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Most disaster-style movies follow a basic structure. They open with a tease. Then they let you meet the characters. Then they lay out the stakes. Then they kill off a character. Then they let the remaining characters mobilize and formulate a plan. Then they unleash hell for a chaotic climax in the third act. Godzilla: King Of The Monsters hits many of those same beats, but the unleashing hell parts happens almost constantly throughout the whole movie.
In fact, the pacing is so strange that after about the twenty minute-mark, I had no concept whatsoever of how far into the film’s runtime we were. I’m usually pretty good at timing out a movie in my head and estimating what percentage we’ve completed. Not here. Not even close. There’s no slow burn or escalating momentum. The whole movie is in the deep end. Godzilla: King Of The Monsters is just a relentless haze of destruction throughout, a creative decision that obviously brings with it an enormous amount of pros and cons.
The pros are, of course, we get to see a ton of amazing visuals. The special effects work is consistently wonderful throughout, and some of the set locations in major cities are a sight to behold. Whether you’re emotionally invested or not, it’s riveting to watch major landmarks get wrecked by gigantic prehistoric leviathans. The cons are there is so much destruction it’s hard to focus on anything else and be particularly moved by any single moment. We’re given human characters. There are a few attempts to make us feel something for them, but because Godzilla: King Of The Monsters clearly cares about the fight scenes more than anything else, that emotional connection is never established. There’s just not enough time and not enough moments without frenetic urgency. They say you learn a lot about people during a crisis, but that only works if you know their personalities and can guess at how they would seemingly react.
Those human characters have names and some of them have minor backstories, but I’m not sure any of that really matters. For the sake of being thorough: there’s a woman (Vera Farmiga), her ex-husband (Kyle Chandler), their kid (Millie Bobby Brown), some scientists and a lot of monsters. There’s also a villain played by Charles Dance, who is always a delight. Some of the characters want to use a sound frequency machine to control the monsters, or titans as they’re called here. Others just want them to go away. The beasts are eventually set free and go on a rampage that makes the carnage in Man Of Steel look like a slap fight between two little kids. It’s all a lot in the best and worst ways.
Despite existing in the same universe as Kong: Skull Island, Godzilla: King Of The Monsters shares almost nothing in common with that movie, at least when it comes to tone. There are some light jokes from Bradley Whitford and Thomas Middleditch that are worth a smile here or there, but basically, it’s all monster fights all the time with intense, brooding and emotional undercurrents bubbling beneath the surface. If you’re the type of person that gets excited about the idea of numerous prehistoric beasts invading major cities and leaving them in utter ruin, this is a great movie for you. You’re going to absolutely love it. If you’re the type of person who cares about the story first and the visuals second, this probably won’t be one you feel the need to see a second time.
Still, it’s hard not to at least mildly enjoy Godzilla: King Of The Monsters. With some of the best visual effects you’ll see this year, solid enough acting performances and big scary unnatural animals wandering about and breaking everything near them, the end product does enough to justify its two hour plus runtime and perhaps justify the cost of a ticket.