Part of the genius of Gareth Edward’s 2014 “Godzilla” reboot was realizing that the humans were simply inconsequential bystanders, the equivalent of a swarm of ants about to be crushed by a giant boot. “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” doesn’t understand this and it’s worse for it.
The human characters in the first “Godzilla” movie had no control over what was happening when they foolishly thought they did. It was a refreshing take on the disaster movie genre where humans always seem to take some active role in saving their own bacon. The first movie showed that we as humans are sometimes hopeless, that there are some problems too big for even us to solve. We might flail about trying to find solutions, because that’s our nature, but in the end, nothing is in our control. What a terrifying notion!
“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” puts the control back into human hands and it’s difficult to figure out why. The humans aren’t necessarily smarter or more advanced this time around. The story has simply shifted to mistaking the human characters as interesting or worth our time, when they are, in fact, monster fodder. This movie thinks they should be problem solvers.
The helplessness that the humans felt in the first “Godzilla” is stripped from this movie, which in turn makes it a weaker story, one that relies on tired tropes and predictable last-minute heroics to keep the narrative spinning.
Universal Studios is attempting to build a monster movie universe, much like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that links well-known franchises like “Godzilla” and “King Kong” together. That means plenty of world-building, which is fine if done in a way that engages the viewer. Instead, this movie uses endless amounts of character-voiced exposition to string us along. It’s a tiring process that never fully stops. There’s always someone pulling up some ancient text and notifying us that “Wow, these ancient people actually worshipped Godzilla!” (queue perfectly painted hieroglyph of people praying to what appears to be a giant nuclear-powered lizard). Godzilla’s backstory feels forced here, whereas in the first film it felt like it grew organically.
That’s really the difference between the two films. The first one feels organic and genuine while the second one just feels obligatory.
This movie feels like it was made for the contingent who bemoaned the first movie’s lack of full-on monster-bashing action. That argument never made sense, but this “Godzilla” sure makes up for whatever perceived lack of action there was. While the movie is peppered with some breath-taking images, most of the monster-fighting action is hidden within frantic editing cuts and rain-soaked scenes.
This is a patented, predictable franchise sequel. They’ve mistaken what made the first one great and created a second one full of second-rate entertainment. It’s loud and full of monster violence, but it lacks narrative elements that made 2014’s “Godzilla” one of the best blockbuster films of the 2010s.