It’s finally here! The Godzilla franchise continues with Godzilla: King of the Monsters!
Previous director Gareth Edwards has been replaced by Michael Dougherty, best known for his horror efforts like the Halloween anthology film Trick ‘R Treat and the Christmas movie Krampus. With an all-star cast of acclaimed thespians, rising talents and franchise returnees and free reign to utilize other monsters in the franchise, will the film be as fun as the premise promises?
There really feels no need for a synopsis with a film such like this, especially since the marketing materials make it clear we’re only here for the monsters. And those monsters certainly make their presence felt, and the film crew do their darnedest to make their action scenes as vast and impactful as possible, especially in terms of scale.
That said, the simplistic story is a fitting continuation from the 2014 film, following on from the disastrous events in San Francisco. Although the film fulfills its promise to show monsters duking it out, the story is still quite effective, thanks to the inclusion of an interesting moral dilemma, that both pays tribute to the social commentary of the classic films, and offers food for thought. Without sharing any spoilers, Godzilla: King of the Monsters leaves humanity questioning whether the monsters are a positive or negative step in the natural order, and this compliments the characters quite well, making their questionable, though honourable, motivations convincing and even empathetic.
Action scenes take place in varied settings ranging from Antarctica, to cities like Boston and islands like Mexico’s Isla de Mara, all captured vividly from both human and monster perspective by cinematographer Lawrence Sher. Editors Roger Barton, Richard Pearson and Bob Duscay manage to shift perspectives between action scenes briskly, and the grand musical score from Bear McCreary (whose prior work included cult monster dramedy Colossal), compliments the film beautifully, as McCreary adapts original composer Akira Ifukube‘s score and brings his own touch to proceedings, using both to great effect.
The monsters are coded with a certain colour, hinting at their allegiances, and plenty of respect is paid to their original appearances. Their movements bring to mind actual animal behaviour, which lends them a stronger and more believable presence, such as how King Ghidorah attacks in a manner of a King Cobra.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is led by a top-notch cast, whom all bring credibility and approachable presences that makes it easy for us to sympathize with. Kyle Chandler brings his salt-of-the-earth average joe charisma to the character of Dr. Mark Russell, Vera Farmiga is convincingly conflicted and forceful as Dr. Emma Russell, and Millie Bobby Brown does well as the moral center, bringing tenacity, wonder and initiative to the character of Madison Russell.
The supporting characters are all colourful and add to the fun. Bradley Whitford, Thomas Middleditch and O’Shea Jackson Jr. all amuse in their parts, while Charles Dance, Aisha Hinds and Zhang Ziyi lend authoritative presence to their roles. Franchise returnees including Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn and Ken Watanabe are given more to do (particularly Watanabe) and really make the most out of their parts. No one in the cast act like they are above the material and look like they are actually having fun, which makes a positively huge difference.
Also adding to the fun experience are the numerous callbacks to the franchise. It is quite clear that director Dougherty and co-writers Max Borenstein and Zach Shields are big fans of Godzilla, peppering many witty references throughout the film, including a certain plot device from the 1954 original film, a callback to certain characters relating to the origin of Mothra, and a clever role reversal that calls to mind a major moment in the 1954 film. It is moments like these that franchise devotees will truly appreciate.
Overall, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is an incredibly fun continuation of the franchise, and one that respects and honours its roots. Thanks to solid direction and a committed ensemble cast, the film provides the extravagant action that franchise devotees will salivate for, while providing a story that brings forth an interesting moral dilemma that calls to mind the environmental messages of prior installments.
Our verdict? Long live the king!
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is in cinemas now.