Director Michael Dougherty
Screenplay by Dougherty, Jack 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, Ziyi Zhang
The 2014 Godzilla feature spent a bunch of time building a world, only to let monsters tear it a new hole. This time, we know the beasts are there, so why not just start off by letting us see the monsters, then explain as the monsters immediately begin to decimate whatever they touch? This time, Monarch is conducting studies in areas all over the world, while simultaneously working to explain what their plans are for all of the beasts.
Dr. Emma Russell (Farmiga) is working on a MacGuffin called O.R.C.A. that she created with her ex-husband, Dr. Mark (Chandler). We find out very quickly that they, along with their daughter Madison (Brown) suffered tragedy with the last part of the story. This pushes each of the parents in different directions and leaves Madison in the gulf between.
Emma and Madison are kidnapped after a successful test of the device allows communication with Mothra. Mark is brought back from Colorado, where he’s studying wolves. From there, we get the first in a seemingly endless loop of exposition geared toward explaining everything about beasts that no one has ever seen, outside of Godzilla.
The movie jumps around absurdly like the Emmerich film 2012. This film plays as fast and loose as that with the unbelievable rescues. This doesn’t mean everyone survices. Anyone without the last name Russell is fair game. A few of the characters from the 2014 film carry over in order to explain stuff to those of us who don’t remember as much of that film.
The running dialogue of the characters is exhausting in its desire to explain everything. We’re supposed to understand and trust that the scientists on each side understand the motives and goals of each creature as they are uncovered.
There are many distinguished actors in supporting roles. Few stand out, beyond Watanabe, Whitford and Dance, who are able to cheese up the bland dialogue with B-movie verve. Chandler, Farmiga and Brown are fine, too. The best thing that can be said is that the people are cleared away when it’s time for the monsters to battle royale.
The effects, beyond problems with proportionality, are a decent mix of modern computer graphics mixed with the old world charm of making the monsters look as they appeared historically on film. Rodan and Mothra are highlights. Ghidorah looks kind of like a plastic doll close up. Part of me wonders is this intentional.
Godzilla has a strange appeal, however. His look is one of irritation rather than rage. We know he’s gotta kick some ass, and he is getting tired of the humans that insist on getting in the way and then “helping.” They at least make him something for viewers to root for when the humans onscreen fail to make that connection.
There is so much in the way of destruction, it feels pointless. At this point, it is beyond the point of amazement to see. It happens so often, it feels pointless. We should be amazed when we see an ancient city under water. Instead, we just resign ourselves to the understanding it won’t be around very long.
This is not a great film. It’s barely a good one. The feeling that this is just a placeholder for the real battle coming overwhelms the last half of the film. Once we see images of Kong in passing, it’s hard to guess who is going to come out on top in a film with Godzilla’s name in the title.
(*** out of *****)