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Blu-ray Review: Godzilla: King of the Monsters

August 28, 2019

By John Corrado

★★ (out of 4)

The third film in Legendary Entertainment’s Monsterverse, following their 2014 reboot of Godzilla and the 2017 King Kong reimagining Kong: Skull Island, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is dense with mythology and offers plenty of kaiju action, but lacks depth when it comes to human characters.

The film takes place five years after the ancient beast Godzilla rose from the depths of the ocean and ravaged the city of San Francisco. Now a bunch of other mythological creatures – which are referred to as Titans – are being awoken, including Mothra, Rodan, and Godzilla’s main adversary, the three-headed King Ghidorah.

The government wants to shoot down Godzilla, but the scientists at the cryptozoological agency Monarch, led by Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe), seek to protect him, viewing him as the only creature large enough save us from the other Titans. The film’s main human characters are Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga), a scientist working with Monarch, and her estranged husband Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler), who lost their son in the San Francisco attack. The two of them share a daughter, Madison (Millie Bobby Brown, in her first major role outside of Stranger Things).

Emma is the inventor of the Orca, a device that allows humans to communicate with the Titans using sonar. When Emma and Madison are taken by Alan Jonah (Charles Dance), an eco-terrorist who wants to use the Orca to summon Godzilla and the other Titans to bring about destruction, which he believes will help restore balance in the natural world, Mark is brought back to Monarch to try and save his family and help ward off the attacks.

One of the main criticisms that some audiences had of the 2014 film was the lack of clear shots of the creature himself, a problem that does not exist in Godzilla: King of the Monsters. This film is so stuffed to the gills with monster fights that it actually suffers from excess, packing a lot into its roughly two hour running time with little else to properly balance out the action. The various human story lines are rushed and poorly written, and there are simply too many characters to keep track of here, with none of them being developed well enough to truly connect with the audience on a deeper level.

Director Michael Dougherty, whose previous work has been in the horror genre, does stage some decent set-pieces that capture the appropriate sense of scale of these creatures fighting, but that’s all Godzilla: King of the Monsters really has going for it, and it’s in the connective tissue where Dougherty and the film ultimately struggles. This is somewhat of a contrast from his last film Krampus, which worked precisely because of the strong family dynamic at the centre of it.

There is some stylish imagery on display here courtesy of cinematographer Lawrence Sher, as well as some fun moments of kaiju action, which are backed up by Bear McCreary’s appropriately pounding musical score. The film is rich with environmental allegories about living in harmony with nature, with the human antagonists believing that these ancient creatures are meant to rule over us, and that the destruction of cities and a decrease in the human population will be good for the planet. But a lot of these themes are handled in a way that feels somewhat clunky.

The film ultimately suffers from having underdeveloped human characters and a poorly written screenplay, which makes it hard to get overly invested in the story, let alone remember much of it once the over two hour running time is done. It’s passably entertaining in the moment as a turn your brain off monster movie, but Godzilla: King of the Monsters fails to leave much of a genuine impact beyond the noise. It’s not terrible, and it is mildly enjoyable to watch at times, but it’s not terribly good, either.

The Blu-ray also includes a healthy selection of bonus material, starting with the three multi-part featurettes Monsters 101 (including the segments Godzilla: Nature’s Fearsome Guardian, Mothra: Queen of the MonstersGhidorah: The Living Extinction Machine, and Rodan: Airborne God of Fire); Evolution of the Titans (including the segments Godzilla 2.0Making Mothra, Creating Ghidorah, and Reimagining Rodan); and Monarch in Action (including the segments The Yunnan Temple, Castle Bravo, The Antarctic Base, The Isla de Mara Volcano, and The Undersea Lair).

These are followed by the four single featurettes Millie Bobby Brown: Force of Nature, Monster Tech: Monarch Joins the Fight, Monsters Are Real, and Welcome to the Monsterverse; as well as deleted scenes and a selection of theatrical trailers for the film. Finally, there is a commentary track featuring Dougherty, producer Zack Shields and actor O’Shea Jackson Jr., who plays a soldier in the film.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a Warner Bros. Home Entertainment release. It’s 132 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: August 27th, 2019

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