sat 14/12/2019

Godzilla: King of the Monsters review – spectacular stupidity | reviews, news & interviews

Godzilla: King of the Monsters review – spectacular stupidity

Godzilla: King of the Monsters review – spectacular stupidity

Eco-conspiracies and atom bombs keep a dumb monster franchise ticking

Godzilla smash: the man in the suit may have been better

Just how many cinematic universes can one planet stand? Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Godzilla and Kong: Skull Island’s Apocalypse Now/ape mash-up suggested there might be useful room for old-school creature features amidst the superhero surfeit. As random, rococo mythology and super-sized spectacle crash frenetically together in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, this third instalment of the ineptly named MonsterVerse is often great fun. But you can sometimes glimpse talented people working furiously to distract you from its sawdust substance.

Edwards’ sombre reboot, with Godzilla and co. leaving city-smashing tsunamis and earthquakes in their wake and the 1954 original’s A-bomb roots honoured, was impressively intelligent. That is, until you stopped to ask the point of a realist Godzilla film.

New director Michael Dougherty instead creates eco-myths from the carnage. In traditional monster sequel style, he has piled on as many creatures as possible, including Godzilla’s hydra-headed nemesis, Ghidorah, and Mothra, a giant moth now mooted as the lizard king’s mate. The humans are led by Emma (Vera Farmiga) and Mark (Kyle Chandler), traumatised, divorced survivors of Godzilla’s 2014 rampage, whose teenage daughter Madison (Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown) is torn between them.

Emma works for Monarch, the government organisation which knows that monsters are real but tends to haplessly enable their rampages. In common with ruthless eco-terrorist Alan Jonah (a jobbing Charles Dance), she sees the appearance of mythic predators alongside humanity as a chance to rebalance the world, which our hubris has sent hurtling towards extinction. “Humans have been the dominant species for millions of years,” she declares. “And look where it got us.” It’s a fair point, undercut by the script’s remarkably laissez-faire attitude to nuclear explosions (Godzilla not only eats them, but becomes one this time around).

These are serious, timely issues to smuggle into a film primarily designed to get famous monsters fighting. Dougherty doesn’t wholly lose sight of them. Narrative sense does, though, melt in the radioactive battles. Too shadowy to make sense of in Edwards’ film, Dougherty’s duking super-beasts also sometimes make you pine for the simple clarity of Toho Studios’ man in a rubber suit.

The fine Japanese actor Ken Watanabe returns as Dr. Serizawa, again intimating Hiroshima’s ghosts as he explicitly worships this venerable Japanese monster. Some scenes justify this reverence: Mark blacking out to the nightmare sight of a roaring Godzilla looming over him in Antarctic snow; and Mothra hatching straight into captivity, seen from her fuzzed, frightened alien perspective.

Watanabe is, though, saddled with lines which creaked when Boris Karloff said them, actually intoning to his colleagues: “You are meddling with things you cannot understand.” Another intelligent actor, Farmiga, squints meaningfully, as if reading a different script.

This Godzilla is at its best when casually obliterating lost underwater cities and holding forth on Hollow Earths, slipping the romance of H. Rider Haggard adventure yarns into cold franchise extension calculations. As Warner huffs and puffs to keep its DC Universe afloat, its MonsterVerse at least has the virtue of simplicity. Any pathos to its notably inarticulate leads comes as representatives of an embattled natural world. Beyond that, it’s just lizards wrestling.

This Godzilla is at its best when casually obliterating lost underwater cities and holding forth on Hollow Earths

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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