Eco-terrorists connive to release the quiescent kaiju held by "Monarch" (some kind of paramilitary crypto-zoology organisation) in an attempt to restore balance to Earth before the careless current alpha species (us) destroys the planet. Not surprisingly, the former lords of the planet have their own agenda. The film, number 35 in the long-running and now international, franchise, is long, loud and over-wrought. The whole eco-terrorist subplot gets tedious fast, especially Vera Farmiga's self-righteous/bitter/villainous/heroic-mom shtick and her bonding/unbonding/rebonding with her precocious daughter. The plot relies heavily on a McGuffin - the "ORCA", a one-of-a-kind monster-controller gadget that seems virtually indestructible, adaptable to any available wiring, and seemingly operable by anyone. There are lots of stylised shoot-ups as eco-mercenary Alan Jonah (Charles Dance, famously impaled while on the toilet in 'Game of Thrones') and his generic gunmen attack Monarch bases, first to get the ORCA, then to release the beasts. After a while, it all starts to look the same. Sadly, the film spends too much time on the flimsy 'human component' of the story, at the expense of showing lots of monster mayhem and obliteration of famous landmarks - often the best part of this type film. Many of the monster scenes are too dense, too busy, too rainy/cloudy/smoky/dusty, and too full of rapid-fire cutting to really get a good look at what 200 megabucks can buy. Another problem is a fractured sense of time and distance: any character (human or otherwise) seems to be able to get anywhere in the world as quickly as the plot requires, resulting in too many last-minute Deus ex Machina rescues that dilute any sense of menace developing in the story. The acting is about what you'd expect in a Hollywood hyper-action film, but given the script, not much more is needed. The music is nondescript up to the moment when elements of Akira Ifukube's iconic themes are introduced. Fun for aficionados but likely lost on most viewers, the film references may elements from the long-running kaiju series for good and for bad. As in the original 1954 film, there is a heroic scientist named Serizawa and 'oxygen destroyer' über-weapon. Monarch's base is named "Castle Bravo", which was the name of the Bikini Atoll H-bomb test that contaminated the Japanese fishing boat Lucky Dragon 5, inspiring Toho Studios to make a film about a monster born in radioactive fire. The eco-babble about the 'Titans' being guardians of Earth was reminiscent of the various stand-alone Mothra story lines (as are the sparkles that accompany the giant moth) and there is a hint that the she-monster's young twin priestesses might show up. Monarch's giant plane is similar the various flying super-weapons fielded against the big guy in the Heisei-era films and one point Godzilla overloads on radiation, turns red, and threatens to explode, as he did in the Heisei-era capping 'Godzilla vs. Destroyerah' (1995). On the downside, there is an annoying kid who (long) outstays her welcome (a staple in the later Showa-era films) and like most of the preceding 34 films, there's a plot that, if you pause at any moment and think about it, doesn't really make any sense, even by the credulous standards of the genre. I liked the 2014 American reboot and was looking forward to a multiple monster epic (having enjoyed 1968's rubbery 'Destroy All Monsters' and 2004's delirious 'Final Wars') but this film was a disappointment. The insipid story, weak script, and bland acting fatally undercut both the impressive CGI and the homages to earlier films (iconic and otherwise). Too bad. Next stop: 'Godzilla vs King Kong', last seen in the ring together in 1964 (in the first of the silly, kid-friendly films that was also the top money maker in the Toho series). Hard to believe that a 2020 remake could be worse, but also hard to believe that two decades into the second millennium, a fight between giant ape first seen in 1931 and an overgrown lizard who debuted in 1954 could still fill theatres.
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