When a film leaves no impact, then a few years later a sequel follows, playing catch up while you watch can be difficult; you’re never quite sure what the characters are talking about. In the new early summer release, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, a sequel to the 2014 adventure called simply Godzilla, things are doubly confusing.
For the film’s first thirty minutes, characters you feel you should already know but can’t recall are standing around in groups, gathered together in poorly lit control rooms. They’re either typing frantically into keyboards, staring at computer readouts, trying to figure out what Ken Watanabe as Japanese scientist Dr. Serisawa is actually saying, or looking at each other with dread while discussing all kinds of urgent-sounding issues regarding the unleashing of the monstrous Titans and the ecological damage they’re all causing around the world. “There are disasters (happening) that we don’t even have names for at this time,” declares Admiral Stenz (David Strathairn). And while they’re all trying to work out what’s going on, so are we.
To make matters more confusing, characters not in the previous film talk about their story so far and how that last outing five years ago with Godzilla, king of the ‘B’ movies, affected them. Try as you might, you won’t remember Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) or his ex-wife, Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) from the last film, even though they talk about the roles they played in it. Evidently, their young son died while Godzilla was stomping the streets, and it’s an event that has understandably caused heartache, not to mention a family separation. But when the family backstory is revealed mixed in with all the other urgent sounding scientific babble, it’s as if it’s meant to be information we should already know, the kind mentioned casually to jog a few movie memories and to bring plot points up to speed. The thing is, the Russell’s were never in that last film, they just feel as though they were, and their family story only adds to the ever-mounting cacophony of the film’s first act.
Emma is the co-inventor of a machine called the Orca, a sound device that can be carried like a laptop. Through recorded sound waves, the machine enables communication with the Titans. It might even control them. But Dr. Emma’s ex-husband and co-inventor, Dr. Mark, is not so thrilled with the machine. “It shouldn’t even exist!” he insists. But it does, and now it’s in the hands of bad guy Colonel Alan Jonah (Charles Dance), once a British Army officer and now a murderous eco-terrorist who intends to unleash all the Titans and let them roam rampant on the earth’s surface. The dastardly colonel has also kidnapped Dr. Emma and her spunky daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown in her first film), which is why Emma’s ex is now involved. Only he knows what can be accomplished with the sonar Orca machine.
The ideas behind the former military colonel wanting to unleash all the monsters have something to do with saving the planet. By allowing the monsters to kill and destroy cities while they battle each other is all part of a leveling-the-global-playing-field master plan. He believes that mankind has ruined the planet. Bringing back these monsters will set things right again. Unfortunately, even though there’s an appearance of being kidnapped, Dr. Emma is actually on the same wacky page – “We are the infection,” she states – which now gives the film not one but two principal villains.
In his demented way, the colonel wants to make the world right by sacrificing everyone else, while the doctor wants the Titans to be able to roam freely. With the aid of her Orca machine, she might actually control them. She even believes that some of the giant creatures might be benevolent, including the deadly three-headed Ghidorah, referred to as “Larry, Moe, and Curly,” by the snarky Dr. Rick Stanton (Bradley Whitford). The best and most appropriate line that makes any sense is given to Millie Bobby Brown who looks at her nutcase mother and simply states, “You’re a monster.”
If watching unbelievably huge, fire breathing, snarling creatures stomp over cities, destroying everything in their paths while constantly battling each other in a seemingly never-ending series of fights is what you’re there for, then this film is definitely yours. You’ll ignore the stupidity of the plot and the irrational behavior of the characters. Maybe you won’t even mind the film’s constant murky look where all the monster fights take place during thunderous, dark rainstorms, occasionally brightened up with explosions of blinding light. And you’ll possibly have no trouble with the frantic editing, thinking that actually not being able to see anything is all part of the chaotic you-are-there excitement. But others will, and should. Godzilla: King of the Monsters is an awful film.
MPAA rating: PG 13 Length: 132 Minutes