Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) ☆☆1/2(2.5/4): Clash of the Monsters

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Watching “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” is akin to going to a smorgasbord full of goodies to be devoured. Willingly going all the way for excessive visual moments of monstrous grandeur, the movie seldom bores its target audiences during its 131-minute running time, and I sort of admired that although I usually observed its spectacular moments from the distance without enough attention to its story and characters during my viewing.

The story of the movie begins at that point not long after what happened during the climactic part of “Godzilla” (2014). After San Francisco was damaged a lot by the fight between Godzilla and its two big opponents, the global human society has been very concerned about what may happen next due to Godzilla and other big monsters out there, and a top secret science project named Monarch, which was introduced to us for the first time in “Kong: Skull Island” (2017), comes to receive far more public attention than before as shown from the following US congress hearing. While Dr. Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) and Dr. Ishirō Serizawa (Ken Watanabe), two prominent members of Monarch, try to argue that Godzilla mainly functions as the protector of the Earth and its ecosystem, the members of the hearing are rather skeptical, and so is the US military represented by Admiral William Stenz (David Strathairn), who is certainly quite ready to destroy Godzilla at any point.

Anyway, Monarch continues its clandestine research on those big monsters hidden around the world, and we soon meet Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farminga), who has been working on her current experiment via a certain big caterpillar monster to be recognized by the fans of Godzilla movies. While still grieving over the loss of her young son during that catastrophic incident in San Francisco, she has kept working on a device which can make it possible to communicate with Godzilla and other big monsters, and it looks like she finally reaches to a breakthrough point, but, alas, she and others including her dear daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) are subsequently attacked by a bunch of eco-terrorists lead by a former British officer named Alan Jonah (Charles Dance), who instantly takes Russell and her daughter to another secret Monarch base located somewhere in the Antarctic.

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Underneath that Antarctic base, a big monster called ‘Monster Zero’ is buried in frozen state, and all hell breaks loose once that big monster, which, as many of you already know, turns out to be the longtime arch-nemesis of Godzilla, is finally unleashed. Mainly thanks to Monster Zero, more monsters are awakened around the world, and we accordingly get a spectacular sequence accompanied with a monster which looks a lot like a big burning pterodactyl.

Meanwhile, Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler), who has been estranged from his ex-wife since the loss of their son, tries to handle the situation with Graham, Serizawa, and his other Monarch colleagues. It becomes quite clear to him and others that Godzilla is the only possible solution to the ongoing global catastrophe, and, though he still hates Godzilla for what it did to his family, Russell comes to help tracking down Godzilla, which has somehow been evading Monarch since that incident in San Francisco.

While Monster Zero reigns supremely over the screen and serves us a number of spectacular moments as expected, Godzilla is still the star of the movie, and it certainly gives us several nice moments to be savored. While there is a tense scene where Godzilla approaches closer to an underwater Monarch base step by step, we surely get lots of sound and fury when Godzilla clashes with its arch-nemesis at one point, and director/co-writer Michael Dougherty, who previously directed “Krampus” (2015), thankfully lets us appreciate occasional moments of awe and beauty during this and other major sequences in the film, including the preposterous but enjoyable sequence unfolded in an ancient location which is somewhere deep down from the surface of the Earth.

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It is a shame that the movie often suffers from its weak plot which is more or less than a clothesline for those big sequences featuring Godzilla or other humongous creatures. Sure, I know well that its target audiences come to see those big monsters roaming on the screen, but I could not help but notice that its human characters mainly exist for 1) beholding those big monsters with amazement and horror or 2) giving us long obligatory expositions on whatever is going on among Godzilla and other gigantic entities. Although the movie tries to generate some dramatic conflict from its two main human characters, the result is rather jumbled and contrived on the whole, and it only functions to provide the ground for the expected climactic sequence as required.

The main human performers of the movie try as much as they can for filling their respective roles, but most of them are considerably wasted considering their acting caliber. While Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, and Millie Bobby Brown manage to acquit themselves well, the other notable main cast members including Sally Hawkins, Ken Watanabe, David Strathairn, Zhang Ziyi, Bradley Whitford, O’Shea Jackson Jr., and Charles Dance are unfortunately wasted due to their one-dimensional characters, and it is not so pleasant to see Whitford being stuck with an unenviable job of throwing annoying wisecracks throughout the film.

Although it is relatively less satisfying than “Godzilla” and “Shin Godzilla” (2016), “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” is not a total waste of time at least, and you may appreciate its goodies more than me if you have been enthusiastic about those Godzilla flicks. It is indeed quite loud and messy to say the least, but, in my humble opinion, it is more tolerable and enjoyable than a certain infamous movie franchise from Michael Bay, and I hope I will be satisfied with whatever may come next after this fairly watchable mess.

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