Godzilla: King of the Monsters

I am a big defender of Gareth Edwards' Godzilla. It was such an exciting blockbuster that did the opposite of everything you're expected to do—off screen deaths, diversions from titular monster by showing the attacks of other monsters, etc.—in order to prolong the fan experience until they couldn't stand it anymore and then deliver a giant monster mash. It was also tightly edited, had great design in regards to size and spacial awareness—both physically and aurally— and most importantly, while it didn't have a ton of Godzilla, it had moments. Memorable, tense moments. From set-pieces! (What a thought.) There was the fantastic train section, the San Francisco showdown, the MUTO escape, hell, even the MUTO live news and the Godzilla newsreel were well designed motifs. The point is, it was crafted, and it might not have done exactly what "fans" wanted but the peanut gallery isn't meant to direct things, the director is. There were precise choices and direction before, whereas now, there’s no precision.

Five years later, enter King of the Monsters, an incoherent CGI slog that has so many monsters that it wastes them. It certainly doesn't have memorable moments full of tension and craft. This is studio course correction of the most boring degree. Just as there were vocal detractors, I'm sure there will be vocal supporters this time, and I'm sure, just like the years in between, the wrong lesson will be learned. Rodan is there, Mothra is there, Ghidorah is there, and Godzilla is there. There are monster fights. But they are played out in an arena that has no concept of space, size, or even human beings who didn't heed the warning to leave Boston (or couldn't afford not to). You hated the human drama last time? Well, here that's played out as if they're the only humans left on Earth during the climactic showdown. Oh, and Vera Farmiga's character gets a [snap] creed. Is every blockbuster going to be about restoring balance via global cataclysmic events now?

The keepers of Godzilla heard the more monsters chant and they gave it but King of the Monsters is what happens when you operate with a fan checklist and not an awareness of what makes blockbuster films exciting: tension, space and the interplay between them. Creating breathless moments, allowing breath to be caught, and then holding it in again. There's so much carnage here that monsters get lost. What makes Rodan an exciting foe? You wouldn't know from this film. Why is it exciting that Mothra is here? You can barely see her webs amongst the CGI. Everything is gobbled up by the barrage of CGI; muddy, murky human characters and monsters alike. And there aren't any set pieces that are truly exciting, tense, or prolonged. Whereas Godzilla zigged and zagged, King of the Monsters is a straight-line snooze that can't even keep track of its characters (sorry, O'Shea Jackson Jr., you wasted months away from home to barely even register as being present).

The Godzilla franchise is one of the few things that makes me giddy like a kid. I have no youthful associations with Star Wars or reading comics. But my very first memory as a human being is at a day care, discreetly watching the television above my elbow as we were supposed to be having nap time because I caught a glimpse of a giant lizard monster walking through the sand dunes. The Seminole woman who ran the day care noticed that my head was slightly up and she came and picked me up, gave me permission to watch and not hide my desire, and I sat on her lap and watched Godzilla fight in the sand dunes while I played with her braids that fell to the side of my shoulders. I've always liked Godzilla because of its primal dumbness; a big monster is attention grabbing and the aesthetics of a man in a rubber suit fighting some other man in a suit being whipped in by a crane recreates bathtub rubber toy fights and serves them up on a television. There's something fun about that. And as I grew up to love the craft of filmmaking, 2014's Godzilla gave me the movie I wanted. And this one, listening to louder fans who were upset and pounding the dinner table like children, is too much of everything so that it becomes far too little.

With King of the Monsters the bathtub is full of toys, so there is no focus, no pause, no imagination, no build up to the tussle. It's just a bathtub full of toys bobbing up and down without distinction because the lights were turned off and they're just rubbing against each other in the wet darkness.

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