“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” opens Friday, May 31, the third in a renewed series of monster movies since “Godzilla” in 2014 and “Kong: Skull Island” in 2017, with “Godzilla vs. Kong” coming next spring.
This version was meant to be a sort of all-star edition of the Japanese Toho studio’s monsters gathering, with Godzilla battling historical creatures like Rodan, Mothra and King Ghidorah.
That happens in this movie, but the following are 12 reasons why “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” is this year’s first summer blockbuster that is a bust.
1. It’s not true to its heritage
This movie should be about monsters fighting other monsters and tearing up cities and knocking down buildings. It should be about almost nothing, outside of a synopsis explained in 25 words or less, other than destruction. We’re not expecting more, and we don’t want more.
2. The humans are idiots
I remember the old Toho movies from the 1960s, when the Japanese people were largely anonymous and were mostly there to run for their lives. That was better than the people in this movie, who are dumb enough to think that rather than exterminating these creatures, they can come up with a way to control them. Fools.
3. The characters are a snooze
Thinking that monster-fighting won’t be enough, writer-director Michael Dougherty and a team of others come up with a family dynamic: During the events of the original “Godzilla,” a family’s son was killed, we’re told. It turns out that mom and dad (Vera Farmiga, looking stressed, and Kyle Chandler, looking sad) worked for a company monitoring Godzilla and other “titans,” as they’re called, and their young daughter (Millie Bobby Brown) is following in their footsteps in these studies. The work, however, has separated the parents because Mom stayed with the work and Dad wants nothing more to do with monsters. Now, the daughter has to choose between them. It’s too messy, and it’s poorly written, and it’s too big a part of the movie.
4. The actors don’t get to say anything
Oh, the actors talk, but this is some of the most empty dialogue I’ve seen in a while. The family is beyond cliched, while scientists portrayed by great actors like Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, Ziyi Zhang and Bradley Whitford speak a kind of dinosaur-DNA mumbo-jumbo about the monsters and their origins that doesn’t even rise to “Jurassic Park”-level believability.
5. Pained looks
Rather than saying anything, most of the time the actors are limited to making facial expressions about seeing the monsters, or making a plan of attack, or realizing their plan has failed. So they usually look like they are staring in dumbstruck awe at Godzilla, or like they have gas.
6. Where’s Godzilla?
In a movie that must have cost a fortune to make, for all its CGI effects, it’s shocking how rarely we see the monsters close-up outside of Godzilla, who disappears for about an hour of the movie, which feels like a repeat of our barely being shown Godzilla in the first hour of the 2014 movie.
7. Why is it so dif f icult to see the other monsters?
As for Rodan (the winged “fire demon” with lava on its wings), Mothra (looks like an exotic butterfly that sprays a blinding web) and the evil King Ghidorah (a three-headed dragon), they look cool, but we rarely see them well. They do battle over the ocean, and water is flying everywhere; the final battle is at night, and it’s raining. They often appear to be trapped in a fog bank. What’s the deal?
8. The entertainment factor is low
When there’s not as much monster-fighting as desired, and a broken-family story is a downer, there had better be some laughs. There are not. Thomas Middleditch, playing a public-relations hack for the monster-monitoring organization, tries but fails.
9. It is way too serious
There were more laughs in the 1960s films for me and everyone else watching the Japanese actors’ mouths still moving after English-language dubbing didn’t match up with their dialogue. That was part of the fun. “Kong: Skull Island” was the best of these new movies, with Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly and John Goodman hamming it up in a camp-comedy presentation representative of the ridiculous monster-hunting. This movie takes the concept of monsters waaay too seriously. More myth, less phony science, please.
10. People dying everywhere, but the movie doesn’t care
It’s funny how closely this movie resembles a bad Roland Emmerich film (like “2012”), but that’s a guy who gives his victims-of-disaster a backstory so we sort of care when they bite the big one. Here, creatures destroy Boston (and Fenway Park) and blow anonymous people down avenues to their deaths in volume, but there’s no time for weeping.
11. Vera Farmiga should be eaten
How bad is the storyline? Farmiga’s character isn’t just in mourning for her son but for all mankind, which through war, poverty, environmental waste and more has ruined the world, so she has a new idea: Let’s revive all the monsters in hiding and hand the world over to destroy and start over. I can’t remember how many times I rolled my eyes at this head-scratcher.
12. It was better decades ago
I’ll never forget my friend’s 1975 birthday party, when his mom had a film print of “Destroy All Monsters” with these same monsters. They fought it out repeatedly, to our delight. The effects were as cheesy as the pizza we were eating, but we loved it, and they didn’t try to hide Godzilla and his giant foes. Pizza and monsters, absolutely perfect. The 12-year-old me was hoping “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” would be like re-living that experience. Not even close.