Damn straight you want to go to the movies, shove popcorn in your face and watch giant creatures from a digital lagoon kick each other’s ass. The title alone means most of us are in the tank for Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Besides the jolly green giant lizard, we get Mothra, Rodan, the three-headed Ghidorah, a.k.a. Monster Zero and the barest hint of King Kong (we have to wait till next March to see Kong and Godzilla go head to head as part of Legendry studio’s MonsterVerse).
What does arrive in the sequel to the latest of countless, pointless reboots of the Godzilla franchise is a bloated and humorless script, lazy-ass directing from Michael Dougherty (who co-wrote the alleged dialogue with Zach Shields) and slumming actors who are forced to scream in terror when they’re not shoveling tons of mind-numbing exposition. It’s weird that a series that began in 1954 with a low-budget Japanese quickie featuring a dude in a rubber suit came still survives as primo kaiju escapism.
The monsters — called Titans — eventually show up, and when they do they’re a fun crowd. Scary? Not really. But they’re still technical marvels. It’s a shame the plot mechanics don’t have a whit of the imagination the FX team brings to the party. And the titans don’t have any lines. How lucky can a monster get!
The story, such as it is: Dr. Emma Russell, a scientist played by Vera Farmiga as if what she’s saying actually makes sense (that’s acting!), has an invention called the Orca. It makes sounds that can communicate with monsters and hopefully control their behavior. Emma has less luck communicating with her teen daughter Madison (the wonderful Millie Bobby Brown from Stranger Things), who correctly thinks that her mom has gone bonkers. Madison is equally sad to have lost her brother in the battle that ended the last movie. But Mark (Kyle Chandler), her divorced dad, has it worse. He’s been drowning his sorrows in booze, but now returns to restore sense to the universe.
In short, the war comes down to those who believe humans should live in peace with the monsters (Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins), and those, represented by the villainous eco-terrorist Colonel Jonah Alan (Charles Dance), who want to blow the creatures off the face of the earth. For fun and profit, of course. The movie globetrots from Antarctica to Boston — see: Ghidorah’s destruction of Fenway Park — but rarely gets anywhere.
Do you care? Probably not. The chance to see giant monsters go apeshit — a few more are added near the end — is almost worth the price of admission. Seeing, however, is part of the problem. Godzilla: King of the Monsters is often so lost in the shadows of digital muck that it makes the squinting chaos of the Battle of Winterfell in Game of Thrones look like a lightshow. Still, when the Titans emerge from the sludge and go at it full tilt you may give in just to watch them let it rip. All that’s required is a mandatory suspension of critical judgment.