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What Critics Are Saying About Godzilla: King Of The Monsters

Like giant monster fights? Boy, have we got a movie for you.

Critical notices are coming in for Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and they are split directly down the middle, with reviewers basically falling into two camps: those who wanted more plot and human drama, and those who just wanted to see kaiju beating the snot out of each other. The flick currently stands at 51% on Rotten Tomatoes.

First, let's get this out of the way: the trailers for King of the Monsters all promised a battle royale, with plenty of city-leveling action and extremely cool-looking designs for the iconic kaiju Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah. On this front, critics generally agreed that the flick delivers, big time. However, those turned off by the film lamented its tendency to barrel from one setpiece to the next with little thought given to developing its human characters, not to mention the fact that the picture — which is the third film in Legendary Pictures' MonsterVerse, following 2014's Godzilla and 2017's  Kong: Skull Island — does very little to advance the overarching narrative of that shared universe.

There is a family drama at the center of the film; the plot follows Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler), whose wife Emma (Vera Farmiga) works for Monarch, the shadowy kaiju-tracking organization introduced in the previous two films. Emma and their daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown of Stranger Things fame) are kidnapped by an eco-terrorist who wants to use a device of Emma's design to awaken ever-more powerful monsters, prompting Mark to enlist the help of recurring characters Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Dr. Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) to rescue them.

It's worth noting that inaugural MonsterVerse entry Godzilla was taken to task in fan quarters for not featuring nearly enough... well, Godzilla, and most of the positive notices for King of the Monsters gave it credit for knowing what its audience wants. While reservedly praising the family dynamic of its three leads, Evan Griffin of The Young Folks alluded to the fact that strong character work didn't keep the 2014 film from getting trashed by fans. "Godzilla fans can relax, the monsters don't get cut away from this time," he wrote. "The animation is creative and colorful like a comic book splash page, with close ups and wide shots to make them more lively than just effects achievements. Additionally, the monsters don't disappear when the action is over, as they sort of have character moments of their own as Ghidorah's threat grows larger, and Godzilla has to put the hustle in to achieve his victory."

Praise for the movie's cinematography and visual effects work was particularly effusive, with many critics encouraging readers to see it on the biggest screen possible. "On a visual level, nearly every single frame of Godzilla: King of the Monsters feels like a work of art, with many moments evoking the spirit of Frank Frazetta's artistic creations (especially during the scenes with King Ghidorah)," wrote Heather Wixson of The Daily Dead. "The way that cinematographer Lawrence Sher captured a sense of scale while shooting imaginary creatures is pretty damn incredible... the sheer spectacle and sense of wonder that is at the center of this film was something I completely fell in love with, and what Dougherty has achieved here is truly a remarkable feat."

While many of the positive notices begrudgingly conclude that the flick's stunning visuals outweigh its perceived poor execution on the character side, it's easy to spot which reviewers would count themselves among its target audience. Bob Chipman of Escapist magazine called it "transcendent" and "the Avengers for giant monster movies: a perfect distillation of why its entire genre exists in the first place and why we go to the movies." 

For those critics focused on the human drama, however, no amount of kaiju-on-kaiju action could win them over. "The central family trio of Farmiga, Brown and Chandler never get to spend more than a couple of seconds on screen together and, as such, are almost impossible to believe as a unit," wrote Tom Beasley of Flickering Myth. "All of the handsome pixels in the world aren't enough to prevent this particular adventure from emerging as an outright monstrosity... To paraphrase the tagline for Alien vs. Predator, whoever wins, we'll probably just go and see Avengers: Endgame again instead."

Charles Barfield of The Playlist was also firmly in this camp, writing, "Non-stop action and fun aren't bad attributes for a film about fighting monsters, but the folks behind King of the Monsters forgot that there has to be likable, relatable, and interesting characters to keep audiences invested while you gear up for the next action set piece... The closest attempt at any sort of emotional arc is with a half-baked family drama that, through the actions of the characters involved, leaves you wishing that they'd all die in the end." Yeesh.

Some observers, however, simply trashed the film and all of its elements. "The staggeringly poor script merely has everyone standing around and explaining the plot and their personal motivations to one another in dialogue so clichéd that it goes far beyond winking B-movie pastiche," wrote Empire's Ben Travis. "There's no human spark to any of them, nobody to truly root for... which would be more forgivable if the monster mash-ups satisfied — but they too disappoint. For the most part the action sequences are lost in shaky cameras and jittery editing."

Geoffrey Macnab of the Independent similarly eviscerated the movie. "This is the cinematic equivalent of watching a WWF bout between two heavyweight wrestlers wearing scaly suits," he wrote. "The entire film has the feel of Hanna-Barbera animation. It is dismaying to see actors of the caliber of Ken Watanabe, David Strathairn and Sally Hawkins giving such cartoonish, one-dimensional performances... The filmmakers are like kids knocking down their cousins' elaborately constructed Lego models. They show huge glee as they go about their task."

It's tough to imagine a more divided critical response, with opinions running the gamut from "complete masterpiece" to "utter trash fire." At the end of the day, your tolerance for CGI mayhem — and emotional attachment to the flick's iconic monsters — will likely go a long way toward determining your enjoyment of the proceedings. Fortunately for the filmmakers, the movie's target audience appears to be firmly on board, as it's on track to totally crush it at the box office this weekend. 

As far as we're concerned, we're willing to forgive a bit of clumsy exposition and uninspired dialogue if it means we get to see four of the most iconic monsters in film history, in all of their big-budget glory, throwing each other into skyscrapers. We'll have our eyes glued to the IMAX screen, extra-large popcorn in hand, when Godzilla: King of the Monsters opens this Friday.