Can spectacle make up for a good story? - Lionsgate

It’s been five years since Godzilla last roared into cinemas.

Now its sequel, Godzilla: King of Monsters has returned for even more monster-action.

The iconic Godzilla franchise dates back to 1954 and has since spanned 35 films, making it the longest running in cinematic history. Some would argue it also has the most films to its name, though Marvel would have it beat if you include the non-MCU films produced by other studios.

Just like all major blockbusters, the film has met with divided opinion, so join us as we take a look at the third instalment of Lionsgate’s MonsterVerse franchise.

Where does the film get its name?

Godzilla: King of the Monsters takes its namesake from the American re-release of the original film from 1954. That version of the movie was recut with American actors in a bid to make the movie more accessible to Western societies.

There have been a number of re-releases over the years, animated adaptations and even of course the American production in the 90s that we don’t talk about.

hanna barbera godzilla
Back in the late 70s, Hanna Barbera gave us this forgotten gem which lasted for 26 episodes. -Hanna Barbera

How has the tone shifted?

The tone of the films has varied from its thought-provoking allegory for atomic destruction, to ridiculous monster-wrestling orchestrated by aliens. Sometimes Godzilla is the saviour, other times the destroyer. It was always going to be a challenge to find the right tone for the new Godzilla film.

Tell us about the story.

This time the story centers around the Russell family that has been broken over the loss of a child. Emma Russell played by Vera Farmiga has developed a device that uses sound waves to communicate and potentially pacify the Titans.

When Monarch (the organisation tasked with dealing with the monsters) is attacked, Emma’s device is used to wake up Titan’s across the globe. Meanwhile, Emma’s ex-husband Mark, played by Kyle Chandler, joins Monarch as a consultant and tries to track down Emma and their daughter Madison, played by Millie Bobby Brown.

Essentially, it’s up to Monarch and Godzilla to stop armageddon

We can’t help but wish that Madison has some psychic powers like Eleven. There is precedent for that in some of the earlier Japanese films. -Lionsgate

Where does the film go right?

The actual monster designs are pretty solid and definitely one of the film’s stronger elements. Fans of Godzilla will be happy to see characters like Rhodan, King Ghidorah and Mothra finally hit the big screen on Western shores..

The score is also worthy of praise, Bear McCreary is one of the best names in the business. He deserves to be a household name scoring numerous TV shows from Battlestar Galactica to the Walking Dead. This time around, he delivers a booming orchestral score with the classic score worked in for good measure. If you love the iconic theme, then this alone is worth the price of admission.

Does the film improve from on the mistakes from 2014s Godzilla?

A common complaint of Godzilla 2014 was that it’s title character simply wasn’t featured enough. Lionsgate has gambled that the big monster is strong enough to carry the franchise on his own. This time round there is far more monster fighting monster action and the film is all the better for it.

The other big issue the previous film had was that the human characters aside from Bryan Cranston weren’t all that compelling, unfortunately this time round the acting is arguably worse. Which brings us to the next big question.

Where does the film go wrong?

Whilst the premise is interesting, the plot gets bogged down with excessive exposition and world-building information dumps.

Character growth and development takes a back seat and the film is a lot weaker as a result.

In this instance, the writing and editing just leaves little time for us to grow with the characters or find them engaging. The comic relief falls flat and there simply aren’t any moments where we see the characters bonding as real people.

And the monster fights?

As for the fights themselves they’re a mixed bag. While visually stunning, there are two major problems. Firstly, they frequently cut between the fights and the human actors, and as I said before, if you don’t care about the characters then you’ll likely be annoyed that they’re blocking the action.

Secondly, the fights are often obscured with smoke and debris. This may make for the occasional stunning image but when the same effect is repeated over and over again it quickly loses its impact.

godzilla ghidorah
We can’t help but wonder how much more amazing scenes like this would be without the smoke obscuring the monsters. -Lionsgate

Final thoughts?

For what it’s worth, Godzilla fans have waited decades for the perfect American adaptation of the character. I wish that this was it. In some places it works and there are definitely moments where they get it right. Some of the ingredients are perfect, but ultimately the shortcomings let down the film.

What should have been a masterpiece feels rushed and given the five year wait many fans will be frustrated. While it’s worth a look, Pacific Rim remains the gold standard for the genre in the West. With a decline at the box office, the future of the MonsterVerse is uncertain.

We can only hope that Godzilla vs King Kong demolishes the box office next year.

I'm a man of many interests and talents. I have a love of science fiction, horror, fantasy across most formats. I am a massive films fan. I formerly was a host on the Soylent Greenscreen movie podcast. These days I cosplay and write in my spare time.