by Michael Sangiacomo
A young boy clutching his dad’s hand as they exited the critic’s screening of Godzilla: King of the Monsters excitedly squealed, “That was awesome!!”
Ah, the exuberance of an eight-year-old.
While the boy was clearly thrilled about seeing mountain-sized monsters clawing and tearing at each other amid ear-splitting shrieks and roars, older members of the audience were not as impressed.
The newest entry into the venerable Godzilla franchise is limp. Monsters and humans sleepwalk through a weak, headscratcher of a plot: monsters would make better stewards of the Earth than humans, so let them have it.
It seems like a small consolation for the few remaining humans that would somehow survive that the Earth will continue to spin a few more eons under the giant clawed feet of the monsters.
While it is great to see the return of the Japanese monsters of another era back on the screen, Mothra, Rodan, and the three-headed Ghidorah could have benefitted from more screen time.
And daylight; director Michael Dougherty must have seen Warner Brothers’ Batman Vs. Superman movie and, unlike most people, thought the dark, murky scenes shot in the rain looked fantastic. Apparently, he liked them so much that he recreated that look in Godzilla.
When the monsters could be seen, they were scary and impressive, a far cry from a guy in a rubber suit smashing a child’s train set from earlier movies in the franchise. These monsters were fearsome and realistic, or as realistic as a monster the size of a small city can be.
But much of the time they were on screen, the monsters were dark images on an even darker background. As Godzilla fought them (he’s now on our side, by the way) the screen sometimes turned into a dark mass of CGI teeth and claws. There is no question that the CGI monsters are amazing creations, but it’s curious why they are not shown more clearly.
The humans are always well-lit, anxiously staring at giant computer screens and talking about the coming end of mankind.
There is an interesting twist involving the husband and wife scientists and their precocious teenage daughter.
Dr. Emma Russell, (Vera Farmiga doing her best Gillian Anderson impression), has perfected a sound generator that attracts the monsters and she has very specific plans on how to use it.
Her estranged husband, Kyle Chandler, and their daughter, Madison (played by Millie Bobby Brown from Stranger Things), disagree, enabling the conflict that runs through the film.
Dougherty, who co-wrote the story and screenplay with Zach Shields and Max Borenstein, is to blame for a movie rife with potential but short on delivery. Bizarre motivations, predictable dialogue and a disregard for logic proved to be more of a danger than the monsters.
Unless you are an eight-year-old who is just happy to see giant monsters.