I went into “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” not expecting a lot. I barely remember its 2014 predecessor, “Godzilla,” The film was boring and completely unmemorable, to the point we had to Wikipedia a plot synopsis before seeing “King of the Monsters.” I didn’t even remember there were characters returning.
“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” picks up five years after the events of the first movie. Apparently, Godzilla battled something and wreaked havoc on San Francisco. The event left tons of destruction and a lot of death in its wake, including a little boy named Andrew.
Five years later, his parents still haven’t recovered, but can a parent who loses a child ever truly move on? Emma (Vera Farmiga) is a scientist within Monarch, an agency created to research and find other Titans like Godzilla. Her research has led to the creation of a device called Orca, which can mimic Titan sounds and alter their moods. She didn’t create the machine alone, though.
Her ex-husband, Mark (Kyle Chandler), was once a part of Monarch. After Andrew’s death, Mark found solace in a bottle as he and Emma grew apart. Neither knew how to cope, and eventually their relationship couldn’t handle the strain. Emma took their daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) and continued working for Monarch, while Mark left the organization to go study wolves.
Mark is pulled back into the organization when Emma and Madison are kidnapped by an eco-terrorist, Adam Jonah (Charles Dance), who wants to use Orca to awaken and control the Titans across the planet — spoiler alert: there are a lot — and basically wipe out a good chunk of the human race, which would apparently save the planet and create a healthier world for those left standing.
Chandler is the guy who you know will fix things. After all, he’s the man who brought life to Coach Eric Taylor in “Friday Night Lights.” Like Taylor, he is a flawed hero who loves his family and would sacrifice everything for them. We even see him run through enemy fire, because his daughter was being held in an underground secret base.
Farmiga’s character, on the other hand, is a hot mess. The character doesn’t work and isn’t interesting. She doesn’t have a connection with her daughter, which should be the most important part of this role. She also doesn’t have much motivation for anything she does and what little is there doesn’t make the most sense. You’ll see. She’s a flat character with a clear narrative purpose that relegates her to doing and saying things that make her the embodiment of after-school special vibes.
Brown’s character makes even less sense. She has no point. She’s even more of a narrative device than Farmiga. Her sole purpose is to be the reason that her father acts at all. Take her out and most of this movie comes to a screeching halt.
In terms of its cast, this one should be a home run. Ken Watanabe and Ziyi Zhang are both fantastic actors. Bradley Whitford has been a favorite since his days on “The West Wing,” although I prefer to forget his creepiness in “Get Out.” It’s a fantastically talented cast, and many of them knock it out of the park. Whitford is dry and sardonic, while Watanabe makes you feel all the feels in his interactions with Godzilla. The film even throws in Sally Hawkins, CCH Pounder and a “Hamilton” actor, Anthony Ramos, to take it to the next level.
In terms of characters and acting chops, “King of the Monsters” blows its predecessor out of the water.
And then there’s the biggest character of all: Godzilla. We see him taking on the mother of all monsters, Monster Zero, or King Ghidorah. Other kaiju, including Mothra and Rodan, make appearances, as well. If you’re confused by that last sentence, you’re not alone. I have had zero experience with kaiju, or giant monsters. My boyfriend, on the other hand, loves that stuff. I’m not sold on it, especially after this one. I have decided I don’t like these movies, because I become overly invested with the nonhuman protagonists — Godzilla here, George in “Rampage” and King Kong in myriad “King Kong” movies and remakes — and worry about their safety while they are battling other beasties.
Bottom line: “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” finds ways to connect with its audience, at least on some levels. It’s not a home run, but it at least makes it on base.