The world has changed since the events of Godzilla (2014). Monarch - the agency responsible for locating and studying Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms (M.U.T.O.) AKA 'Titans' - has discovered many new creatures around the world, all of which are in hibernation. But when they start waking up, Godzilla returns to establish order. And the humans are left trying to figure out why this is all happening, before the behemoths take back the planet they once ruled.
Michael Dougherty takes over as director for the third instalment of the Monsterverse, and he has gone all out. Compared to the first two movies, the scale of King of the Monsters is off the charts. This is what a big, ridiculous monster movie is supposed to be; big monsters kicking the living shit out of each other, whilst also causing biblical levels of destruction. There's no waiting around for brief glimpses of the monsters this time, they show up early to demand their fair share of screen time. And the visuals are mind-blowing! Godzilla has had a slight revamp, and all of the new creatures look fantastic. The same level of detail has also been applied to the environments, even the weather looks good - something I never thought I'd write about in a review. From Antarctica to the Americas and the ocean depths beyond, seeing these titans knock seven bells out of each other is a lot of fun, and it all looks so real.
With the monsters getting a lot more screen time, it's good to see that the human story isn't left wanting. In fact, they actually get to do something more than just observe. In Godzilla (2014), the humans had little to no effect on the goings on, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson's 'Ford Brody' was pretty much there to witness events. Now Monarch has a much larger presence, not to mention budget. Special military units have been attached to the agency so that its members can work to contain the creatures and provide a relief effort to areas affected by them. But it also means they can get in on the fight this time (as Kyle Chandler's 'Mark Russell' is so keen to point out), and Dougherty has put together a great cast to do it.
Millie Bobby Brown is excellent in her feature film debut (like there was any doubt!), and Kyle Chandler and Vera Farmiga make welcome additions as her parents. What would a monster movie be without a little family drama? It's good to see Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins and David Strathairn reprise their roles from Godzilla (2014), unfortunately two of the three are given very little to do. As is Charles Dance, although I get the feeling that we will be seeing more of his eco-terrorist in future movies. Ziyi Zhang, Bradley Whitford, Aisha Hinds, O'Shea Jackson Jr. and Thomas Middleditch fill out the rest of the Monarch team, all of whom bring something unique to the table. It's good to see a strong female character (Hinds) leading the military contingent, and Whitford is clearly having fun as the Godzilla fanboy.
Despite the fact that Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a big, ridiculous monster movie, Dougherty and his team have actually come up with a very engaging story. With several factions emerging amongst the human characters (yes some have a serious 180 degree change of heart in the second half, but there's always one), there really is a lot more to this movie than "look at the big monsters fighting" - although that bit is a lot of fun too. But I do have to question one thing, specifically the motivation for certain characters. How is waking up a bunch of prehistoric titans going to end pollution and global warming? Maybe if the titans were specifically dedicated to the destruction of humans, but most of them seem more interested in killing each other! And the aforementioned biblical levels of destruction would inevitably result in some sort of disaster eventually - nuclear meltdown, chemical spill, that sort of thing. If you have any thoughts on this please let me know. That said, this isn't something that affected my enjoyment of the movie, I loved every minute of it.
With Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Michael Dougherty has taken the big, ridiculous monster movie and kicked it into overdrive. With its engaging story, spectacular visual effects and epic monster fights, this is by far the most exciting entry in the Monsterverse so far.
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