It’s hard to be a fan of monster movies like Godzilla. I want to like them and I do get pretty excited before going to see them. I was very excited for Kong: Skull Island because it looked to be both a monster movie and a King Kong movie, plus a return to the legendary, mysterious island. Unfortunately, that movie didn’t wow as expected, but it was alright. Godzilla: King of the Monsters promised to be a monster-filled dive into the mythos of Godzilla plus the buildup to a King Kong versus Godzilla movie. Yet here I am again disappointed.
I remember seeing Godzilla come to theaters in 1998 and being a really excited kid. I had never actually seen a Godzilla movie, so I didn’t know what to expect. It didn’t change my life, but I enjoyed it then as a kid. I’ve tried to watch it more recently and it didn’t quite hold up. Honestly, though that was the first Hollywood attempt at a Godzilla, plus CGI wasn’t quite good enough yet. This year’s Godzilla movie had neither one of those challenges, yet still surprisingly underwhelmed me. It makes me wonder if these monster movies are meant more for kids.
The story in King of the Monsters feels off right from the beginning. Yes, it’s a movie about giant monsters, called titans, but the human story and dialogue don’t have to be just as outlandish. We got very little characterization for Vera Farmiga’s character and then she all of a sudden condemns the world to be destroyed by titans so it regrows better. Where did that come from? We went from revealing what the world knew about the titans to quickly watching as someone gets a god complex and releases them all. It felt too quick and forced. A more gradual telling of this story and revealing of the titans would have served the story better. Instead, I just thought, “Well the story is shot, but here comes a bunch of monsters.” At that point, I just hoped the treatment and depiction of the titans would be worth the price of my ticket.
The script falls into this same category, but this is more of personal preference. A lot of the things the characters were saying just came off lame and disingenuous. No one laughed at any point in my full theater. Some of the dialogue stood out more than the titans and not in a good way. The actors are the “main characters”, but really the titans are what we want to focus on. There was also a lot of explanation from the humans that whether needed or not, didn’t fit and bogged down the movie.
There has to be some buildup to a monster. The mystery and tease of more to be shown later keep the viewer’s excitement high. I felt that we saw pretty much all the titans right up front. They were released one by one and then they were fully out and onscreen the rest of the movie. I compare this to the scene in The Dark Knight where Batman slams Joker’s head on the table first and then punches him on the hand to no reaction. Once all the titans were on the screen there was nothing to be surprised about. There were a bunch of giant CGI monsters battling across the screen for the next hour and a half. Yes, this is what we came to see, but the impact wasn’t the same after seeing it for 45 minutes. I realize the story had a lot to fit in so it couldn’t dawdle, but it hurt the movie. There were no surprises and really nothing that we hadn’t already seen about halfway through. At this point, I didn’t have any more hopes for the movie aside from more direct references to or an appearance by Kong.
Another thing that bothered me was the placement and interactions of humans with the titans. It made sense that people got involved and put measures in place to protect themselves from the titans. It also makes sense for the military to battle the titans once they are walking the Earth. The small group of main characters that were in the titans way over and over again though did not make sense. They kept surviving no matter how ridiculous the odds and physics were that were stacked against them. It felt very forced to show these people barely surviving these encounters over and over again. Show other people’s interactions, rather than having the titans keep missing stepping on this group hanging out right underneath them. They are the main characters, but they have no special powers and they really have very little impact on the titans. Make their story important, but separate. I don’t want to watch them while the titans are battling above, especially if they keep magically dodging every piece of falling debris. They really didn’t do anything other than scream in most of the time either. It just took me out of the movie to stop and say, “How did they avoid that?” repeatedly.
What was good? As a fan, I want there to be a MonsterVerse; which takes work. I can say that the movie definitely pushed forward into creating that world. They expounded on the titans as well as Monarch, the organization that monitors them. This is important because it helps string the movies altogether. It sets the parameters of the world in this shared cinematic universe. This shows an effort to give something back to the fans that are following along. This progression also makes way for more new content and more involved stories as all the basics are already in place. Although it’s not as crucial as a good story or acting, the world building for this MonsterVerse is apparent and has been shown some care.
All of Godzilla: King of the Monsters issues combined to really affect my overall enjoyment of the movie. If I could have just sat there and watched the titans battle in silence, I think I would have enjoyed it more. This is why I think these movies are more for kids because more than likely they’ll enjoy the monsters no matter what. Meanwhile, I stopped to question the story, motives, dialogue choices, luck of the characters and decisions by the director instead of just watching the action. Even if these movies aren’t for me, there were still parts of this one I enjoyed. I think these movies could be great for everyone if they are shown just a little more effort. They have already pushed back the Kong versus Godzilla movie because I’m not the only one disappointed this time around. I’m still going to go see that movie when it does happen, and I’m sure I’ll get excited beforehand, but for right now I’m disappointed.