Godzilla II holds some thrills and spectacle… if you can actually follow it

Godzilla goes up against Mothra, Rodan and the three-headed King Ghidorah in this blockbuster action sequel with an ensemble cast including Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, O’Shea Jackson and more.

If you can withstand dull characters and often confusing action scenes, Steve Newall reckons there are some thrills to be had with this sequel.

Godzilla II: King of the Monsters is the darkest film I’ve seen for a while. No, not thematically, but in a Pacific Rim “let’s shoot everything gloomily so you can’t bloody see it” kind of way. Static images and production design sketches may look cool and moody and stuff when they’re ominously lit, but I expect most people like to be able to actually see the movies they watch. As Godzilla II ushers the viewer through night-time set-pieces, underground bases, underwater adventures, and gloomy super-storms, the net result is a film that’s frequently difficult to follow, bordering on the incoherent—not exactly what one might be after in a giant monster action spectacular.

Well, at least it’s consistent. The narrative is also all over the place, with half-arsed characters brought to life by actors given the hospital pass of trying to add a human dimension to proceedings. It’s a valiant but largely impossible struggle, whether we’re talking the fractured family at the film’s core (Millie Bobby Brown, Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga), an exposition-spouting scientist frequently required to dramatically exclaim “Godzilla!” (Ken Watanabe), or a quipping fellow scientist  (Bradley Whitford), whose gags achieved about a 0% laugh rate from the audience when I saw this.

“Who cares,” you might say, “what about the monsters?” Thankfully, they look cool, their scale is well-captured, and the devastation they bring is phenomenal. Frequently throughout the film the sheer terror and incomprehension of their presence is captured—and then the spell will be broken by more human-level dullness or plot machinations. But there’s nothing dull about watching Rodan’s atomic bomb-level impact on a city from the air, the multi-headed monster King Ghidorah, or the tussles Godzilla has with his super-sized enemies. There are some thrills and spectacle here, but they either don’t come often enough, or neglect how our senses have been dulled by loud and often confusing action.

The concept of titanic entities scattered all over the world and waiting to emerge from caverns, temples or under mountain ranges is suitably buzzy, and there’s some interesting world-building and historical mythology that sadly struggles to make its way to the viewer. There are thrills to be had in the film’s final mega-battle, and some awe-inspiring moments scattered throughout—not least of which is the destination of a submarine mission. But there aren’t nearly enough in 132 minutes of movie though, and following the pretty damn fun Kong: Skull Island (which evaded most of the above issues), this is a disappointing development along the way to seeing Kong and Godzilla share the screen next year, more of an endurance test than something to get excited about.