Godzilla: King Of The Monsters got an interesting response from the audience I saw it with at London's Leicester Square this evening in IMAX format. I took my youngest daughter (aged 11), she was very impressed with the trailer, she was less impressed with the cast and crew coming onto the stage first, she wanted to get on with the movie. I did record what I could of Michael Dougherty, Zach Shields, Charles Dance, O'Shea Jackson Jr. O'Shea Jackson Jr and Millie Bobby Brown talking up the film… catch that at the bottom.
So what's good? Let's come back to that.
What's bad, well, where to start. Charles Dance is a former MI6 agent turned rogue and trying to recruit kaiju to,.. what? Wipe out half of humanity Thanos-style? It's never really laid out. Having a bad guy with potentially sympathetic means even if the ends to reach them are genocidal is not unusual these days, but we don't really get an understanding of what those means are. Trying to find a 'balance' is not a reason if that balance isn't adequately explained. My daughter's only real question was to why the 'bad guys' were doing what they were doing. It was a good question, slapping 'eco-terrorist' on Charles Dance is not enough.
The script is dead and while it got laughter rippling across the auditorium the audience, this was not in its favour. It is utterly humourless and attempts to give it some life fall flat time after time. You will get lots of memes out of this, I know, but only in the way that The Room did. Cliches tumble over cliches, trying to run for the exit.
There's another monster hiding in plain sight – but it's toothless
Putting a family breakdown over a major incident in their lives the centre of this film should have been heartbreaking, but you rarely got the impression of that gut-wrench it would necessitate. The impact of that seemed to be alcoholism (talked about, never seen), some mournful looks, and obsession with work. But the fact that these two scientists playing by Vera Farmiga and Kyle Chandler are dealing with new and frankly ridiculous forms of life, including the birth of one, could have found some allegorical links to their family's story, but is never more than briefly, vaguely touched on. It's a wasted chance. Chandler especially looks as if he is working at a DIY store rather than running around the world chasing monsters. Thankfully Millie Bobbie Brown shows some actual emotion, though she can't carry the family on their own, and there's some deft direction early on, the camera always on the move with Millie, while staying stationary on Vera, differentiating their attitudes, lives and future prospects. But given the way the story plays out, the character would never have been in the places she is put.
As for the scientists and military folk, those observing and trying to control the beasts, Sally Hawkins is by far the most watchable, Bradley Whitford phones it in, Thomas Middleditch is vaguely disconcerting, Aisha Hinds has a good job in confused rage, while Ken Watanabe has moments of magic. But for most of the time, they are just there…
Rotoscoping those kicks…
But for all this, monsters kicking all level of hell out of each other, with people running around screaming still works. There's a lot of rotoscoping as well, which does a decent enough job of giving the monsters a little humanity in their destruction. Godzilla looks great, Mothra looks suitably ridiculous, and all 17 of the monsters have a certain appeal, that reflects their B-movie origins without giving the game away. The film does succeed in portraying the scale of these monsters (if you see it in IMAX), their actual motivation at moments, and more relatable emotion in one eye flicker that Kyle Chandler does in the rest of the film. And in the denouement of the final battle, there is a genuine laugh out loud moment of surprise, a pullback and reveal that really works, and for once in the two-and-a-bit hours it probably is in length, the movie pulls ahead.
And the mid-credit and post-credit scenes are necessary if you want to avoid a 'but what happened to?' moment,
My daughter enjoyed herself, but she's 11, what does she know? Certainly, the spectacle impresses. And it's nowhere near as bad as that one from a fair few years ago, that Harry Knowles liked. And maybe, if you can laugh at the rest you'll get some real enjoyment out of this. Maybe a good one to watch after a couple of pints.
Here's that video of the cast and crew… taken from the very back of the IMAX. Sorry… at least you can hear them.