Godzilla is back, but he’s never really been away, having starred in 32 Japanese Toho productions over the last 60 odd years and two Hollywood iterations.

The latest entry in Legendary Pictures’ expanding Monsterverse, Godzilla II: King of the Monsters is a direct sequel to Gareth Edwards’ accomplished 2014 reboot, with Kong: Skull Island the connective tissue that teased the return of three of the radioactive lizard’s iconic adversaries.      

After decades of watching guys in rubber suits stomping on miniature sets, fans of the Toho films will be champing at the bit to get an eyeful of Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah with glorious CGI makeovers. And while it is worth the wait, there’s a lot of exposition and dysfunctional family issues to wade through before they meet Godzilla.

Moreover, the films of the ’50s and ’60s were a reaction to atomic testing; today it’s environmental issues, and King of the Monsters provides some laughable guff concerning the monsters’ true purpose. But the plot is incidental – as Ken Watanabe remarked in the 2014 film: “Let them fight!”

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Monarch, the secret agency formed to hunt and study Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms (MUTOs), is held accountable for the destruction Godzilla wreaked in San Francisco. So what’s their next move? Awakening more monsters, of course, starting with Mothra, who appears before Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) and her daughter Madison (played by Millie Bobby Brown in a largely redundant role). As to why you’d want your kid in the vicinity of an enraged giant caterpillar is anyone’s guess…

When the three-headed dragon-like King Ghidorah is revived n Antarctica by an eco-terrorist (Charles Dance), and Rodan flies out of a volcano in Mexico, it’s time to call in the big guy. You see, whenever these ‘titans’ pop up, Godzilla rises to restore the balance.

When the royal rumble finally gets underway it doesn’t disappoint – Godzilla II: King of the Monsters is loyal to the Toho films, evoking the chaotic and episodic structure of Destroy All Monsters (1968). This is the modern Godzilla movie fans have always wanted to see, although some exceedingly murky cinematography does make it a struggle at times.

Next bout: Godzilla vs. Kong (due March 2020). Long live the king!

In cinemas: May 30, 2019
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Kyle Chandler
Directed by: Michael Dougherty

Interview with director Michael Dougherty