The King of Monsters returned to the big screen this weekend, with Monsters director, Gareth Edwards updating the classic cinema tale for the 21st century, while embracing its origins from the 50s.
Filled with spectacle, and a perfect matinée, popcorn filled homage to the original series, the film, despite Edwards deft touch, and eye for creating beautiful images, is sadly lacking a human heart, and seemed intent on shoehorning in a family/romantic subplot that is flatter than the cardboard cutouts posing as characters.
That’s not to say it’s a bad film, it sets out to do exactly what it meant to, which is to continue the story of the most famous monster of all time Gojira, bringing him to life with up to date effects. And he, and his fellow kaiju look fantastic, and a lot of the time, photo-real.
When a nuclear plant in Japan unknowingly attracts the attention of a kaiju, it costs engineer Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) the life of his wife, Sandra (Juliette Binoche), and the love if his son. Now, 15 years later, Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has his own life with Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) and son, Sam (Carson Bolde).
When Joe, convinced the real reason behind the plant’s destruction is subject to a dangerous cover-up, is arrested in Japan for trying to break into the quarantine area around the downed facility, Ford, a bomb disposal expert for the Navy flies to bail his father out, with the dream of bringing him back to California with him.
Things go sideways, however, when the kaiju which has been growing inside the nuclear plant, watched over by Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and his associate Vivienne (Sally Hawkins), hatches and tears a swath through Japan.
It seem this giant, winged beast, which can generate EMPs at will, has been calling to another of its species and the west coast of the United States is in the way!
Doctor Serizawa is convinced that Godzilla will stop the monsters, but the American military, overseen by Admiral Stenz (David Strathairn) aren’t taking any chances, and with Ford in tow, desperately trying to get back to his family, they throw everything they have at the trio of monsters who are now slugging it out.
The big guy looks great. There’s intelligence in his eyes, and his shape is immediately identifiable with his cinematic predecessors. The scale of he and the other creatures is phenomenal, and put into perspective not just by their structural surroundings, but also by the size of the people who move through the frame around the combatants.
Edwards makes fine use of his 3D, using it to add depth to the image instead of having things leap out at you, and he and his animators, create some beautiful and monstrous images.
The stand out set pieces include a tense journey across an elevated train track, and the HALO jump towards the film’s climax.
Edwards has crafted a fantastic looking summer blockbuster of a film, with top-notch effects, a strong supporting cast, and a legendary monster’s return to the big screen. As such, it’s a highly enjoyable popcorn movie, which puts one in mind of Saturday matinees. Sadly, the human story is lacking, as they simply chase around the kaiju, and whine about getting home to their loved ones.
This would make an awesome double feature with del Toro’s superior Pacific Rim, and also makes me want to go back and re-watch Edwards’ smaller film Monsters again.
Did you see it? What are your thoughts?