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Review: ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ charms as non-sequel sequel

  • COURTESY WARNER BROS.

    Sally Hawkins, left, and Ken Watanabe in a scene from “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.”

It’s been five years since the last Godzilla film, so it’s understandable if you go into “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” a little rusty on just what went down in Tokyo and San Francisco back in 2014.

But “Godzilla: King of the Monsters ” is a sequel in the loosest possible sense, requiring minimal recall from the audience. The filmmakers have helpfully shifted the focus to another family for this installment, from the Brodys in the last film to the Russells in this one. There are a few holdovers, mostly employees of Monarch, the secret multinational organization that studies the titans, like Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Dr. Graham (Sally Hawkins), who are being accused of hiding Godzilla from world governments.

The Russell clan consists of mother Emma, (Vera Farmiga), a scientist at Monarch who has developed a machine that simulates the sounds of the various titans. She believes this can be used to help manage them. Emma’s daughter Madison (“Stranger Things’” Millie Bobby Brown in her first major film role) is precociously enchanted by her mother’s work and admires the primordial creatures.

Madison’s father Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler, whose intensity is at level 10 for most of the movie) has left after the San Francisco incident, but is drawn back in when Emma and Madison (and the Orca) are kidnapped by some militant eco-terrorists led by Jonah Alan (Charles Dance).

This group wants to use the titans, of which there are now “17 and counting” including a pretty dazzling Mothra and a less-enchanting three-headed “Monster Zero,” to help reset the planet and reverse climate change and overpopulation. There’s some convenient explanation of why the radiation from the titans actually helps revitalize vegetation, which, like many of the silly plot devices in this movie, you kind of just let slide.

Director Michael Dougherty has done a fine job capturing the grandness of the titans, keeping the action coherent and balancing the human element thanks to the cast, which includes O’Shea Jackson Jr. and Thomas Middleditch. The script is also pleasingly light and funny, although Bradley Whitford’s Dr. Stanton goes a little overboard trying to be the comic relief.

“GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS”

** 1/2

(PG-13, 2:11)

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