Hollywood’s Godzilla movies (multiplex-dwelling beasts driven mainly by commerce) have been forgettable affairs. But the fans still come in two species: those in the sandbox who thirst for some serious stompage, and those who’d prefer a little irresponsible-science subtext, the vibe that made the Japanese 1954 original so ominous. ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’, a sequel to 2014’s cloudy, occasionally grand-feeling ‘Godzilla’, skews toward the first camp. It brings back all the beaky, shrieky supporting creatures—squawking Rodan, buzzy Mothra, Toho’s still-riotous triple-headed dragon King Ghidorah—that we wanted last time but didn’t get. If you go to these things to see cities flambéed and flattened, you won’t leave disappointed.
At the same time—almost impressively—director and co-screenwriter Michael Dougherty is savvy enough to make the human drama monster-shaped. (The 2014 outing cast Juliette Binoche, Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Olsen yet still managed to make them all intensely boring.) Essentially, ‘King of the Monsters’ stars a dysfunctional clan of misunderstood beasts, and that’s not counting the fire-breathing ones: Divorced couple Emma and Mark (Vera Farmiga and Kyle Chandler) still grieve over the loss of their son during the last big Godzilla attack. Both are hot-tempered advisors to military types with differing strategies. Their eco-minded teenage daughter, Madison (Millie Bobby Brown of ‘Stranger Things’), hates life, listens to the Pixies and unleashes waves of melodramatic rage.
You won’t mind any of their overheated scenes, even if sometimes these characters feel about as detachable as Raymond Burr did in the Americanized ‘Gojira’. Mostly, audiences will be waiting for the moment when a jet pilot heroically ejects from his cockpit, only to disappear like an hors-d'oeuvre popped straight into the big guy’s mouth. Connoisseurs will thrill to hints of composer Akira Ifukube’s original orchestra motifs or the passing mention of an “oxygen destroyer,” but mourn the lack of political stakes. It’s big dumb fun (a smackdown with King Kong is on the horizon), and maybe that’s all these sequels ever were.
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