MOVIE REVIEW: A radioactive monster mash
GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS (M)
Director: Michael Dougherty
Starring: Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown
Running time: 132 minutes
Verdict: A radioactive monster mash
RATING: THREE STARS
Seems not even a giant, radioactive reptile can carry a creature feature on his own any more.
Legendary Entertainment has super-sized the sequel to its 2014 hit with three "new" monsters, all of which originated in the imagination of Godzilla creator Toho.
There's Rodan, a flying fire demon, King Ghidorah, a three-headed dragon, and my personal favourite, Mothra, a gigantic imago.
Godzilla, too, is turbocharged in King of the Monsters, thanks to a well-targeted nuclear explosion.
Audiences don't go to a Godzilla movie for the subtleties of the subtext, or the nuances of the human character development.
Writer-director Michael Doughtery's contribution to the Legendary MonsterVerse gives plenty of bang for its buck - remember, we're in atom-splitting territory here.
It's hard to recall another action fantasy in which nuclear fission is employed so liberally, and with such little attention to the consequences - apart, perhaps, from King of the Monster's immediate predecessor.
Ghidorah is a formidable opponent who draws his elemental power from ancient folklore as well as the surrounding weather patterns. He doesn't breathe fire, he blasts it.
For Godzilla's close-ups, Legendary's animators render the prehistoric alpha predator in loving textural detail; this uber-lizard feels as though he's been hewn from the very rocks of existence.
And the primal ferocity with which he rips one of the heads off Ghidorah is perfectly in character.
Accustomed to wielding the greatest firepower, the US Armed Forces have one, uniform response to any adversary, even when it monumentally outclasses them.
And when "blasting the s--- out of it" doesn't work, they reload, and fire again.
The utter futility of this tactical response is brought home by the scene in which an ant-sized pilot ejects from his fighter plane, only to land in one of Ghiborah's open mouths.
The architecture of destruction that is a hallmark of any creature feature is also lovingly rendered here.
The Antarctic substation where Ghiborah has been hibernating, for example, crumples as elegantly as a house of cards.
A US Naval fleet sail past a submerged Washington State Capitol with barely a second glance.
With all that combined technical nous, all those hours spent in the animation lab, all those dollars spent, it seems almost inconceivable that nobody bothered to pay close attention to the dialogue.
"Hold on," says scientist and absent father Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler), when Ghiborah's tail thwacks down, spinning the getaway helicopter onto the edge of an icy abyss.
"Come on big guy, fight it," says Dr Rick Stanton (Bradley Whitford) when Godzilla takes what appears to be a mortal hit.
And while Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring) is the sort of actress who can add a touch of class to any genre, she struggles to make an impression here.
Only Stranger Things' Millie Bobby Brown, as the plucky daughter, survives King of Monsters with her dignity intact.
The plot, involving a bunch of extreme ecoterrorists, is as thin as the earth's crust - when Rodan decides to breach it
Their stated aim, by releasing the monsters, is to restore the earth's natural balance.
But while the scene in which Godzilla belches radiation in his final showdown with Ghiborah is a whole lot of fun, it doesn't offer a lot of hope for Boston's post-apocalyptic regeneration.
King of the Monsters is big, dumb - but not nearly as much fun as the infinitely superior Kong: Skull Island.
And that doesn't augur well for their upcoming clash in the Godzilla vs Kong.
GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS IS NOW SHOWING.