For the most part, Godzilla: King of Monsters stays true to its name, doubling down on its monster-centric world-building while rapidly expanding the growing list of beasts that inhabit its world. Now that’s exactly what you want out of monster movie, right? Well if you remember the complaints about Godzilla (2014) you may recognize the primary one surrounded the screen time that Godzilla himself spent on-screen, or rather, the lack thereof. Godzilla: King of Monsters takes that complaint to heart, adding in an astronomical amount of screen-time with these roaming beasts. Little did audiences know, more monster equals less character.
Almost to a fault, this film overreaches with its ambitions to set up a “monster-verse”, as a lot of time is spent convincing us that monsters are buried everywhere. Vague outlines of this are established (at least in premise) in both Kong: Skull Island (2017) and Godzilla (2014), but not to this extreme, as we’re bombarded with a whopping 17 monsters that now roam the Earth. Despite that, the spectacle is what audiences are here for and it certainly delivers – Godzilla and King Ghidorah reign as kings in their own respective ways, both providing equal terror and beauty. Mothra played a great part in this film and was a welcomed addition, but perhaps they should have saved Rodan and the others for future installments.
As massive as this film is, you could feel the runtime was a little too large — oftentimes scenes between the human characters felt sluggish and monotonous, as it lacked no real attachment to them or their motivations. Unlike the monsters, the humor between the characters in this film was not symbiotic, most of the jokes felt forced and often disrupted the intensity and scale of some of the scenes. What stood fiendishly tall as one of this films most problematic aspects was its plot tropes. A main one being that “humanity is a virus” and “we need to be culled” because of overpopulation and pollution (or some vague reason like that); it’s not a story trope that I relish getting a visit from.
Just like the three-headed monster Ghidorah, this film had three lead roles; Kyle Chandler as the dad, Vera Famiga as the mom, and Millie Bobby Brown as the daughter – this was perhaps one head too many, following a family around in a disaster movie is an overplayed trope that feels very familiar. Millie Bobby Brown does a fair job in this film, perhaps the best, but frankly as far as the characters go, no single actor in this film had a more major role than the next. You could have removed any lead character from this film to reduce runtime and it would have felt tighter and less energy intensive. Vera Famiga had a somewhat more complex character to play around with but produces nothing that interesting from it by the films conclusion. The hard truth is that if you’re making a film about monster battles, you need human characters in the mix to make the film feel more digestible between the battles. It’s a shame something of interest wasn’t done here, like Japan’s critical hit Shin Godzilla (2016), which took to using various politicians as its characters to represent the films human reaction to the threat.
A film of this magnitude needs to deliver on a technical front with grandeur imagery and powerful sound design that is bound to overload your senses and Godzilla: King of Monsters most certainly jolts the senses – perhaps a bit too much. The film achieves the same visual heights in a similar fashion as Gareth Edwards Godzilla (2014), as director Lawrence Sher captures the scale by having the camera at the same level as the human characters when in-shot. Sher also manages to encapsulate colossal, breathtaking shots of the monsters with an impressive shot composition by balancing its visual elements in stunning style. Arguably the most impressive visual element of this film is the incredible lighting as it brilliantly brings the astounding imagery to life through a diligent colour scheme. At times, the film is excessive with being flashy in its lighting as there are long periods of time with flashing lights that almost create a stroboscope effect which quickly becomes tiresome.
The film takes us on a journey that allows for a range of locations that succeeds in creating the right atmosphere for the audience – even if it becomes inconsistent with its props and set design. Bear McCreary’s composition here is extremely self-aware in understanding how monstrous, ambitious and grand the film needs to sound to support the visual aspects. Implementing drums and chants in the king-sized moments help absorb the audience into the frame as you feel the sound through the vibrations of the cinema to create a truly immersive cinematic experience. The audio experience throughout is engrossing as you feel every explosion, every roar and every bite as these vast ranges of sounds are completely intricate in creating an intense soundscape to get lost in.
For now, Godzilla keeps his crown in Hollywood as the true king of the monster movie genre — but part of me wonders how much energy this beastly franchise can contain before audiences begin to grow tired of the spectacle, especially considering we have Godzilla v Kong coming out shortly. Nonetheless, monsters battling each other in the rain, snow, and dust has always provided a soft spot in people’s hearts for nearly 100 years, I don’t see that spot disappearing any time soon. Even if it is roaring with spectacle and a visual aesthetic of monumental proportions, Godzilla: King of Monsters invests all it has into embodying the monster movie genre — even at the sacrifice of its human characters.