The Godzilla mythos has been around in Japanese cinema since it first came out in 1954. Building up a huge fan base made up of both Japanese and Western audiences, the 35 Godzilla films have seen popularity continue to grow right through into the modern cinema era. Godzilla II: King of Monsters (also known as simply Godzilla: King of Monsters) is only the 3rd Godzilla film made by a Hollywood film studio.
Serving as a sequel to the 2014 film aptly named Godzilla, Godzilla II serves to extend the concept of a “monster-verse” (with Kong: Skull Island also contributing to the world as we build up to the next edition in 2020 Kong vs Godzilla). Introducing mainly new characters, Godzilla II, unlike its predecessor, takes no time revealing to us the focus of the next 120 minutes plus … giant CGI monsters.
I commend the no nonsense approach that writer/director Michael Dougherty has in throwing us straight into the action, especially after the criticism that the 2014 film received (only providing about eight minutes of actual onscreen Godzilla). What ensues is a straight-to-the-point, extremely by-the-numbers big blockbuster which is sure to appeal only to fans who just want a brainless, CGI-saturated, big dumb monster movie.
However, in 2019, I found myself asking the question “is this enough”. Transformers proved you can make a lot of money from CGI big brainless blockbusters without any substance. However in the wake of Avengers: End Game I feel that audiences are now expecting our big, CGI filled blockbusters to be more than just loud and explosive. Well, that’s certainly the case for this audience member.For everything Godzilla II does right with its impressive visuals,epic battles and incredible sound design, it literally does everything else so poorly that the film struggles under the weight of the expectations to actually be an interesting film. The script is incredibly bad – filled with one liners, underdeveloped characters, vaguely racist Japanese references (do we have to do a fortune cookie joke?!) and terrible attempts at humour – big monsters are not enough to make this film a success.
The actors try very hard to make these two dimensional characters seem worth caring about but even the brilliant Vera Farminga can’t make her character anything more than as flat as the buildings destroyed by these impressively designed monsters.
Sadly Millie Bobby Brown is completely wasted as a character who only ever turns to look past the camera and cries and is never really given anything more to do than that (despite her continued on camera magnetism). Kyle Chandler should be up for a Razzie for his “I’m the manly hero so must whisper all my dialogue with a hushed gruffness” that becomes laughable and tiresome very quickly.
Due to the weakly written roles we care very little for these characters which zaps the film of any real tension. Add to that, the fact that we know they are very unlikely to ever be seriously injured (like honestly, I know the leads always have better luck than unnamed soldiers in movies but it gets ridiculous), I felt nothing other than mildly amused by the end of the film that somehow felt over-bloated despite its complete lack of substance.
Having said all that – the creatures are big, impressive looking and the sound design is utterly fantastic. So fans of kaiju and monster films are possibly going to lap this up if only to see their favourite monsters battle it out for two hours. For this fan of film however I was left feeling entirely underwhelmed.
Bring back Matthew Broderick.
– Ashton Brown