One of the various ways that “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” director Michael Dougherty establishes his bona fides as a card-carrying creature-feature geek is with his soundtrack picks. Not only does Dougherty strategically employ snippets of the original Japanese “Gojira” theme, he also sets the movie’s credit sequence to a cover of Blue Oyster Cult’s hard-rocking ’70s novelty “Godzilla.” If only the BOC refrain of “Oh, no, there goes Tokyo!” could have been updated to include a Boston shout-out.
Apologies for the spoiler, but you heard right: Among the film’s great, kidult-enabling highlights are scenes of the Hub — and Fenway in particular — hosting a spectacularly destructive multi-behemoth showdown. (And here we thought downhill skating was a nutty sight at the ballpark.) It’s one more viscerally charged thrill in an already stacked beastie-palooza, as Godzilla’s current Hollywood handlers work to outdo their 2014 franchise launch by populating the sequel with classic sparring partners: Mothra, Rodan, and hydra-headed King Ghidorah.
Diehards will recognize elements of the quaint 1968 Toho studios import “Destroy All Monsters” underneath the digitized flash. Cynics, meanwhile, will rightly peg this as another imitator of Marvel’s cross-pollination template, especially in its recurring teases for “Godzilla vs. Kong,” coming next March.
Whichever, the seat-rattling, super-size mayhem in this latest “Godzilla” is fantastic — emphasis on “fan.” Regrettably, though, the human-scale action featuring Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, and Millie Bobby Brown (“Stranger Things”) borders on inane. And to those who shrug that they wouldn’t have expected otherwise, we say: You should have.
The franchise’s first installment got strong dramatic contributions from such supporting players as Bryan Cranston, even if it couldn’t sustain that tone throughout. Here, fallout from that story tangles Chandler and Farmiga’s estranged zoologist couple and their daughter (Brown) in a mad eco-terrorist plot to revive dormant titans around the globe, a development that’s simultaneously overthought and undercooked.
We get it — the filmmakers are looking to legitimize their high-concept monster mash with weighty character motivation. But not only does the scheme feel awkwardly cribbed from the ecological-reboot threat just chronicled in “Avengers” — couldn’t they have come up with a simpler, less contrived story trigger? — the thinly scripted mastermind barely evinces a screw loose.
By the way, who’s supposed to be baby-sitting Brown’s spunky kid-tagonist while she’s pilfering classified gadgets and playing creature whisperer? The ludicrous ’tween escape artists of “Jurassic Park” and “Jurassic World” have never been half this resourceful. It’s disappointing that Brown gets such distractingly silly material to play, given our eagerness to see her branch out from her terrific work on Netflix.
You’ll just have to look to your own effects-jazzed inner child to find a kid who’s relatable here. Fingers crossed that “Godzilla vs. Kong” finds a way to deliver dramatic impact equal to its nostalgic punch.
GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS
Directed by Michael Dougherty. Written by Max Borenstein, Dougherty, and Zach Shields. Starring Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Ken Watanabe. Boston theaters, suburbs, Jordan’s IMAX Reading and Natick. 131 minutes. PG-13 (sequences of monster action violence and destruction, some language).
Tom Russo can be reached email@example.com.