuously repeats this cycle of going from one situation to the other. No one wants to have back-to-back fights because they’ll lose the impactful energy, but no one wants to waste their precious time listening to exposition-heavy PowerPoint presentations from characters no one is going to remember their name. I can’t even remember the main characters’ names, and I watched the movie yesterday! I can’t blame the cast, everyone gives good performances. Millie Bobby Brown (Madison Russell) continues her path to become one of Hollywood’s biggest stars (in less than 10 years, she’ll have an Oscar in her hands, I guarantee you that). Kyle Chandler (Mark Russell) does more than what was expected of him with such a lousy script, and Ken Watanabe (Dr. Ishiro Serizawa) is the only one who delivered a solid performance AND had a suitable character (fruit of the previous film). Vera Farmiga (Dr. Emma Russell) is connected to the worst character of the movie (atrociously irrational decisions made by Emma), and everyone else is pretty much one of the vast cliche secondary characters.
They had five years to write a straightforward narrative with simple characters. No fan neither wanted or needed a brilliant, groundbreaking screenplay. Dougherty and Shields delivered one of the worst scripts of the year, one filled with exposition, cliche characters, and a runtime that turned out to be way too long for someone to tolerate all of the dreadful dialogue. I don’t know if it will clearly end up as one of the worst films of 2019, but it’s definitely one of the biggest letdowns. All in all, Godzilla: King of the Monsters didn’t meet my expectations (and mine were pretty fair), not even close. Visually, it’s one of the most striking movies I’ve seen this year, and that can’t be dismissed. From the massive fights with the Titans to the impressive wide shots, Dougherty had a gorgeous diamond that he just needed to polish with a rational and simplistic story, like it was a soft, clean cloth. Instead, he used a hammer…