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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Godzilla: King of the Monsters | Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Charles Dance, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins | Review

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Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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Godzilla: King of the Monsters | Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Charles Dance, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins | Review

You won’t find one zipper on this big, bad dude.

In a world five years beyond 2014’s Godzilla, scientists have learned how to suppress MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms). They’re all quietly hibernating, disguised as mountains or ridges on the ocean floor.

You know that some of these puny humans will just have to poke them with a big radioactive stick, don’t you? Whether it be the military, scientific organizations like Monarch, or eco-terrorists with a master plan, a relatively small group will call the shots for the whole world, even if that means skyscraper-high Titans (MUTOs with a cooler name) will perform interpretive dance in the middle of a metropolis near you.

After San Francisco’s Godzilla-based devastation we are introduced to a family of bereaved scientists. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) and wife Emma (Vera Farmiga) lost a son in the 2014 rampage. They’ve separated and both cherish their surviving daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown). Mark is a former Monarch employee and Emma still works for the crypto-zoological organization. The two have invented a mechanism named ORCA which transmits frequencies that can calm (read: control) the Titans, but it’s hit or miss at times.

These organizations have conflicting agendas on what to do with the Titans. Monarch scientists want to work with the them. Mark Russell, disgruntled and mourning the loss of his son, wants them all destroyed; so does the military. Emma Russell wants them all released to save the planet. Her speech about this is a wonder of denial and faulty logic.

Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe reprising his role) wants to make nice with Godzilla only. An eco-terrorist organization headed by Jonah Alan (Charles Dance) wants to “reset” the planet so much that they hold Emma and her daughter Madison hostage, with unintended consequences. Monarch scientist Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) also reprises her role from the 2014 film. The Shape of Water actress has got a much larger co-star this time around.

Eventually all of the Titans roam, fly, and swim freely. The three-headed, winged Ghidorah, encased in ice, is set free by the eco-terrorist group and is unlike the other Titans in a way I will not spoil. Ghidorah wants to be king, which won’t fly with Godzilla (who can’t fly, but can create whirlpools and tsunamis in the ocean). As a child, I remember the pronunciation being closer to Ghee-drah. Mothra is a female Titan, and Rodan looks like a flying lava-rock with a magma interior. All can fly but the King of the Monsters.

Majestic and deceptively slow, the Titans charge and flap, spit flames of orange and blue, stamp, and ram, demolishing cities with the pissed off rage of parents stepping on Legos. This is a visual feast, impressive and well-executed. There’s just not enough of it.

Director Michael Dougherty (“Krampus”), co-wrote the script with Zach Shields, and the two give us a variety of monsters. They also give us loads of exposition in the form of soldiers, terrorists, and scientists who preach endlessly about the environment, watching the destruction from computer screens and futuristic aircraft windows. And they talk and argue and talk some more. The humans and their wordy, dramatic arguments dilute and detract from Titan warfare.

Dougherty is caught in the eternal quandary of the monster film. To make it believable, he must treat it seriously, without camp or humor. To do this, there must be a slew of angst-filled actors explaining what’s happening at each new development. That makes for some less-than exciting sequences. Who wants to talk strategy when Godzilla is about to tear off one of Ghidorah’s heads?

On the other hand, prolonged Titan battles can make the viewer’s eyes glaze over, turning the action into a noisy kaleidoscope. The visual effects deliver, but too much monster exposure can detract from their formidable presence. We should never be complacent when a massive being with teeth is onscreen.
Some exposition is needed, if only to remind the viewer that Godzilla was awakened by nuclear testing and thrives on radiation. It helps to ignore the plot holes, some of which are large enough for a Titan to step through.

Kyle Chandler’s Mark is either outraged, fearful or horrified in every scene. Vera Farmiga’s startled, earnest Emma makes some questionable decisions from beginning to end. Millie Bobby Brown has a wildcard scene that will have you scratching your head. Charles Dance is wasted and redundant in his role, while Ken Watanabe injects a vintage wisdom into the tale.

A planned sequel will match the aquatic Godzilla with land-loving King Kong. How’s that for a colossal Surf and Turf?

With Bradley Whitford, O’Shea Jackson Jr., David Strathairn, and Joe Morton.

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