The battle royale at the end of Godzilla: King of Monsters takes place at Fenway Park. Home, of course, of the Boston Red Sox. Fittingly, King of Monsters spends its bloated run time relentlessly swinging for the fences. Though the occasional ball may sail out of the park, the vast majority of its swings never threaten to make contact. In spite of this, and indeed, in spite of almost all logical rhyme or reason, there’s something captivating about waiting for the next narrative ball to be pitched.
Describing the plot of KOM is easier said than done. For more than two hours, the plot spins in seemingly random directions. Slightly easier is giving an impression of its characters. Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) is a plucky teenager. Her mum, Emma (Vera Farmiga), has one of the most incomprehensible plots to save the world in history. Jonah Allan (Charles Dance) is an eco-terrorist. Mark (Kyle Chandler) likes wolves. Dr Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) loves Godzilla. This frankly bizarre selection of characters are there to coax (or stop? This changes more than once) Godzilla into fighting a three headed dragon hydra named Ghidorah. Any other details are superfluous.
Straight off the bat, KOM’s storytelling is completely garbled. The whole film chews through scenery across the globe. We zoom from a Chinese jungle to Antarctica, Mexico and more within minutes. This broad brush approach, taken to impress upon the viewer the sheer enormity of the canvass, has the opposite effect. Godzilla’s world feels so easily navigated and restrictive that you don’t for a moment see the re-awoken monsters as a global threat.
Similarly frustrating are the attempts to throw mythology into the narrative blender, something which feels haphazard and half-hearted. The film’s nominal big bad, Ghidorah, is said not to be present in any mythology because it is so terrifying that it ought to be forgotten. But then it’s also suggested it was a magic dragon which fell from the stars. Your guess is as good as mine, or indeed the screenwriter’s.
A detour to an underwater, Atlantean world is itching to be better explored. This ancient temple throws up some of the film’s most arresting, mythical visuals, but the story is desperate to get back above water. Elsewhere, a street level sequence in Mexico looks superb, but is dispatched with all too quickly. KOM wants to be a big, dumb monster movie and it ticks every box. The scale is undeniable, the stupidity patently obvious, and the roster of monsters overflowing.
As the film’s marketing attests too, KOM is all about the monsters, and they do largely deliver. There are times when the visuals line up superbly with a thumping, portentous score – one which leans into the music from Skyrim, or is that just me? It’s in these big, grandstanding moments when the film feels at its most comfortable. There’s even something deeply fun about meandering through the frankly hysterical dialogue because you know it’s going to lead into yet another barnstorming battle.
There is an almost impressive lack of nuance to the storytelling and the most plausibly ‘human’ moment is reserved for a Boeing-sized moth. Kyle Chandler, dependable as ever, tries valiantly to impart a human sense of yonder and heart, but he’s left a bit stranded. His familial bond with the intrepid Madison (Brown) feels genuine, but the film isn’t overly fussed about its human elements.
Indeed, Bradley Whitford’s character, Dr Rick Stanton, isn’t so much comic relief as the audience’s surrogate. He stands there, in a role which is largely confined to him counting up (or down), and quips about the absurdity of it all. In the middle of all this carnage, he’s having a whale of a time, and there’s a high chance that you will too.
If Godzilla, as a character, spawned a sub-culture of monster B-movies, then this relentlessly stupid and smile-inducing spectacle can undoubtedly lay claim to being king of them all.