Just because you can do something, doesn’t always mean you should do something. Case in point: Legendary Entertainment’s MonsterVerse.
Jumping on the expanded universe bandwagon started by the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Legendary partnered with Warner Brothers to not only reboot the popular movie monsters Godzilla and King Kong, but have them co-exist in the same reality through a series of interconnected movies.
The series began with 2014’s Godzilla, which saw the ancient beast rise from his slumber in the depths of the ocean to fight a pair of winged creatures known as MUTOs, resulting in the destruction of San Francisco. This was followed by Kong: Skull Island in 2017, in which a group of scientists explore an uncharted island in 1973, encountering a selection of terrifying creatures, none more so than the gigantic ape King Kong, ruler of the island.
In March 2020, Godzilla and King Kong are set to clash in an epic battle for supremacy in what is slated to be the fourth and final instalment in the series as of right now. But, given that the MonsterVerse has already grossed over $1.3 billion (and counting) at the box office, from a combined budget of $500 million so far, it wouldn’t be a huge shock if a few more sequels are added post monster smackdown next year.
But should they be thinking of adding more is the question? Based on the just released third offering in this interrelated franchise, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, I would say a definite no should be the answer to that plan, given that the quality established in the first two outings seems to be on the decline.
KOTM kicks off five years after the events of Godzilla. In this follow up, the Monarch agency struggles to guarantee the safety of the worlds population, as more huge, terrifying monsters, now known as “Titans”, are discovered around the world. Three of these – Rodan, Mothra and King Ghidorah – awaken, seemingly to challenge Godzilla for the title of apex predator, and earth must once again rely on the giant lizard to defend them.
King of the Monsters is undoubtedly a visually stunning experience, with some of the most thrilling special effect sequences I’ve ever seen, and I won’t be surprised if it ends of getting an Oscar nod for Best Visual Effects next year. But while it excels visually, a flimsy storyline and a wasted cast drag it down.
The film includes Hollywood heavyweights such as Vera Farmiga, Charles Dance, Kyle Chandler and Millie Bobby Brown (in her first big outing post Stranger Things). Dance is supposed to be the human antagonist of the story, but he barely features, which is a shame and a waste of such a fine actor. Farmiga, Chandler and Brown are supposed to be the film’s emotional heart, portraying a family torn apart by the loss of a son/brother who died during Godzilla’s battle with the MUTOs in 2014. They also don’t make much of an impact and end up falling into all the cliches associated with a family in this type of story. As well as these, there are plenty of other characters that won’t interest you, with many only being there for canon fodder during the epic battles between the Titans.
The film also lacks urgency. In 2014’s Godzilla, the fights between Godzilla and the MUTOs were thrilling because while we were rooting for Godzilla to win, we were still uncertain until the end whether he was a true friend of mankind, simply taking out the bigger threat before turning his attention to the people. This time out, we know that Godzilla has no interest in actively killing humans so is not really a threat once again. And we know that there is a fourth instalment to come, so he was always going to win in the end, which saps any suspense from proceedings from the get go.
It’s also too long. While the visual effects and monster battles are exciting to begin with, the lack of a strong story or interesting human characters mean KOTM limps to the end of its run. Shaving about a half hour off wouldn’t have made this an excellent movie, but it would have done things the world of good.
Ultimately, Godzilla: King of the Monsters fails to build on the strong first two instalments in the franchise. In fact it feels out of place, more like a filler movie lacking in the quality of its predecessors and that slows us getting to what we really want, a battle between the strongest titans, King Kong and Godzilla.
It’s worth seeing for its effects alone, but there isn’t anything else worth singing from the rooftops about. Which leads me to believe that Legendary should think twice about adding further instalments after Godzilla vs Kong next year.