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So, this is a bit of a controversial film, and I can see why. Left me with deeply mixed feelings. Now, the great risk with This Sort of Thing is that a review can turn from an honest look into a raging catalogue of failures, so I'll try to examine the film element by element.
First, and most obviously, the monsters. The designs are uniformly great, whether they're reimagining the classics or inventing new ones, like that rad ground sloth with the head of a wooly mammoth. Ghidora, in the first few scenes, always entertains with his bickering multiple heads. But, the non-classic names are ininspired and dull. "Behemoth." "Scylla." Just the first whatsit anyone'd dash off thoughtlessly off the top of their head. And as for the monster action, well...
Look. I loved the 2014 Godzilla film. But a lot of salty, pissy crybabies whined like children at that one mid-movie joke where the film cuts away to news footage of the seconds-long non-fight right after we get our first good look at the main character. This film clearly wanted to try to avoid that by putting lots of monsters into the film early and often. It succeeded... but it clearly didn't understand what made the monster fighting work in prior films.
The brawls are always, always, always poorly-lit scuffles in areas full of debris and particle effects, with a jittery and out-of-focus camera on top of that, and are cut to shit on top of that, and then randomly flash to the human characters on top of that. And it also underutilized Mothra and Rodan in the process, both popular classic characters who deserved more screentime than a number of major cast members.
Which brings me to the human characters! Critics complain about this aspect of the film, and they do feel intrusive during the fighting, but most of the cast is fine in the story scenes between monster fights. Ken Watanabe brings gravity and dignity to the role of Dr. Serizawa, including a sad but fitting reference to the franchise's mythology that really hit me. Other returning cast members do well with the material they're given, and the new Monarch crew are all just characterized enough to invest me in their fates. Unfortunately, the character who are emphatically not fine are also the main characters.
Mark is awful. His actor's performance, which I can't completely fault due to his thinly-written part in the script, has exactly two notes: brooding and whispery, and angrily shouting. Worse, this wildlife photographer, who was brought on consult about a single piece of equipment he doesn't even bother pretending to consult on until the end, spends the entire movie lecturing rooms of trained biologists who've spent their entire careers studying these creatures about what they're doing and why, and also lecturing trained military commanders about what the human villains are actually doing and why, what is and isn't a trap. And he is always right.
He irritated me less as the film went on. I don't know whether that's me getting numb to his schtick, a certain scene at the end of the first act where he demonstrated a shred of humanity and put aside his personal desires to save some soldiers, and or, indeed, that a new character arrives to serve as a Hate Sink: his wife. It'll be hard to go too deep into this without spoiling a major first-act twist, but this character is even more thinly-written than him, their dumb theory doesn't make any sense even within the context of a silly movie about the hollow earth and giant monsters, and the sheer selfish hypocrisy with which they go about doing what they're doing is staggering. Indeed, I enjoyed the other villain, who doesn't really do much villainous after shooting a bunch of innocent people at the very beginning of the film, a lot more, if only because his constant sniping at them couldn't help but read to me as his calling out the worst mass-murderer in human history for their utter lack of self-awareness.
At least the kid, the only main character who does kind of work, is well-acted and never annoying. If only there'd been more of her, and less of the other two.
Finally, there are actually a lot of little love-letter references to the rest of the franchise in here. I don't want to spoil them, but all but one of them do work, especially the soundtrack. There's one particular call-back that really doesn't work or do justice to the original, but whatever.
And that's the movie in a nutshell. It has many successful elements, and I really do hope the franchise survives it, because it succeeds in setting up for more! But the parts that don't work really don't work.
So, since apparently this review is waaaaay over the character limit and exists in its current form only thanks to a glitch that let it through but won\'t let me edit it without editing it down, two asterisks:
Apparently, Mark is established as a biologist with a PHD in the film, and as a former member of MONARCH that quit five years prior to the film in supplementary materials. I don\'t feel that remotely justifies his magically being better than everyone in their chosen fields of study, and his constant smug proclamations of what\'s really going on always being right and anyone he\'s proclaiming to being wrong, but it at least makes marginally more sense than when he was just a wildlife photographer who helped make an anti-whale-beaching device. So, while the character is still insufferable and terminally unlikable, and spends most of the film conspicuously not doing what he was brought on to do while doing everything else instead, he was at least an expert at some point in the past.
Second, I really should give more credit to that soundtrack. The score really carries a number of scenes where the muddled visuals fail, and works whether it\'s composing callbacks to classic Godzilla films, implementing original tracks, or rocking out with a deeply-fitting track in the end credits.
...The more time passes, the more bad takes I read from fans dismissing legitimate criticism, the more I sour on this film. \'s good to take this moment to remind myself that it did have some successes, so that my negative feelings don\'t bleach those memories away and leave only the things it did wrong that I hated.
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