Before I talk about Godzilla: King of the Monsters, I want to talk about another film – namely, my arch nemesis, Ready Player One.
When I reviewed this movie last year, I was genuinely angry at it. Not in the Suicide Squad sense, not because it was appallingly racist or sexist or generally shitty, but because it was just a truly, offensively bad movie. It’s an ugly film, in all senses – the plot is juddering, the characters generally awful, the visuals swerving between gloomy grey and aggressively synthetic neon. I fucking hated it. It’s hard to think of many films that I detest or hold in lower stead than Ready Player One.
So when I talk about Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the latest installment in the neverending franchise hurricane that will eventually swoop me up and kill me (here’s hoping), and when I say it’s a bad film, I want to say that in the direct opposite way that I said it about Ready Player One. Because this movie is evidently and pretty unarguably terrible – but somehow, it’s also tremendously enjoyable.
This is the point that I would normally sum up the plot, but that seems a pretty futile task when even the film itself seems somewhat unsure of the actual story it’s trying to tell. Godzilla’s catching the craic with humankind, but then Charles Dance, who seems as annoyed to be there as I was trying to make sense of it, unleashes a bunch of iconic Kaiju on the world and…I don’t know, man. There’s this echolocator thing, it rains a lot, Ken Watanabe is still trying, he’s really fucking trying.
Searching for sense in this movie is the first mistake you can make, and yes, I know that’s hardly a point in its favour. I went in to this movie having read some just gobshit reviews, and my expectations were basically in the toilet – I’m certain that going in with that attitude helped immensley, because, when you take away the need for subjective things like “a coherent plot”, this film is kind of a hoot.
It features a lot of big-hitter Kaijus from the Godzilla universe, and the film seems genuinely in awe of a lot of the monsters they’re bringing to the screen. The action is often impeccable, which is a big ask given that so much of this movie is just indistinct blobs of grey rolling about on top of each other – and maybe it’s my nostalgia kicking in, but I thought their interpretations of these creatures was pretty great. They felt like real animals, with real personalities – especially big bad King Ghidorah (as played by my cat when she hears someone rustling a plastic bag three streets away), who feels like a real threat, palpable and often intimidating.
Let’s be honest, though, for all that I could try and justify it, most of my enjoyment comes from the utter failure of this movie to deliver on what matters. The script, despite a stellar cast trying their damn best, often feels like a parody of a blockbuster, and Kyle Chandler as our leading man is one of the most punishingly unlikeable leads I’ve seen in a long time. As I mentioned above, the plot frequently takes enormous leaps without bothering to check whether the audience is keeping up, and more than once I heard the audience in our cinema hurriedly conferring with one another to try to put the pieces together. But honestly, that just adds to the entertainment value for me. It’s not often you see a film that’s bad in this way, bad in such fundamental, obscure ways that it comes around to being truly enjoyable again. How on Earth could they fuck this up any further? Look, there’s Vera Farmiga staring po-facedly down the lens while she declares “I couldn’t be MORE sane”. It’s brilliant. It’s awful.
Now, I spent a lot of my childhood watching the iconic ToHo Studios Godzilla movies – they’re cheap, they’re mostly awful, but they’re also made with a great passion for the project that has rendered them such an indelible piece of pop culture history. And that’s what this movie reminded me of, more than anything else. No, it’s not good, by any measurable sense of the term, but it is pretty damn watchable. I don’t know if I’d recommend this to someone looking for a good movie, not unless I really disliked them, anyway, but there is something to this. Something that appeals to the bad movie fan in me. Something that might appeal to the same thing in you, too. Good? No, but Godzilla: King of the Monsters might just be worth it, anyway.
By Louise MacGregor
(header image via CNet)