Thursday, June 6, 2019

Godzilla: King of the Monsters


In this sequel to the 2014 Godzilla, the King is back -- here to protect the Earth yet again by fighting off even more Titans (giant monsters sleeping under the Earth). The human side is filled with the returning cast of Sally Hawkins and Ken Watanabe's scientists, and new faces in Bradley WhitfordCharles Dance, and Ziyi Zhang, and a new starring central family in Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, and Millie Bobby Brown.

That roar = fingernails on a chalkboard x 1000. My ears are still ringing.

I would like to say that it doesn't matter what the humans are up to because we have epic monster battles to get to, but that isn't true. And I'd like to say that the apocalyptic rampaging is insignificant compared to the heart of the matter which is the human characters and their personal struggles -- but I can't say that either. This movie is a mixture, and both sides suffer for it. There's more of the monsters this time than in 2014, and that takes away from replicating the calculated character journeys, but they couldn't do away with the humans altogether, so their side is focused on often, though in a more going-through-the-motions, shorthanded style to allow for more destruction.

I always want to care more for the human characters in movies, and I did care for the central family here. They had a complex dynamic on page but the longer the film went on, the more plot holes opened up and began leaking soul everywhere. In the end they hang on but only just; and I liked the characters less in the end than in the beginning. I really wanted to like Kyle Chandler, doing his usual Distant Dad Who Cares bit, but so much of the significant actions are given to everyone else surrounding him. It makes sense when they're technically more capable, but if there was a human lead, he was it, and he got to be heroic in only one instance.

He was also in King Kong (2005) and this movie is in the same universe as Kong: Skull Island. Idk why I think that's cool.

Vera Farmiga got most of the character arcing, but her arc was too complicated for the movie to pull off in the time allotted, and it felt cheapened in the end. Millie's character wasn't much to speak of -- a normal brand of good -- but she brings so much natural energy to her every moment of screen time. She's a star. Or she would be, if they existed these days. She's the kind of person who doesn't need a unique character to disappear into -- she can carry a movie like a classic leading lady. Charles Dance is Charles Dance; excellent. Bradley Whitford is a scene-stealer, but when is her not? And Sally and Ken are given respectable focus but take too much away from others (like Kyle) and the film would've been improved without them.

Okay, the people are out of the way -- now for more monstrous things. High carnage has its thrilling moments but overall the result seems less than was promised. Four unique beasts is "better" than the last movie's three, but scaling back was necessary to prevent an incoherent mess. I saw this movie because I figured if I wanted to ever see it, a big screen would be ideal. But the epic visuals promised in the trailer were a let-down. Events take place disproportionately in the dark and rain, so the "epic" cinematography is monochromatic and distant, then the "in-the-battle" shots are hectic and grainy. And that gorgeous shot of Mothra under the waterfall? That's the extent of her looking beautiful. Elsewhere she glows so brightly it "over-exposes" the camera, or she doesn't glow at all and looks dull.

Shots of her glowing as she flies around are treated like the Second Coming, complete with hilarious angel choruses. Elsewhere in blatant yet confusing symbolism, we have this shot. 

The 2014 made everything dark and rainy too, but that movie was about ambiance, mystery, following the people as they follow the wake of the monsters, rarely having direct contact with them. I was bored by that film at times, but in retrospect I appreciate what it was trying to do. This movie attempts to course-correct -- they heard the 2014 was too slow-paced, so they speed things up, but they over-correct and fall into ridiculous territory too many times. Godzilla isn't some force of nature in creature form anymore, he's some kind of sentient being who does his noble duty of protecting the Earth because he's good and wise or something. He'll make expressions in this movie that make him almost humanoid. It weird and too much for me.

The coolest thing about the 2014 was the return to gritty realism. This movie keeps that in its physical aspects like the visuals and the dialogue and serious tone, but it's so over-the-top and silly in what happens, it all seems disingenuous. I have nothing against silly and over-blown monster madness (I loved Kong: Skull Island after all!) but this film doesn't embrace the silliness, it pretends that it's not. It's not the seriousness or the silliness that's a problem, but the dissonant combination that indicates this movie had no clear or determined vision for what it wanted to be.

Try to please everyone and you'll wind up being middling all-around. 

Another victim of catering to the common denominator of fans. If that's all it wanted, I certainly can't say anything against the plan. It's appealing enough to please those who want to be, and has enough moments of interest to keep those on the fence from frustration. The only problem is it may not make much of a profit at this rate, so perhaps cheap gratification on a big budget wasn't the best plan after all. Oh well, the Earth goes on turning. Fictionally, that may be all due to Godzilla, but in the real world, the King of the Monsters is just another passing blip -- to be enjoyed and forgotten.

No comments:

Post a Comment