Well, this was disappointing.
Now, I’ve mentioned this a few times around the internet, but I honestly genuinely like the 2014 Godzila movie. It has its large share of problems, certainly, and I can understand why others dislike it, but it has so many genuinely great and memorable moments that, for me personally, make up for its clear and obvious flaws. I also absolutely adore Kong Skull Island which, for me, is practically the ideal dumb fun summer blockbuster done right. And when the initial trailers for this movie dropped, I was entirely on board. It looked great, had a ton of cool monsters and overall looked liked it would be a really fun monster smash-em-up. It looked like a solid step forward from the 2014 film and a good way to further the universe being created.
However, what I wasn’t expecting was for it to make literally the exact same mistakes as the 2014 film!
Seriously, it genuinely baffles me that, after all the backlash they received for killing off Bryan Cranston in the first half of the 2014 movie and replacing him with literally the blandest fucking cardboard action hero protagonist I’ve seen in ages, they went and did the exact same with Millie Bobby Brown in this one. Okay, to be fair, she doesn’t die, but the movie and advertising start out by making it look like she’s going to be the main protagonist, only for her to barely be in the movie all that much and instead be replaced by Kyle Chandler playing the most fucking generic boring estranged scientist father character I’ve seen in ages. And it’s especially egregious because, just like with Bryan Cranston, Millie Bobby Brown is actually the one with the interesting story, character conflicts and motivation! It’s hard to go into much without spoilers, but she has a genuinely interesting dynamic with her mother that is brimming with potential for interesting drama and is a genuinely tense and dangerous situation for much of the movie, but nothing really gets done with it. And she gets passed over for most of the movie in place of generic ‘blargh I’m tortured because my son is dead and I hate Godzilla (but will never act on it and immediately get over it in the third act), but now I want to make up for it by rescuing my daughter’ boring scientist asshole. Ugh.
Heck, it even applies to the side cast. Millie Bobbie Brown’s subplot has Vera Farmiga and Charles Dance fucking killing it in their respective roles, but they barely get much to do in the movie, whereas Boring Mctortured Scientist Father hangs out with a team of MONARCH scientists and operatives who, by and large, are either boring, annoying or boring and annoying. I couldn’t even tell you the names of half these characters, let along why I should care about them. Also, for some reason, they decided what this movie really needed was to copy the Jurassic World 2 subplot of whether or not they should kill the Titans or learn to coexist with them. And while the movie clearly wants you to support the latter position, since most of the ‘good guy’ characters do, like Ken Watanabe, they don’t really have any actual good arguments for it outside of clear plot fiat, so it just comes off as unnecessary fat and makes the good guys look dumb and unreasonable in the process
Now, okay, to be fair, it’s not like anyone actually goes to these movies for the human characters so maybe it’s a bit harsh to judge this movie so heavily on that aspect (spoiler alert; it’s not), but the movie keeps clumsily insisting on drawing back to that human element over and over again even when the giant monster stuff is clearly what’s more interesting. Almost every major action scene seems to have a moment of ‘Okay, cool, these giant monsters are fighting, but wouldn’t you like us to constantly cut away to see how these humans on the ground are struggling to solve uninteresting problems caused by the rampage?’ Not even joking, they pull a fucking The Amazing Spiderman 2 plane moment at one point, where an unexplained airship full of kids comes out of nowhere, is being tangentially threatened by the destruction (and not even a deliberate target of the monster) and they spend several minutes having the main human characters solve that, rather than fucking dedicating screentime to the actual giant monsters people are here to see!
With that said, to give this movie a compliment, the giant monster action is actually pretty fun. King Ghidorah makes a fucking impressive showing as the film’s main antagonist and there are tons of legitimately awesome shots to enjoy. Hell, I can pinpoint at least 10 moments that I’d like screenshotted and put on a poster on my bedroom wall. There’s some fun action scenes, Rodan makes a surprisingly decent showing and, while somewhat utilised, Mothra had a few good moments as well. And, of course, the Big G is as badass as ever. Most of the other Titans don’t really have a big role, but that’s kind of for the best and they work as interesting background designs while the big players battle it out. I will say I don’t think there were any amazingly standout sequences like Godzilla’s arrival in the 2014 movie and, for all his weaknesses as a storyteller, the movie definitely misses Gareth Edwards’s strong hand when it comes directing those sorts of big build-up moments, but it’s not bad and those looking for giant monster action will probably be reasonably sated.
Overall though, while not the worst movie in the world, this was really disappointing. It doesn’t feel like it learned anything from the mistakes of the first movie and without Gareth Edwards, it struggles to reach the same heights to make up for it. It also clearly didn’t learn anything from why people liked Skull Island either. The pacing isn’t great, interesting characters are consistently overlooked for generic boring ones, it feels fairly overstuffed at a lot of points and the only moments that feel like they work are the ones with the giant monsters. Which, to be fair, is kind of what we want, so I can entirely understand why people might be willing to forgive this movie’s flaws just for that. But for me, I can’t help but feel underwhelmed.
Ah well, maybe they’ll bring back Jordan Vogt-Roberts or Gareth Edwards for Godzilla vs Kong.
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