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Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Godzilla: King Of The Monsters

Title: Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Describe This Movie In One Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Quote:

INDY: We. Are going. To DIE.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Multiple monsters manufacture mayhem, many meet maker.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 3.5 Richard Harrises out of 5.

Tagline: "Long live the king."

Better Tagline: "Icky thump."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: In the five years since his battle against the MUTOs in San Francisco, Godzilla has gone missing. Some, like Drs. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) and Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and others at governmental monster agency Monarch, are using a new sonic technology called "Orca" to actively search for him and other so-called "Titans" out there. Others, like Emma's estranged husband Mark (Kyle Chandler) would prefer to let sleeping Gs lie, while their daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) is caught in the middle. Unfortunately, a band of eco-terrorists led by an ex-British army colonel (Charles Dance) are about to escalate things catastophically.

"Critical" Analysis: Maybe it's time to include Godzilla in the discussion of our richest cinematic franchises.

There are reasons these movies have been left out of the conversation, be it the historical difficulty in viewing the older Toho films (the non-Raymond Burr-ized version of Gojira wasn't released in this country until 2004) or a general disdain for watching men in monster suits dropkick each other (pro wrestling notwithstanding). Nevertheless, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is the 35th movie about the exploits of a 400-foot dinosaur with radioactive breath. Surely this merits placement with how many different ways a British spy can order incorrect martinis?

This isn't intended as a defense of Godzilla: King of the Monsters (edit: though checking the reviews just now, maybe it should be. Yeesh). True, it's not as good as Gareth Edwards' 2014 American rebirth, and it does inject more Monarch backstory than is really necessary. But director Mike Dougherty does a decent job emulating Edwards' "you are there" feel, adding things like Rodan's supersonic blast wave and the global impact of 17 monsters stretching their legs (or whatever) at the same time.

Like the beasts themselves, the action is prodigious and varied. The new kaiju get soime rudimentary personalities (Rodan, for example, is a straight-up asshole) to offset Godzilla's (think "I'm always angry" if Bruce Banner was a humongous, nuclear-powered lizard), but Dougherty doesn't go overboard with the set pieces.

Admittedly, the mistake most Godzilla directors (and all the American ones) make is assuming we're that invested in the human element. Dougherty moves on completely from 2014's Maximoff twins and instead follows the Russells, whose family unit was upended by the first movie's climactic battle (a metaphorical broken home to go with all the actual property damage). Dad and Mom have since split, with Madison living with the latter.

The Russell soap opera is clearly here so we can feel *some* emotional investment while scores of other humans are crushed like gnats, and also because two hours of wall-to-wall monster fu would be just about as boring as Godzilla: The Russells Go to Dollar General. The biggest people problem with KOTM is even an actor as good as Brown isn't given a hell of a lot to work with, while Chandler (in full Chief Brody from Jaws 2 mode), Farmiga, and Sally Hawkins can't entirely sell the deep dives into "Titan" (which is what we're calling these monsters now) mysticism or this Orca nonsense.

Watanabe's Serizawa even veers fully into "Ray has gone bye bye" territory by the end.

But props for including: Bradley Whitford, whose asshole take on the character of Dr. Stanton is a welcome dose of realism (and based on Rick from Rick and Morty, apparently); Charles Dance as the baddie with an agenda so insane it just might work; and for adding a nod to Mothra's Shobijin by casting Zhang Ziyi in dual roles.

Even by the, uh, generous standards of the Godzilla series, King of the Monsters is worth watching. You may have been spoiled by 2014, and that's perfectly fine, but sometimes a franchise needs to return to its roots. All the more so if said roots involve murderous caterpillars and sports arenas getting stomped on (sorry, Red Sox fans).
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar