Grade: C+
Entire family: No
Sci-Fi Action
2019, 132 minutes, Color
Warner Bros.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of monster action violence and destruction and for some language
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1 widescreen
Featured audio: Dolby Atmos TrueHD
Bonus features: B-
Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital
Trailer
Amazon link

A fellow film critic once quipped, “If all movie critics agreed, only one of us would have a job.” But every now and then we watch a film and find ourselves saying the exact same thing.

In the case of Godzilla: King of the Monsters, it’s that the film has great special effects, great action sequences, and a score that amplifies the mayhem. But if you’re looking for any kind of clever plotting or characters with meat on their bones, you’d better look elsewhere.

This 2019 film by Michael Dougherty gets off to a start so fast it would make bobsledders envious. But after that it’s one big downhill slide. Vera Farmiga plays the familiar character of a scientist that none of her colleagues believe. The action takes place five years after monsters collectively referred to as “Titans” had resurfaced and were somehow contained for scientific study . . . or pure containment. When a larval Mothra goes crazy, Dr. Emma Russell calms her down with a sonic device known as an “Orca.” That killer (whale) name notwithstanding, music still apparently calms the savage beast—even if it’s newer than New Age and projected on a frequency that would get dogs howling.

But just as we’re starting to think we’ve got a handle on the plot, a bunch of terrorists we later figure out are “eco” nuts attack this research station and kidnap both Emma and her daughter Madison (Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown). Of course there’s an estranged husband/father (Kyle Chandler) in the mix—another scientist who got fed up with this crypto-zoological “Monarch” organization and now is recruited to help them track down the bad guys for company he hates. But like the hero of Diehard, he has a little extra motivation: to rescue his daughter and former wife.

From that point, the action is both so repetitive and nonstop that it’s easy to forget who’s doing what to whom, or why. One by one we witness the same sort of attack on other monster facilities worldwide, and there are a lot of angry creatures that are awakened and released, and plenty more shoot-outs. Just about all your favorite original Toho Studios monsters are here, including Godzilla (Gojira), Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidora, And of course they do battle. You could leave the room and come back 20 minutes later and still have a handle on what’s happening. Let’s just say it’s a real Monster Mash, a real stomper that enlisted the talents of Bradley Whitford (West Wing), Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water), Charles Dance (Game of Thrones), David Straithairn (Good Night, and Good Luck), and Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai).

According to Guinness (the book, not the beer), Godzilla is longest running movie franchise. This is the 35th film made about the monster that emerged in the post-Atomic era, and the franchise has come a long way since Godzilla first trampled miniature buildings in 1954. It’s cool that this latest film is dedicated in part to Haruo Nakajima, the Japanese actor who played the monster wearing a mixed concrete suit, basing his movements on the gorillas and elephants he observed at the zoo. But like the James Bond franchise, the original films had a certain campiness that made them fun. Godzilla fans might wish that this film were a bit more tongue-in-cheek.

Language: A couple of f-bombs and lesser swearwords, but what do you expect when mayhem has been unleashed?

Sex: Nothing except a very noticeable bit of monster-sex verbal innuendo

Violence: Step into my parlor: lots of blasting, battling, stomping, monster head-munching, and destruction, with one graphic instance of a monster eating a military man; ironically, the scene that might traumatize youngsters is one in which a pack of wolves chow down on a deer

Adult situations: No drinking or drugs or smoking (the male lead says he had a drining problem, but that’s about it); there’s no time for that when monsters are awakening, fighting, and the forces of good and evil are squaring off 

Takeaway: The 35th time was not the charm