Godzilla: King of the Monsters premiered on May 31, yet in a short time it has seemingly fizzled out of discussion. It, unfortunately, has not been quite the hit that was anticipated, either for the studio or for movie fans.
Yet, looking past some of its flaws, it's still a reasonably entertaining movie in its own right, living up in many ways to both Godzilla films in general and to its predecessor, which premiered in 2014. So we figured it'd be fun to countdown the ways that Godzilla: King of the Monsters both lived up to and disappointed in comparison to the original film.
10 Better: Visual Effects
The first detail that immediately stands out with Godzilla: King of the Monsters is just how impressive it looks visually. Since the film has increased the number of monsters by a substantial amount, and also shows them a lot more than before (a detail which we will delve into more in a bit), it's clear that the effects had to be spot on and believable, especially when viewing the film on an IMAX screen or in 3D.
Whether it's Godzilla back again, or the many diverse and unique kaijus that are being seen for the first time in this Monster-Verse, such as Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidorah, it's hard to deny that Godzilla: King of the Monsters delivers, by making these giant beasts look life-like. Though, as we will soon discuss, that's not necessarily the only thing this movie needed.
9 Worse: Characters and Story
The characters of Godzilla: King of the Monsters are played by some big-name talent, including new characters played by Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Kyle Chandler, Bradley Whitford, Charles Dance, and the return of Sally Hawkins and Ken Watanabe from the original film. Yet, even with these big names behind it, the film suffers from severe underdevelopment of nearly all of them, considering we barely get to know them in-between the film's many large-scale action scenes.
In the original Godzilla from 2014, the film centered primarily around a family as well, in this case the Brody's, including Joe (Bryan Cranston), his son Ford (Aaron-Taylor Johnson), and Ford's wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen). Much of the film consisted of Ford attempting to both do his duty as a soldier while also looking out for this family. It's as simple as that, and, really, that was enough. Godzilla: King of the Monsters attempts to do the following: continue the original story while adding more action and monsters, introduce a new family and additional characters with their own background and motives, and of course, setting up the next movie as well. As a result of trying to do too much with its characters, King of the Monsters becomes less memorable in comparison.
8 Better: Monster Action
If you came for big, epic monster battles, though, Godzilla: King of the Monsters will satisfy. Gareth Edward's 2014 film was criticized heavily for its lack of screen-time for its title character, as the film had a tendency to divert the camera whenever Godzilla was about to fight the MUTOs, at least until the very end. But here, the studio appears to have heard these grievances, and director Michael Dougherty delivers (and then some) with some impressive monster action sequences.
The highlights here are the initial attack of Godzilla on Ghidorah, in which Godzilla appears to be defeated by the three-headed monster. But, of course, we know he's not done, as the third act of the film shows him taking revenge on the new King, who is joined by Rhodan, while Godzilla himself is joined by the beautiful and deadly Mothra. It's a bit exhausting, to be sure, but at least you can't say the film doesn't have enough kaijus.
7 Worse: Poor Pacing
Due to its need to get us to this third act, and with so many different plot-lines to develop, Godzilla: King of the Monsters occasionally feels rushed. And, as a whole, it feels far too long. An example of this is to relate back to the characters from earlier. Dr. Emma Russell, played by Vera Farmiga, at first initially appears to be a victim of a kidnapping by Alan Jonah, played by Charles Dance. Yet, soon after we learn this, it's later revealed that she was actually the orchestrater, claiming that she initiated the attack in order to wake up the kaijus and have them cleanse the planet.
By the end of the film, though, Dr. Russell has switched sides once again, believing that her earlier actions were wrong and subsequently sacrificing herself in order to save her family. This was not entirely unexpected, yet the journey to get through her character arc is so choppily done that by the time she does sacrifice herself, we as an audience just don't feel too much. That's what poor pacing can do to a movie. This is to compare with the original Godzilla, which has a distinctive beginning, middle, and end.
6 Better: Cinematography
Just as much as its visual effects for the monsters, the cinematography for Godzilla: King of the Monsters is impressive on its own. Just by looking at the trailer, one can get a glimpse of how this film will deliver. Helmed by Director of Photography Lawrence Sher, it is a visual feast for the eyes.
Some of the most beautifully-shot sequences come in the midst of the monster battles. There is much to admire here, from the elaborate underwater lair that Godzilla calls his home, to the radiant, neon-lit colors of Mothra as she flies through the sky, to that one shot of the perfectly-poised King perched atop of his volcano at the film's conclusion. King of the Monsters is easily one of the more gorgeous-looking movies of the year.
5 Worse: Confused Tone
Godzilla: King of the Monsters struggles to establish itself as a specific type of film. Though it clearly idolizes old-school B monster movies, including the original Godzilla films from Japan, it also attempts several different tones, most of which clash throughout the film. One of these tones comes from the aformentioned Dr. Miller, whose motive to allow the destruction of our world for the "greater good" is all-too-familiar, especially when you look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe films like Avengers: Endgame.
Yet, also familiar to those films, Godzilla: King of the Monsters attempts to insert some humor into the mix, especially through the wise-cracking Dr. Rick Stanton, played by the usually reliable Bradley Whitford. And, later on, the film attempts to insert some tragedy, including killing off the characters of Dr. Ishirō Serizawa and Dr. Vivienne Graham from the first film. In its attempts to juggle so many tones, though, and with not enough precision from one beat to the next, Godzilla: King of the Monsters fails to satisfy.
4 Better: Score
The score to Godzilla wasn't bad by any means, invigorating during its action scenes and establishing a recognizable theme for our title monster. Composed by Alexandre Desplat, it is mostly full of excitement and energy, powering us through the film. Yet, it also doesn't particularly stand out as well, and you'd be hard-pressed to find too many people that consider it one of the better blockbuster scores.
In Godzilla: King of the Monsters, though, the score easily excels its predecessor. Composed this time by Bear McCreary, it not only brings back Godzilla's theme, but it creates additional leitmotifs for our other monsters as well and overall has more magic and mystery behind it. Just listen to Mothra's theme as an example, a classically-composed tune complete with drumming, flute, and increasing with a powerful crescendo as the theme progresses. In fact, this theme is inspired by the original Mothra's theme, heard here from that title 1961 film. It's a callback that is truly appreciated.
3 Worse: Too Much Spectacle in the Third Act
As we mentioned spectacle earlier as a positive attribute of the film, it can also be numbing, as seen in the final act of Godzilla: King of the Monsters. As inspired as the action sequences are, especially considering that the CGI is executed well, eventually they just start to blend together. How many times can we see Godzilla fall, only to get up and once again save someone at the last minute after they step in to fight?
Looking back at the 2014 Godzilla, it now makes a little more sense why they chose to slow-tease the appearances of Godzilla and his fights until the very end. That way, when we finally see Godzilla shooting his atomic breath at the MUTO, it feels like more of a triumphant moment, because we hadn't seen him do it until now. In Godzilla: King of the Monsters, they bring out everything almost from the start, and so after seeing it so many times, it's not as fun to watch. Seeing Godzilla eviscerate Ghidorah with red-hot radiation was definitely cool, though.
2 Better: Setup For Next Film
Back in 2014, the new Godzilla was just the start of this soon-to-be-named Monster-Verse, which then continued with Kong: Skull Island, a reboot to King Kong taking place in the 1970s, and now Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which is a direct follow-up to the original film. When that first movie premiered, though, it wasn't yet established what would happen in the future. So, Godzilla ends simply with our title monster heading back to the sea.
In Godzilla: King of the Monsters, we now have a firmly-established universe, complete with over a dozen monsters, and now, as we see in the final minutes, Godzilla who is established as King over them all. We also know that Godzilla vs. Kong is next in the line, coming out next year. So, it's clear that King of the Monsters is leading right up to that film. Perhaps, as was hinted at, Godzilla lets all that power get to his head. And maybe King Kong will have to step in and take him down a notch.
1 Worse: Too Much, Too Quickly
Even though Godzilla: King of the Monsters sets up the next entry in the franchise better than the original Godzilla, it also feels like it is moving too fast. As opposed to introducing two types of monsters, as it did in that film, it has now introduced at least four of the big five ones, including Godzilla, King Ghidorah, Mothra, and Rodan. While that's not necessarily a problem, it has moved these characters too far along, including killing off King Ghidorah and Mothra before the end of the film.
By the end, the story has also progressed very quickly. Not only have these monsters leveled entire cities, but they have all come together to bow before Godzilla as king, which we know will lead to the Godzilla vs. Kong fight in the next film. But what follows that? With only three films to its name, it appears that a huge confrontation is already right around the corner. Remember, it took the Marvel Cinematic Universe 11 years and 22 movies to get to the end of a major story-line. In the Monster-Verse, things are just moving far too fast, and that might create some trouble down the line when they have already used up their best stories in a short amount of time.