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On Friday, Godzilla: King of the Monsters will make theaters tremble with the might of not just Godzilla himself, but several other kaiju from the Godzilla mythos. Before Godzilla proves himself against such monstrous foes, though, he must first prove himself (or not) to an entirely different group: the critics.
Yes, the reviews have begun to fly with more might than Mothra, and we now have something of a critical consensus regarding this brand-new monster mash.
**SPOILER WARNING: Spoilers below for Godzilla: King of the Monsters!**
On the whole, the critics aren't necessarily giving the giant lizard a crown ... but they aren't taking one away, either. Mostly, critics seem to agree that what we have is a big, silly movie that is high on action, and not much else.
In The Hollywood Reporter, John DeFore writes that the title creature has "a grand time" in Michael Dougherty's new film. "Easily the most satisfying of his Hollywood-produced adventures and a respectable cousin to the long string of Japanese ones," he writes, then goes on to say that it is a big step up from Gareth Edwards' 2014 entry, and that the movie suggests "promise" for Legendary's "MonsterVerse."
He also mentions that though the film gets a "nostalgic assist" from the presence of Millie Bobby Brown, Kyle Chandler, and Bradley Whitford, the "beautifully designed CGI mayhem" is not helped by the human end of the story. "We don't always understand the backgrounds or responsibilities of supporting characters," he writes, adding, "... the script by Dougherty and Zach Shields could use a polish from someone with a gift for witty dialogue." Still, the film left him excited, and he seems to think that it will leave fans the same way.
io9's James Whitbrook sums the movie up pretty quickly, calling it "big, dumb, and beautiful." He mentions that while trailers for the film have tried to be poetic, the film itself is not, noting, "... while the film itself does indeed revel in the destruction its gigantic namesake and its monstrous rivals to the throne bring with them, it doesn’t really have anything poetic to say about that calamity, beyond acknowledging that watching a giant, three-headed dragon barrel towards an atomic-breath-spewing radioactive monstrosity is completely and utterly awesome."
Whitbrook agrees that it is a huge step up from the 2014 film, and says it is "a love letter to the cinematic history of these beloved beasts." He praises the film's scale as well as its coherence, and though he says that the personalities of the film's monsters shine, the same cannot be said of the human characters. "King of the Monsters almost immediately drops any pretense of the moral debate it sets up in its early moments in order to facilitate its (incredibly lovely-looking, at least) monster action," he writes. "The human characters are paper-thin, and given very little to really do other than to look in either awe or horror at the action around them while occasionally spouting bland hoo-ah mannerisms."
If all you want is glorious monster action, though, he thinks you'll be satisfied. "If you’re fine with some incredibly stupid people playing second fiddle to glorious kaiju moments, King of the Monsters will provide one of the best popcorn blockbusters of the summer."
For Variety, Owen Gleiberman takes another view, writing that the new film is not as good as the 2014 film. According to him, the film gets things done, and that, "... at its best, makes for a giddy and satisfying clash of the titans. You won’t feel cheated; at stray moments, you’ll feel the wonder. But for every high point, there’s a moment when the thrill threatens to leak away."
He also has issues with the human characters (and the story in general), and ends his review with a bit of fat-shaming for Godzilla himself. "Is it my imagination, or does it look like Godzilla has been hitting the dessert cart?" he asks. "If Godzilla looks a little chunkier than before, so be it, but you don’t want to watch a Godzilla movie thinking that his personality is slightly out of focus — that for all the agreeable destruction he causes, he’s not quite the same dude."
Benjamin Lee in The Guardian minces no words in calling the movie "the summer’s first inarguably bad blockbuster." Giving it two stars, he calls the film "every bit as redundant as one would expect, a hollow piece of business masquerading as something necessary." He's no fan of the story or the script, and doesn't agree with the preceding reviews on the visuals, writing, "These issues might sting a little less had Dougherty at least nailed the film’s many monster-on-monster fight scenes, but too many of them are blurry and hard to follow, paling in comparison to last year’s Pacific Rim sequel, which was able to make such large-scale showdowns feel coherent and involving."
Scott Collura for IGN has similar issues with human characters and script (though not as many as other critics), but realizes that ultimately, that's not what audiences for this movie will care about. "The monster action in this movie is top-notch across the board, whether it’s creatures being born, creatures battling humans, or creatures battling other creatures," he writes. "The visual effects are key here not just in the state of the art, epic set pieces, but also in how each monster feels like they have their own, distinct personality. Even Ghidorah’s three heads have their own temperaments!"
In the end, he calls the film "a fun exercise in giant monster madness that indulges in all the kaiju fights fans and even casual viewers could hope for."
Godzilla: King of the Monsters unleashes theatrical fury this Friday. Will you be there?