Has it really been five years since Godzilla visited to assert his supremacy over man and beast?
If you’ve been pining away for the return of the big guy, take heart, for Godzilla: King of the Monsters has emerged once again to save the human race from its own excesses, the machinations of presumed higher minds, and some other really bad monsters.
Michael Daugherty’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters (he also co-wrote the script with Zach Shields) tries very hard to ramp up the human element, as a misguided, grieving Vera Farmiga (as a doctor who lost her son because of events in 2014’s Godzilla) joins forces with eco-terrorist/planet shaker-upper Charles Dance to restore order to nature by utilizing the formidable talents of the Titans (read monsters). It’s their unfortunate luck that the “good” doctor’s daughter (Millie Bobby Brown) is with them, because this galvanizes Farmiga’s estranged ex Kyle Chandler (a rare lead in a big-budget film for this very capable actor) into moving heaven and earth to not only find his daughter, preserve the balance of nature, destroy the monsters and save Earth (or at least the major cities)—at least until the next go-round.
There are other humans on hand, including an under-used Sally Hawkins, an amusing Bradley Whitford, an appealing and earnest Zhang Ziyi, and Ken Watanabe as everyone’s favorite Godzilla advocate. And while there are the requisite deaths and sacrifices, none of the characters have the opportunity to enact anything credible enough so that we feel for their untimely exits. In fact, many of the characters’ actions and motivations become laughably absurd as the movie progresses.
However, we’ve come to the theater for the monster appearances, the all-out battles between whatever creatures have been unearthed (this time including King Ghidorah). These sequences are occasionally effective but hampered by their joint emphasis on action and atmosphere (there’s plenty of rain and mist on display)—at times, it’s difficult to see which monster is doing the attacking, and which the defending (The climactic battles take place in Boston—a welcome change of pace from San Francisco and Tokyo—unless you happen to live in Boston). And even though it’s pretty clear at the end that Godzilla will be back, it’s also equally clear that whether he’s a ‘good” monster or “bad” monster, Godzilla takes no prisoners. The movie suggests otherwise, but concern for the environment isn’t exactly in Godzilla’s DNA.
About a third of the way through John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, I wanted to tell the black-clad Wick to change into some other outfit—perhaps a little khaki would do—since everybody seems to know him. This is not to Wick’s benefit, as Keanu Reeves’ erstwhile intrepid assassin is on an international hit list (because of events in the previous installments) and hopes to set things right—at least before he is killed. (As his friend/foe Ian McShane puts it, considering the immense odds against Wick, the world has a 50/50 chance.) This involves reaching the “fearless leader” for some instructions and guidance (and a bit of repentance), avoiding the hordes who wish to collect the bounty on his head, and determining who his real friends are—if any. Meanwhile his main antagonist (Asia Kate Dillon) his limitless resources at her disposal, and a desire to see this Wick put out for keeps.
If you’re looking for action—as a John Wick fan, that’s practically a pre-requisite—the film doesn’t disappoint. There are all kinds of physical battles, ranging from brutal one-on-one, mano a mano combats (with the assistance of some unlikely weapons), high-speed (and body count) motorcycle chases to all-out thousand-to-one (or two) mini-Armageddons. Reeves’ hunted and haunted John Wick is convincingly taciturn and world-weary, and there is some sturdy support from Anjelica Huston, Lawrence Fishburne and Ian McShane. Best of all, there is a welcome appearance by Halle Berry as a friend who is Wick’s equal both in terms of repartee (admittedly not a major victory) and in the realm of two-fisted action. Their extended sequence in which they join forces against a mutual foe is the highlight of the film—and Berry’s work here is enough to make one hope for an even larger role in the next chapter, Now that is something we all could look forward to.