When Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla landed in 2014, it looked to right the wrongs of Hollywood’s previous take on the legendary Kaiju. The 1998 film saw Roland Emmerich’s effort was so lambasted that Godzilla’s owners, Toho, repackaged the monster as a separate entity. While Edwards’ film was a success at the box office and with critics, one of the main issues with fans was the lack of screen time for the star of the show himself. Influenced by Jaws, where you hardly see the shark for most of the movie, it is worthwhile pointing out that Spielberg had no choice but to film it in this way due to Bruce the shark’s performance issues. Godzilla has never been camera shy and with the sequel, audiences were promised more of the Big Guy doing what he does best. But does Godzilla II: King of the Monsters claim the throne?
We live in a world where monsters exist, now dubbed the Titans. Not all are bad, while there are some that aim to reclaim the world for their own, others exist to restore the balance. Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) works for Monarch, a crypto-zoological agency, who believes that humans and Titans should explore a symbiotic relationship. On the other side of the coin is Colonel Alan Jonah (Charles Dance), an eco-terrorist who wants to restore natural order and level “the global playing field.” He kidnaps Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) and her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) to help execute his plan. Dr. Russell has invented the Orca, a machine that can communicate and potentially manipulate the Titans.
Michael Dougherty takes the helm this time around and his mission is clear: focus on the monsters. The human element is essentially there to further the plot otherwise the movie would look a little silly with subtitles to translate the Titans. The action is epic as Godzilla takes on his old nemesis King Ghidorah, a three headed dragon like creature that wants to destroy the world and reshape it in its own image…probably. The script by Dougherty and Zach Shields is filled with necessary yet forced exposition to form a narrative. This isn’t a bad thing. While other critics may scoff at the how absurd some of the dialogue is, the cast deliver it with such a straight face that it invites you in on the fun rather than laugh at how ridiculous it is. Regardless of how off the wall it seems, this is a Godzilla movie that taps into the spirit of the numerous sequels that the original Japanese film spawned. It’s sheer fantasy and plays by its own rules but it also draws within the lines and that’s why it works.
The human characters may be accessories to the Titans in this battle for the earth, however Godzilla II features a good cast. Farmiga turns in a nuanced role as the tortured Dr. Russell, a mother who lost a child due to the events in the previous movie. She feels her actions are just and will do anything to protect her daughter. Fans of Stranger Things will be glad to see Brown hold her own amongst all the chaos. Her portrayal as Maddison elevates the character above the “annoying child that only exists to be rescued” trope. As with the previous film, Watanabe has the best lines with a performance that epitomises the movie’s tone.
Yes, there’s a few plot holes and a lot of things might make your head hurt if you dwell on them for too long but to do so detracts from the sheer spectacle on offer. Dougherty taps into the inner child that grew up watching men in rubber suits destroy model cities. He recaptures the charm these films evoked and transfers that into his own Titans, injecting them with character and personality that adds a depth to the destruction on screen. Popcorn munching entertainment at its finest, long live the King.