Godzilla: King of the Monsters (3 stars)

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Michael Dougherty takes the reins of a reverent and action-packed addition to the MonsterVerse

When director Gareth Edwards revived Godzilla in his 2014 film, fans complained that the atomic lizard didn't bank enough screen time in his own show. Similar complaints certainly can't be levelled at this third entry in the MonsterVerse franchise, following the daft detour that was Kong: Skull Island. Director Michael Dougherty (Krampus, Trick 'r Treat) stages his clashes of the titans as something resembling acts of worship; even if sense and scenery are pulverised, his reverence for Japanese monsters roars off the screen.

The rushed set-up pitches cryptozoological agency Monarch against eco-terrorists fronted by Charles Dance, one of several over-qualified actors deployed to confer a patina of gravitas here. Caught in between are the grief-splintered Russell family – namely father Mark (Kyle Chandler), daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) and mother Emma (Vera Farmiga), a scientist attempting to communicate with earth's sleeping titans. When Dance's mob kidnap Madison and her mother, Emma uses her audio technology to awaken the monsters, for reasons too daft to get into.

After various whiplash-inducing leaps of geography and logic, the fun begins as Godzilla wades in to protect the planet from three-headed dragon King Ghidorah and giant firebird Rodan. Bulldozed aside, the humans can only look on nervously, crack wise and engage in boilerplate debates about natural balance, give or take the odd noble sacrifice.

Yet, if the chemistry between Farmiga and Brown goes underused, opportunities for monster mayhem do not. Between Rodan's flaming wingspan, Ghidorah's lightning breath and Godzilla's seismic scowl, Dougherty brings high-grade pulp levels of menace and majesty to his ancient combatants. Meanwhile, insect goddess Mothra takes flight with Spielbergian degrees of grace and awe, aided by loving reworkings of the music from Japan's classic kaiju movies.

As the action builds to a gamely outsized climax, the mix of homage and modern muscle in Bear McCreary's chest-thumping score rams Dougherty's intent home emphatically: this time, Godzilla is, assuredly, in the house.

General release from Wed 29 May.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

  • 3 stars
  • 2019
  • US
  • 2h 11min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Michael Dougherty
  • Cast: Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, O'Shea Jackson Jr., Ken Watanabe, Zhang Ziyi
  • UK release: 29 May 2019

Mark (Chandler), Emma (Farmiga) and their daughter Madison (Brown) are caught in the middle of a clash between warring factions and only Godzilla can help them out. Dougherty brings high-grade pulp levels of menace and majesty to the monsters, and even as sense and scenery are pulverised, the reverence for the franchise…