The third entry in the ‘MonsterVerse’ series is bigger, louder and dumber than their stage-setting Godzilla and Kong: Skull Island, but does offer more city-stomping ‘kaiju’ destruction than any movie in history
Drawing upon themes and ideas from the original Japanese Godzilla/Gojirah movies, hugely popular since the titular figure first appeared in 1954, this again (and of course) uses oodles of top-shelf CG instead of the more familiar sweating-stuntmen-in-baggy-suits routine, and the effect is mostly enjoyable and these monsters have never looked so good. Purists will rage about it not being honest but, well, too bloody bad.
Others will rightly fume about the dodgy script as we open with Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) still haunted by the events of 2014 when those weird MUTO creatures destroyed San Francisco while battling the essentially virtuous Godzilla, a gargantuan, atomic-powered, thunder-thighed dinosaur with slightly anthropomorphic facial expressions. Her surviving kid Madison (now played by Millie Bobby Brown from Netflix’s Stranger Things in her first feature film) worries about her Dad Mark (Kyle Chandler), who split and left the cryptozoological group Monarch and therefore isn’t with them somewhere in China as they observe the emergence of the outsize Mothra, one of the few female kaiju, in a larval stage.
Emma and Madison are then kidnapped by the forces of eco-terrorist Alan Jonah (Charles Dance – who else?) and Mark is compelled to rejoin Monarch by continuing representatives including Dr. Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) and Dr. Ishirō Serizawa (Ken Watanabe as a character whose surname links him directly to the 65 year old original), while Emma and Mark find themselves in what’s supposed to be Antarctica (but isn’t). It’s there that Jonah is setting about thawing ‘Monster Zero’ (another in-joke), a three-headed dragon-hydra that fans know is King Ghidorah, and awfully convoluted scripting leads to the revelation that these ‘titans’ are all rising for some reason, and that Emma thinks she’s doing the right thing by activating her very scientific gizmo ‘Orca’. Whoops!
All that is just the pretext for a series of confrontations between a rejuvenated Godzilla, a fully-moth-like Mothra, an enormous hawk/pterodactyl called Rodan and Ghidorah, one of the nastiest beasts from Toho Studios and certainly a worthy adversary to ‘The Big G’. And, as they variously kick the stuffing out of each other in Boston and beyond, the human characters try to get a word in edgeways, as the screenplay squeezes every cliché out of the goofily grieving Russell family dynamic.
And, even though co-writer/director Michael Dougherty’s effort isn’t a Marvel movie, it’s nevertheless part of an established cinematic series so please note that there is something after the endless final credits which might (or might not) serve as a teaser for next year’s Godzilla Vs. Kong. It’s proof once again that aside from Godzilla, there are few beasts more gargantuan or resilient than a movie studio with some bankable, established intellectual property in its jaws.
Godzilla II: King of the Monsters (M) is in cinemas now