Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Year: 2019
Studio: Warner Bros
Director: Michael Dougherty
Writer: Michael Dougherty/Zach Shields/Max Borenstein
Cast: Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, Ziyi Zhang, Bradley Whitford, Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, Oshea Jackson Jr, David Strathairn

I'm constantly bemused by the commercial, multiplex-going public's tastes. One minute they seem to be getting sick of the lazy, cynical practice of making movies about CGI-assisted spectacle with empty characters and pat scripts, allowing a film like Godzilla: King of the Monsters to flop as hard as it has.

But not a year before they rewarded Venom, another staggeringly mediocre film, with gigantic box office. I can imagine the studio executives shaking their heads in their Ferraris while snorting coke off the breasts of expensive call girls in frustration, imploring into the sky 'what do the people want?!?'

Because while this movie had all the mediocrity you expect of a gigantic VFX behemoth aimed squarely at teenagers every northern summer, it delivered on every oversized thrill it promised. Back in the 1950s the engineers and sculptors at Toho could only have dreamed of making battles with giant creatures look this realistic, yet it barely doubled its money.

You could level everything the critics have said about it – 'emotional vacuum', 'ineffective beats', 'mostly pointless... before the inevitable showdown' – at almost any movie that's come out between March and August over the last decade, plenty of which have gone on to be billion dollar hits.

So like the huge, immovable creatures on screen do to the world's cities, the performance of this movie might render the Kong/Godzilla-averse DOA (probably not - I'll bet the next three are in development – but it'll certainly result in some change in direction and a handful of random studio underlings fired).

The basic story is that after defeating those insect-headed thingies in Gareth Edwards' 2014 Godzilla redux, the titular creature is in hiding somewhere, and when the world wakes up even more of his peers in Mothra, Gidorah and Rodan, humanity needs Godzilla more than ever.

The plot mechanics of getting to the city-sized monster scraps are like the innards of a the skyscrapers so gleefully knocked down on screen – so uninteresting they're hardly even meant to be visible. But they deal with a divorced couple (Vera Farmiga and Kyle Chandler), their bereavement from Godzilla's 2014 appearance in San Francisco and their connections to Monarch, the shadowy organisation tasked with monitoring and dealing with the giant monster threat.

Their cute teen daughter (Millie Bobby Brown) isn't much more than monster bait/fodder, and even when the story tries to go into interesting territory by having the mother and daughter captured by eco-terrorists determined to release the monsters and bring about humanity's downfall, the way that plot strand plays out fails to make much sense.

And so, just like the thinly drawn characters on screen, you're just waiting for the next appearance of a monster and bout of destruction they're going to visit on each other and the rest of us.

But is it worth seeing? It's not going to change the world or your cinematic tastes, but it's one of those movies that's been carefully engineered to get people into theatres rather than wait for Netflix or DVD. Surrounded by an Earth-shattering sound system and with the picture forty feet high in front of you is the best way to consume this confection. Just don't expect to be intellectually thrilled – it's a sensory experience to be enjoyed rather than a story.

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