Many of the film's principal actors are recipients of film and television's highest accolades; Emmys and Golden Globes and such, and their presence is mostly enough to carry weak dialogue or scenes of paper-thin exposition. Vera Farmiga (The Departed) and Kyle Chandler (Peter Jackson's King Kong) are former spouses grieving the loss of their first child. But they're also scientists, dammit, both with differing opinions of the creatures (or "Titans," as the film calls them), and they take action accordingly. Their second child, played by Stranger Things' Millie Bobby Brown—a character created so a younger audience can have a relatable figure—is caught in the middle of the tug-of-war. Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, O'Shea Jackson Jr., Aisha Hinds and the great Ken Watanabe fill out the rest of the ensemble cast, and though their talents are certainly underused, it's good to see them in something so silly that almost anything can be forgiven.
Besides, one doesn't go to a Kaiju movie for the narrative structure or in search of moving performances, but for the spectacle—and we certainly find the spectacular here. With monsters front and center, the visual splendor is quite satisfying. Godzilla and Mothra glow in cool notes of neon blues and greens, while others like King Ghidorah, the three-headed one, accompany violent electric storms saturated in rich yellows and oranges. We see clear shots of the famous monsters battling with coherent editing and no awkward shaky cam close-ups; when the Titans clash, the sound assaults your senses, rupturing eardrums. Even the soundtrack adds to the successful mixing of the effects, accentuating the artificial carnage. But don't worry, there's plenty of stereotypical lens flare to distract from the amusingly fake sets. If nothing else, your inner child will love all of it.
Although the fanboy cheese is present in every frame, it only tries your patience occasionally. One too many hints were dropped for the next big monster movie, for example, and expect to see your favorite ape thrown into the mix with a wink. In the meantime, leave your analytical sensibilities at the door and enjoy the familiar creatures as they go boom.
+Incredible battles; nostalgia
-Cheesy; far too many hints of the next flick's plot
Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Directed by Michael Dougherty
With Farmiga, Chandler, Brown and Watanabe
Regal (both locations), Violet Crown, PG-13, 131 min.