Monster mush

“The humans say I’m a threat to Earth, but at least my carbon footprint is small.”

“The humans say I’m a threat to Earth, but at least my carbon footprint is small.”

Somehow, Legendary Pictures found a way to totally muck up the greatest Godzilla premise ever with Godzilla: King of the Monsters, a movie that is all things great and terrible at the same time.

This movie has some terrific monster battles in it, and the special effects are mind-bogglingly good. Godzilla squares off against such legendary foes as multiheaded Monster Zero and Rodan, while getting some much needed assistance from the great Mothra. All of these monsters, including the title character, are wonders to behold when on screen. As for the internet bitching about the movie’s appearance being dark and murky, I think the darkness was fitting, made things scarier, and didn’t diminish the effects.

But, and this is a big but, I cannot endorse this movie overall. The human stuff in between and during the fighting is dreadful. Homo sapiens get too much screen time. The writing and staging for that screen time is so bad that the film derails every time it goes to military types in a war room.

The plot has the world in a state of disarray after the 2014 attacks on San Francisco and Las Vegas depicted in the last Godzilla movie. OK, that’s kind of cool. How do we dust ourselves off and find a way to coexist with the likes of Godzilla and big monster moth things after the decimation of the Bay Area?

Apparently, according to writer-director Michael Dougherty (Krampus), we deliver inane dialogue real slow-like, and inexplicably play with a sonar gadget that supposedly calls out to the monsters in a manner that either chills them out or fires them up.

That gadget is created by Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga), who lost a child in the San Francisco attack and is attempting to talk to the monsters with her daughter (Millie Bobby Brown), while Dr. Russell’s husband, Mark (Kyle Chandler), is off taking pictures on safari.

Once the gadget thing sends out a call that basically kicks off the monster apocalypse, the action goes from nicely staged monster battles featuring beautiful close ups and battered landscapes, to a bunch of lost actors sitting around in a situation room observing and commenting.

Bradley Whitford basically gets the Jake Johnson-in-Jurassic World role. That is, he’s the nerdy guy cracking wise from afar while monsters eat people and military folks scratch their heads. While Johnson had crack line delivery and some honestly funny moments, Whitford looks like the victim of a director who said, “Hey, Bradley, say some funny shit about monsters!” and Whitford had nothing.

Brown is OK here, but there’s not much one can do with material so bad. She has the movie’s dopiest moment. When fleeing Monster Zero as it’s destroying Fenway Park, Godzilla comes up behind her, and she turns and posts a calm, satisfied smile. No paralyzing fear, no screaming in terror at being in between two massive charging monsters. Just one, calm, movie star smile, because Godzilla might be her friend or some shit like that. Give me a break.

Brown has already completed her shots for Godzilla vs. Kong, due out next year, so she’s not escaping this franchise. Dougherty, who messed this movie up, had low grade, OK horror films (Krampus, Trick ’r Treat) on his resume. The next film’s director, Adam Wingard, is also a director of horror films (You’re Next and the awful Blair Witch reboot). Also, Dougherty, who co-wrote this messy movie, contributes on the next film as well. Not good signs.

Perhaps Legendary should stop putting large blockbusters such as this into the hands of relatively new and mediocre horror film directors. They got it right with Gareth Edwards on Godzilla (2014). They blew it with Dougherty, and I fear for the future.