IGN’s review published on Letterboxd:
BY SCOTT COLLURA
Right from the start, Godzilla: King of the Monsters makes it clear that it is not going to be another hide-the-monsters exercise like its predecessor, 2014’s Godzilla. Whereas that movie, which rebooted the king of the monsters for modern audiences, aimed for a more contemplative if stingy approach to portraying the iconic beast, this new film gives us a huge scene -- with a huge monster! -- within its first few minutes.
The message is clear: This Godzilla movie is gonna be wall to wall with the monsters, contemplativeness be damned.
Co-written and directed by Michael Dougherty, who has also helmed the spook-fests Trick 'r Treat and Krampus, Godzilla: King of the Monsters stars Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga and Millie Bobby Brown as a splintered family that gets swept up in the drama when a new array of giant monsters begins to appear around the world. Perhaps not surprisingly, the cast mostly gets short shrift when compared to the kaiju, with Chandler’s character spending most of his screen time stressed out, Brown’s crying more often than not, and Farmiga’s… well, let’s just say her character’s motivations are confusing at best and ridiculous at worst.
But the monsters! They include the classic Godzilla players Mothra, Rodan and the nasty King Ghidorah, all realized with designs that call back to their Toho origins while also looking fresh and, basically, fantastic. As for Godzilla, as we saw at the end of the 2014 film, he is firmly planted on the side of good, ready to battle these creatures alongside humanity… even if his motivation seems to be more as a simple force of nature rather than specifically as mankind’s BGFF -- Best Giant Friend Forever.
As has been the case with Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros.’ monster series, the secret scientific agency Monarch is once again attempting to quell the monster threat in this film, and not doing a particularly great job of it. But at least this time out Dougherty has given them more agency, allowing for the Monarch team of scientists and soldiers to do more than just stand around and watch monsters duking it out. That includes a super-cool underwater headquarters where they hang out -- complete with a view of Godzilla’s migratory lanes! -- and a ship called the Argos that enables Chandler and a bunch of fun supporting players like Bradley Whitford, Thomas Middleditch and O'Shea Jackson Jr. to keep up with the tussling giant monsters as they crisscross the globe.
This leads to one particularly thrilling sequence which pits the winged Rodan in a high-speed chase against the Argo and a bunch of other military aircraft. But really, the monster action in this movie is top-notch across the board, whether it’s creatures being born, creatures battling humans, or creatures battling other creatures. The visual effects are key here not just in the state of the art, epic set pieces, but also in how each monster feels like they have their own, distinct personality. Even Ghidorah’s three heads have their own temperaments!
Where King of the Monster does stumble, unfortunately, is in how needlessly convoluted its script can be at times. When, in the middle of dire emergency circumstances, Farmiga’s character lays out a plan that somehow includes spur-of-the-moment video montages and infographics of what she’s talking about, monstrous giggles from the audience would be excused. That also goes for Chandler’s so very serious main character, who apparently knows better than the generals, scientists and other experts around him at every clutch moment. And then there’s Game of Thrones’ Charles Dance, who’s one of the film’s villains but who ultimately has almost no bearing on the story for some reason.
But hey, this is a Godzilla movie, and what we’re really here for is to see him kick some serious monster butt. And King of the Monsters pays off in that regard time and again, including an explosive, extended final battle royale between all the monsters. But the film also finds it in its monstrous heart to provide some fairly… dare we say it… contemplative bits as well. Ken Watanabe, back from the first film as a Monarch scientist and ultimate Godzilla fanboy, gets a particularly beautiful moment. Indeed, the movie manages to also pay homage to the Godzilla films of yesteryear with lots of little nerdy Easter eggs that will make fans quite happy, while also, of course, threading the needle of Legendary’s shared MonsterVerse past and future with just enough references.
And man, the final shot of King of the Monsters is basically everything a Godzilla fan could hope for… and more.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a fun exercise in giant monster madness that indulges in all the kaiju fights fans and even casual viewers could hope for. It looks amazing while also giving its human characters a chance to stay interesting amid all the battling beasties by providing them with some really cool tech -- and some great one-liners among the supporting players. Unfortunately, the film’s plot is needlessly confusing, and not all that smart at times, and the lead characters could’ve used a little more fleshing out. Still, King of the Monsters course corrects from the 2014 film by giving audiences an abundance of monster action, proving that Hollywood can do right by Godzilla and his fellow kaiju.