4 Stars

For as long as the monster movie has existed, Godzilla has been the staple of the genre; the “king of the monsters” so to speak. The towering, ancient, dinosaur-like creature has gone toe to toe with some of the mightiest in Japanese monster cinema, always coming out victorious and retaining that title. In 2014, Godzilla made his triumphant debut in an American-produced film that continued his legacy. Now, he’ll go up against some of the world’s strongest beasts in Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

Five years after Godzilla’s victory against the Mutos in San Francisco, the organization Monarch is facing charges for the destruction of the city. Godzilla has not been seen since the incident, and more creatures of god-like magnitude, classified as Titans, are starting to appear all over the world. Though their mission is to contain each one and figure out which are good, they know that they can’t keep them at bay forever.

When Monarch scientist Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) and her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) are kidnapped by an ecoterrorist named Alan Jonah (Charles Dance), Emma is forced to use an experimental sonar system of her own design to unleash Ghidorah, a massive, hydra-like monster who assumes dominance over all the world’s Titans. Jonah believes that giving the Earth back to the Titans will save the planet from humanity’s influence.

Meanwhile, Emma’s ex-husband Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) is forced to help the organization in the wake of her and Madison’s capture. As Ghidorah unleashes a literal hell on Earth, the only Titan standing in his way is Godzilla, who will stop at nothing until Ghidorah falls. With the help of Monarch scientist Sam Coleman (Thomas Middleditch) and higher ups Ishirō Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins), they all fight to ensure the survival of both humans and monsters alike.

In this reviewer’s opinion, the 2014 Godzilla film was an underrated gem. The idea not to show much of Godzilla until the end built up anticipation for the final battle in the end, which was so much fun. It’s a move that takes a more old fashioned approach to its source material, something that modern mainstream audiences didn’t have the patience for. So expectations for this one were very high, almost impossibly high.

And it did not disappoint. Godzilla: King of the Monsters doubles the amount of Kaiju action from the first movie that fully embraces the epic nature of its global destruction, creating what only be described as a true work of art in the monster genre. The battles between Godzilla and the other monsters are spectacularly crafted and inject so much fun into the film, and the shots of the monsters look like paintings out of a museum.

The performances of the cast are a real highlight of the film. It was great having Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins back from the first movie. Along with them is a cast of actors and actresses who are all playing roles they don’t normally play. It’s fun to see someone like Thomas Middleditch, known to normally do comedies, take on a more serious role.

The true highlight performance, and probably the best part of the film, is Millie Bobby Brown. Starring in her first film following her role in Stranger Things, the character of Madison Russell gives her more emotional range compared to the near blank-faced Eleven. And she continues to prove that she is the best child actress working today. Surprisingly, her performance in here doesn’t come off as her television character. She really becomes her character and plays her with so much emotion that you won’t be thinking, “hey, it’s that girl from Stranger Things.” It’s rare to find an actress so young that can act so well.

There is something to be said about the story, and while it’s not really ridiculous or stupid, it is only serviceable. It feels like a story from one of the classic, Japanese Godzilla films in how over-the-top the missions become. It doesn’t try to bring anything new to the table, and it becomes somewhat predictable, though it still has a number of twists that keep you guessing.

However, no one ever comes to these movies wanting an original story or great characters. They come for the monster fights, and boy does this film deliver on that. There haven’t been fights as exciting as this since the first Jurassic World. Godzilla’s duels with the other Titans will have you jumping in your seat and cheering for the colossal creature. There’s no denying that, as much as you don’t like the story or characters, you will be more than entertained by the sight of Godzilla throwing Ghidorah into an office building.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters is truly something to behold. Its unbelievably exciting action scenes and beautiful imagery are more than enough to make up for a story that does what it needs to without reinventing the wheel. No one ever comes to these movies expecting something on the level of a Best Picture winning marvel. But there’s no denying that summer blockbusters this exhilarating are very hard to come by these days.