Close this search box.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters review: Highs & lows

Godzilla is about to destroy some planes in Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Godzilla: King of the Monsters deserves credit as a textbook example of breathtaking kaiju cinematography, even if its uneven writing brings it down.

Of all the things to expect from this movie, a radiation lizard and killer moth coupling was not one of them.

Directed by Michael Dougherty, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is the second entry in the ongoing MonsterVerse, a shared universe of multiple iconic kaijus. It features Godzilla himself as he faces the newest threat to his title as king: an ancient sleeping titan called King Ghidorah, as well as a whole host of other kaijus that awaken around the globe such as Mothra, a giant moth kaiju, or Rodan, a fiery bird kaiju.

Sound too simple a story? I mean, I guess that’s what most critics are thinking, if the general critics score is any indication. Though to be honest, what do you expect from a Godzilla movie? The inner philosophical debate of Godzilla as he weighs the painstaking decision between battling other kaiju invaders and accidentally smushing about three hundred humans with each step? Some movies are just designed to be pure fun and eye candy, and Godzilla: King of the Monsters is exactly that.

It is especially hard to blame Godzilla: King of the Monsters for being eye candy when it is so good at being that. The sense of scale and brutality portrayed in these monsters is more than just monstrous: it’s downright mythical. From the cold blue light of Godzilla as he swims through the ocean, the shot of Mothra’s birth under a waterfall – which is the single most beautiful scene in the entire film – Rodan exploding from a mountain like a living, flying volcano, and King Ghidorah descending upon the earth, wrapped in its very own hurricane. All of these scenes feel like a reincarnation of mythology.

And it only gets better when these godly beings actually clash. The film may not be completely chock full of them, but it doesn’t matter because the times that they do clash is like seeing the Earth itself at war. The switch to the human perspective of the fight might feel intrusive for some, but I still liked it, as it showed just how horrifyingly magnificent these creatures would be from our scale. After all, a kaiju is going to look much more magnicifent if looked at from far below rather than a panned out shot. So it’s not like this film didn’t need humans at all in that purpose.

Godzilla is beaming light onto the sky in Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Godzilla: King of the Monsters (Warner Bros. Pictures)

However, that doesn’t mean the humans were essential either. The keen-eyed viewers may have noticed that I neglected to mention any human characters in the plot summary. And that’s for just how intrusive the human storylines feel in the film. Can we ever not have a disaster movie with a family as the main characters? No, we can’t, because how else could you build character quickly enough to get to the CG destruction as quick as possible? All you need is some shots of them being a family and we’re all of a sudden supposed to care about where they are headed and whether they’ll have their heights drastically reduced under Godzilla’s radioactive foot.

This was an issue stemming all the way back from Godzilla (2014), but even though this is a sequel, the problems from that movie continue and escalate here. Apparently one of the main characters’ motivations is purging the Earth of the human infection and bringing balance back to the world. While I can’t say I don’t sympathize to some extent, it just feels far too preachy a message to spew out when there’s far more interesting things to get to, like Rodan and King Ghidorah clawing each others’ throats out in midair.

What’s even more baffling is that you can still have human characters with more drive and justification for their involvement. This film introduced a titan-studying organization called Monarch. Those agents would certainly have a reason to be at the kaiju sites, so why not expand on some of their characters? Maybe we can learn more about the soldiers who are brought to what could very easily be a suicide mission. No? Are we still on mother-daughter verbal scuffles instead of Godzilla vs Rodan or something?

Of course, let it never be known I can’t give credit where it’s due, there is one human character in this film that is critically underused and yet is the most compelling, and that’s Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe, of Inception). Not only is he a recurring character from previous films, but his more positive opinion on Godzilla and other kaiju forms quite a gripping arc for him. The way it concludes is one of the finer emotional moments of the movie. It’s a shame that the emotional scene at the actual climax is a family hugging in the rain, while soldiers we never even got time to get familiar with are killed or bleeding in their comrades’ arms.

What’s even more perplexing is that the kaiju actually have more characterization than most of the humans here. Ghidorah’s arrogance and pride is shown in every scene he is in, to the point where he’s just one Benedict Cumberbatch voice acting away from being 21st century Smaug. Rodan is shown to be a cunning brute, loyal to this side and that depending on circumstances. And while they don’t share too many scenes together, the relationship between Godzilla and Mothra is short yet effective, the true family of this film.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters Trailer (Warner Bros. Pictures)

I wouldn’t be having this much problem if the film focused solely on the kaijus and the bare minimum of human characters that actually mattered. I didn’t care if the story is simple; all I need is some characters I can root for, blood-pumping action, and a suitable buildup, climax, and conclusion. The film certainly delivered on the second, but on the first and third, it came out only half baked, mostly due to too much human stuffing.

Yet despite its uneven nature, I also cannot bring myself to dislike the film much. Yes, from a story standpoint, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is disappointing, even when considering it’s meant to be a simpler story. But it doesn’t feel passionless. It still feels like there was genuine love and care poured into bringing the kaijus to the big screen, considering just how much of a presence they commanded here. And I would rather take something flawed yet passionate over something outwardly fine but bland.

Get it on Apple TV

Godzilla: King of the Monsters is now available to watch on demand. Read our reviews of Godzilla vs Kong and Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire and our list of all Monsterverse movies ranked from worst to best!

All Monsterverse movies ranked from worst to best – Loud And Clear
Revisit our favorite god-like creatures with all the Monsterverse movies ranked from worst to best, including Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire.

Loud and Clear Reviews has an affiliate partnership with Apple, so we receive a share of the revenue from your purchase or streaming of the films when you click on the button on this page. This won’t affect how much you pay for them and helps us keep the site free for everyone.

Thank you for reading us! If you’d like to help us continue to bring you our coverage of films and TV and keep the site completely free for everyone, please consider a donation.