‘Godzilla: King of Monsters’ is an aggressively awful blockbuster

I wrote a Buffalo News parents guide for “Godzilla: King of Monsters.” In this review I outline why the film is such a disappointment. I’m sorry to say I’d give “King” a D+.

Are kids today aware of Godzilla? More than that, do they care about Godzilla? Perhaps not. But children over the age of, say, 10, certainly enjoy seeing a giant lizard stomp a city and battle similarly large monsters, so “Godzilla: King of Monsters” is probably on their radar.

Even little ones with a lust for carnage will find their patience tested by the aggressively terrible sequel to 2014’s “Godzilla.” Despite a stunning cast of character actors and a quasi-lead role for “Stranger Things” standout Millie Bobby Brown, “King of Monsters” is an anonymous blockbuster that will please no one — especially younger viewers.

While parents might not find the actual content too concerning, I would only encourage taking kids to see the film as a form of mild punishment.

Once again we are saddled with ponderous backstory involving the crypto-zoological agency Monarch. Five years after the destructive events of the first film, Monarch is attempting to understand the giant monsters led by the mighty Godzilla, who this time collides with Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah.

“Rogue One” director Gareth Edwards’s 2014 “Godzilla” was a slow-moving but well-made drama that effectively built up an expanded creature universe. The enjoyable “Kong: Skull Island” followed in 2017, and now our mighty lizard friend is back to stomp about and take on some new foes in this film co-written and directed by Michael Dougherty.

While their is some strained humor here and there, the majority of the film looks and feels very dark and gloomy, starting with a missing (and soon, we realize, deceased) child and centered around a messy divorce. The blood is kept to a minimum, but there is tragedy and upset throughout. Happily, no giant monsters were harmed during the making of the film.

At an oppressive 2 hours 11 minutes, “Godzilla” wears out its welcome at least 30 minutes before its conclusion. It’s the talkiest monster flick in memory, and one of the worst-scripted. Ironically, there are few Godzilla battles of note before the final chunk, and that means the ending is by far the strongest section of the film. But why make the audience wait?

As a film critic and parent, I often find myself pondering how I would have reacted to films like “Godzilla: King of Monsters” as a child or teen. I imagine I would have been watching the clock, and that’s a shame.

So will kids want to see “King of Monsters”? Considering the lack of screen time for Godzilla — he needs to fire his agent — the main reason tweens and young teens might want to see “King” is the presence of Millie Bobby Brown. Predictably, the young actor gives the film’s most memorable performance as Madison, the daughter of two battling experts (Vera Farmiga and Kyle Chandler). But even Brown is wasted until the film’s last third. Only then is the character given a chance to be proactive.

If there is a positive takeaway for kids and families, it is certainly one inspired by Brown’s Madison. The character is more adult than the adults — wise, passionate, kind. If part three can team her up with Godzilla for a buddy flick, we might be onto something special.