Godzilla redux ‘Monsters’ is especially chaotic
As noted in past reviews, I spent countless youthful hours with the world’s favorite titan-sized aquatic lizard. In part, because he was delivered to my television almost every Saturday, as part of now-defunct Channel 48’s “Creature Double Feature,” which aired immediately after morning cartoons and gave me a couple extra hours in front of the screen.
But it was also because I just loved the fire-spouting fella in all his shoddy, schlocky splendor. I was even a devotee of the short-running Hanna-Barbera cartoon that teamed him with Dynomutt, Hong Kong Phooey and, yes, The Harlem Globetrotters in a way only Saturday morning cartoons could.
Even in my single digits, I was aware of the rather comical chintziness and craziness of the films, which featured fish-masked nightclub dancers (“Godzilla v. Hedorah”), Godzilla’s son “skipping rope” with his dad’s tail (“Son of Godzilla”), or even his victory shuffle after beating King Ghidorah (“Invasion of Astro-Monster”).
Regardless of their content, Godzilla has rarely left me unsatisfied as a non-discerning viewer.
When director Roland Emmerich got his filthy paws on the franchise in 1998, it seen by many as a series nadir (Godzilla’s been performing the Tokyo Stomp since 1954!). But his name was salvaged in 2014, when director Gareth Edwards crafted a film that captured the essence of the original. It was disheveled, sure, but it felt more true to form than it had any right to.
And after the truly great “Kong: Skull Island” teased that the two big beasties would someday meet, hopes were raised even higher with this year’s “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.” Despite the fact that Godzilla gets the old band back together (Rodan, Mothra, Ghidorah) the film, which serves as a direct sequel to the 2014 release, feels about as welcome as his rascally reptilian nephew “Godzooky” from the animated show.
This poorly executed monster mash seems more intent on creating a cinematic “universe” to fill our Marvel-sized hole than it does on crafting any sort of satisfying brain-free blockbuster that a Godzilla film should be.
As noted in the 2014 film, Godzilla has been discovered to be one of many creatures dwelling below the Earth’s surface (called Titans here) just itching for their close-up. But we also have to suffer through the personal tale of scientists Emma and Mark Russell (played by Vera Farmiga and Kyle Chandler), whose son was killed during the rumble in the concrete jungle in the last film. Emma has crafted a device that “speaks” to these beasts while Mark is self-exiled, dealing with the loss.
Granted, the narratives of these films have never been their strongest assets, but “Monsters” is especially chaotic, introducing plot devices, characters, worlds, and random elements to glue together its battle sequences in an effort to build a proposed galaxy of gargantuans without paying any mind to what is directly in front of them. We are left with a collection of moments of exposition that are infuriatingly inept at best, and laughably bad at worst.
Meanwhile, the film has assembled an embarrassingly talented cast (Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, David Strathaim, Zhang Ziyi) to bark overly impassioned lines to one another and stare with furrowed brows either into the skies or at computer screens.
One obviously does not enter a film titled “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” expecting profound lizard-borne life lessons, but it could at least give us something to follow. For example, three-quarters of the way through the film, we are introduced to a reptilian Atlantis where Godzilla apparently goes to take naps between tirades. Immediately after the scene, that rather important piece of the story is forgotten altogether ... which will most likely be this film’s same fate.