'Godzilla II: King of the Monsters' movie review

Featuring a serviceable plot, good acting and great monster battles, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a film that treats its Titans with respect while humans play the role of plot-driver

Directed by: Mike Dougherty
Cast: Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Charles Dance
Score: 3

2014's Godzilla was Hollywood's second - and perhaps last attempt - at creating a Godzilla that fans around the world would accept as the King of the Monsters, and by and large it delivered, giving fans around the world not just a faithful recreation of the iconic monster but also the promise of a world filled with them. Godzilla: King of the Monsters delivers on the promise by bringing the monsters to the forefront, recreating a primal ecosystem with limitless potential.

King of the Monsters picks up with a brief look at the 2014 San Francisco battle. It then jumps to five years later, when Monarch - the crypto-zoologist organisation - is being ripped apart by the US government, which wants all the Titans dead. Meanwhile, Emma Russell (Farmiga), one of the brains at Monarch with tech that can control the Titans, is taken hostage by eco-terrorist Alan Johan (Dance), who for some reason, wants her tech, triggering a wild goose chase to stop Jonah before he can cause too much harm.

Humans have never exactly been the Godzilla franchise's strong points (barring a few exceptions), usually just serving as a driving force behind the plot. Godzilla from 2014 was no different and the tradition continues with King of the Monsters. The film falls squarely into the trap of having too many human characters, many of whom could've been consolidated or skipped entirely, and most of them - largely the new introductions - don't even get much time to be fleshed out.

The main stars of the film are Mark (Chandler) and Emma Russell, an estranged couple who were torn apart after Godzilla and the MUTOs tore San Francisco apart in 2014. While Kyle moved on from Monarch with a burning hate for Godzilla in particular, Emma came to the conclusion that the Titans are essential to 'fixing' the planet - filled with motivations similar to many real-world climate change activists: Humans cause pollution and destroy forests, the human population is out of control an so on. It's a flat character, but Farmiga delivers with a genuine dedication to it.

Madison (Brown) is nothing to scoff at either, with her rebellious teen-like acting and a severe, and sometimes hilarious, dislike of Jonah. Millie's breakout upgrade from Netflix's Stranger Things to Godzilla might be a ridiculously switch, but her acting is reasonable, with some room for improvement. Meanwhile, Jonah is...just sort of there. Charles Dance's acting remains as charming and captivating as ever, but Jonah's motivations are glossed over with just a few mentions, leaving him somewhat underwhelming.

The real stars of the movie are the Titans. Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan and Ghidorah are reborn in the modern world with CGI that removes the limitations of the clunky rubber suits of Toho, giving them a far improved ability to move, emote and act like the Gods or Demons that they are. Mothra and Ghidorah, in particular, are taken up to 11, with Mothra's classic divinity coming into play with incredible reverence and Ghidorah being the scariest and most demonic he has ever been. He is a literal world ender that creates atmosphere-tearing storms simply by existing. Even Rodan gets a ton of upgrades from his Toho counterpart as he's capable of flattening entire cities by simply flying over them.

The monster battles in King of the Monsters deliver greatly, being savage and more up close than even Godzilla. Land battles between Godzilla and Ghidorah are incredibly loud with roaring, biting and beam attacks taking the bulk of the screen, which relies heavily on close-up shots to establish the scale of these massive creatures but moves away just often enough for it to not be too in-your-face. The Mexico aerial dogfight involving Monarch and Rodan is a sharply crafted high-tension sequence that shows off the film's technical and artistic competence well.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters delivers what it promises - monsters and monster battles that do not disappoint, but the human angle, while not necessarily great, serves its purpose to drive along the plot, set up the reasons why the monsters are rising up one after another and give a reason for the monster battles to happen. It's a movie made for hardcore fans of the franchise, but even casuals should be able to digest it just fine. Fair warning, though, it can get really, really loud.

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