Thunderously loud and overly long, this continuation in the Godzilla franchise does have some rousing monster fights, but it's marred by a muddled storyline and blah visuals. Which is a pity, because there are some interesting ideas at work in this particular kaiju outing. While most American Godzilla takes have flattened his story into a "big lizard arises, town goes squish" framework, King of the Monsters pulls in some of the nuance of the Japanese original, in which Godzilla's destructive force represented the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and nature gone terribly wild due to human intervention. As Emma explains in one of King's long, tedious expository scenes, our earth is soon to be uninhabitable -- but maybe, just maybe, the monsters waking up all over the world aren't meant to pound the last nail in our coffin, but instead to bring about the earth's rebirth.
It's a powerful idea for our times of climate change terror, but it doesn't land, because King ultimately is more interested in monster battles than the humans who are running away from them. Kaiju fans may get a few thrills from seeing retakes on old friends like Mothra and Rodan, but none of the monsters is pretty to look at, and they're so similar in design (save for Mothra, who occasionally unveils her shimmering wings to lovely effect) that it can be hard to tell exactly which monster is fighting which. And the human part of the plot makes it difficult to care about why. King is stuffed with absolutely top-notch actors, but they're not given much to do besides react to the battling giants. We're expected to understand that Emma has a master plan with her monster-speak McGuffin and to care about her relationship with Mark and her daughter, Madison (a wasted Millie Bobby Brown), but the emotional beats aren't there. It's just one thudding, confusing, numbing monster battle after another. And that big lug of a lizard deserves better.