Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a monster movie in so much that it features giant creatures duking it out and laying waste to cities in the process. But like many of its mainstream predecessors, this movie seems to think that the best way to approach a monster movie is to spend 80% of the runtime following humans around that nobody cares about. At least with Gareth Edwards’ 2014 iteration of Godzilla, the humans felt relatable and our journey with them was not driving the story as much as it was showing the impact of kaiju-based destruction from their perspective. King of the Monsters puts the entire plot squarely on the shoulders of the human characters. A very poor decision in and of itself, but one that is exacerbated by the fact that all of the characters and their actions are ripped straight from a Roland Emmerich disaster film.
The level of enjoyment you get out of this latest installment of the “Monsterverse”, will depend entirely on how much you can ignore the humans and instead focus on the monsters. King of the Monsters features some of the most gorgeous shots ever for this type of movie. The use of color in both the monsters and scenery creates iconic shots that are destined to be framed on a wall — or at the very least set as desktop wallpaper. And not to be outdone, the careful attention paid to the sound design provides unique signatures for each monster that reverberates through the theater anytime one of them arrives on screen. And while not on display as much as most would like, Godzilla and the other monsters are definitely shown early and often in a much-appreciated course correction to the Godzilla-starved 2014 film.
Overall, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a net neutral. The monster moments are enjoyable enough to somewhat cancel out the eye-roll-inducing human story. At some point though, the giant monster movie genre is going to need to reinvent itself. In this sense, it could take a page from the success of modern-day action films. A genre which was once known for bloated set pieces featuring larger-than-life heroes. But now stars everymen with particular sets of skills in taut, lean stories that showcase incredible action scenes while providing just enough plot and world building to keep the audience invested. People go to action movies to see action. Just like they go to monster movies to see monsters. It seems fairly obvious, but until movie studios understand this, we’ll keep getting monster movies with not enough monsters.