Five years after the devastation in San Francisco, Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) and her husband Mark (Kyle Chandler) are trying to move on with their lives. Mark turned to drinking after they lost their son. He now tracks and photographs wildlife. He is estranged from both his wife and his daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown). They haven’t spoken in three years. Meanwhile, Emma has been working on recreating the ORCA, a machine designed to mimic the calls of alpha titans, with Madison frequently tagging along.
Emma gets the ORCA working just as titans hibernating around the world begin waking up. The ORCA would allow them to communicate and control the waking Titans. As they are concluding the first test on an emerging Mothra, Jonah Alan (Charles Dance) attacks the Monarch facility, stealing the ORCA and kidnapping Emma and Madison. Jonah’s plan is to let the titans restore balance to the world. This means letting them wipe out most, if not all, of humanity to let the Earth recover from the damage they have caused.
With his family on the line, Mark joins the Monarch team to try to stop the titans and save the world.
Summer movie season is officially starting. That means we get the biggest films of the year. They literally don’t get much bigger than Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
The story this time around focuses on Vera Farmiga as Dr. Emma Russell, Kyle Chandler as Emma’s husband Mark Russell, and their daughter Madison, played by Millie Bobby Brown. These are all new characters, giving us very little connection to their story. A brief prelude showing the family in the aftermath of Godzilla’s last battle is the only introduction we get. The acting is pretty much on par for what you expect from a Godzilla movie. That is to say, not great. Ken Watanabe returns as the stereotypical wise Asian man who wants nothing more than to protect these creatures most of humanity fears. The rest of the cast, including Bradley Whitford, Game of Thrones‘ Charles Dance, and O’Shea Jackson Jr., all perform at the same level. But let’s face it, the acting isn’t why they made this movie.
One of the biggest weaknesses of the movie is that we have already seen this exact story played out earlier this month. In order to save the world, we must rid it of its most dangerous threat, humans. Yes, it is essentially a remake of Avengers: Infinity War/Endgame. The only difference is that they replaced the infinity gauntlet with the ORCA, which is mentioned no fewer than 457 times during the film. The action, naturally, is larger than life. Godzilla comes face to face with Mothra, Rodan, and Ghidorah, among a number of smaller beasts – literally and in recognizability. This brings me to the next issue with the movie. Every time the titans do battle, we jump to the humans arguing, giving exposition, or chasing/referring to the ORCA in some way or another. It throws off the pacing of the film, making it feel every minute of its two hour+ run time. Add to that is the fact that the battles are pretty much the same scene repeated time after time.
If you set your expectations properly, Godzilla: King of the Monsters isn’t a terrible film. It almost captures some of the camp of the original Godzilla movies. Almost. The dialog is stunted, the acting is stiff, the monsters aren’t exactly terrifying. (Throughout most of the movie, I kept picturing Ghidorah as a dragon version of the Three Stooges. In a self-aware moment, Bradley Whitford’s character even calls it Larry, Moe, and Curly.) If you are expecting any sort of coherent story with any semblance of character development, you will be sorely disappointed. Go in with the right mindset, sit back, and let the movie take you wherever it is headed. If you are going to see it, I have to say to see it in the theater just to experience the sheer size of the monsters on screen.