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Review: ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ is as two-dimensional as a painting but just as gorgeous to look at

Jaw-dropping visuals and a stunning soundtrack make the atrocious writing worth overlooking

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Before the age of omnipresent streaming services, my dad and I would visit Blockbuster every week to rent a movie to watch with dinner. As soon as I stumbled upon the 1955 film “Godzilla Raids Again,” the second installment in the Godzilla franchise, I was hooked. One week was always far too long to wait for the next chance to watch a pair of titanic kaijū engage in a bout of god-sized fisticuffs.

You can imagine my excitement as a young adult to hear that Hollywood was rebooting the franchise with its 2014 “Godzilla.” (I refuse to acknowledge the existence of the 1998 version starring Matthew Broderick.) While Bryan Cranston was sinfully wasted as an actor, the film whetted my appetite for more of Legendary Entertainment’s MonsterVerse, and this year it comes in the form of the formulaic yet captivating “Godzilla: King of Monsters.”

One of the new film’s greatest successes is giving us a chance to explore the world of the Titans. If you’re able to persevere through a few hand-wavey sci-fi plot devices and a hearty dose of cringeworthy dialogue, you’ll enjoy seeing what director Michael Dougherty brings to the Godzilla universe. The world-building perhaps bites off slightly more than it can chew and feels shallow at points, but its ambition indicates a bright future for the MonsterVerse.

Longtime fans of the franchise like myself will be truly awe-struck by the latest appearances of time-honored kaijū such as Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah. While many aspects of the film fall short of the classics, modern technology can create sensory spectacles that would knock the socks off 20th-century moviemakers. As never before, Earth’s ancient Titans can be depicted as they deserve to be: like gods.

Indeed, the godlike imagery is anything but subtle. Whether it be the blatant visual iconography of a Titan roaring triumphantly over a crucifix or the shamelessly cheesy lines (“Oh my God … zilla”), the film’s allusions to the divine are quite heavy-handed. With that being said, I’m a Christian who thoroughly enjoyed seeing my redeemer depicted as a gargantuan reptile who eats atom bombs and shoots laser beams, and I’m confident you will too, no matter your religious status.

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The director’s mission to create a battle of beasts worthy of worship lent itself phenomenally to the art piece this movie surprisingly proved to be. After proudly enjoying this movie’s prequel along with both of Legendary’s “Pacific Rim” films, I was looking forward to another brainless kaijū bloodbath. This movie shocked me with just how tastefully the Titans were presented.

Let me be clear: my hailing this film as an art piece does not apply to its writing. The narrative is incoherent, the human villain is derivative (Charles Dance wasn’t given nearly enough screen time to salvage his bland character), the plot drivers are lazy, the dialogue is fresh from a soap opera, and apparently modern airplanes can travel from Antarctica to Mexico to Boston with the same ease it took me to Uber to the movie theater. There were far more unlikeable human characters than likable ones, and I found myself rooting against nearly all of them.

But do you really care? Are you buying this ticket to be told a compelling story, or do you just want to watch a handful of dinosaur-god beasts fight to the gruesome death?

If you find yourself in the former camp, I begrudgingly advise you to stay home. However, if you’re able to switch off that bit of your brain for a couple of hours like me, you may just find yourself swept away by some truly stunning filmmaking.

The movie consistently delivered shots that left my jaw hanging and sent chills down my spine, and Bear McCreary’s beautiful original score could not have suited it more seamlessly. I’d pay money to have nearly half the film’s shots framed and hung on the walls of my home.

I’ve heard it said that filmmakers should strive to make every frame a painting. In that respect, I’m honestly not sure I can think of a more successful movie than “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.”

Reach contributing writer Eric Moeller at Twitter: @EricMoeller8

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