There are reports that director Michael Dougherty’s sequel to Gareth Edwards’ 2014 reboot had a budget of $200 million dollars. That’s not normally the sort of thing you would mention in a review, but when you see a film that is almost entirely driven by spectacle and you keep marveling at how slapdash and/or unreal everything looks and sounds, you do start to wonder where all the money went. (I hope a fair chunk went to the cast, which includes Vera Farmiga, Sally Hawkins, Kyle Chandler, and Ken Watanabe — each slumming in his or her own way — because otherwise, this is just an embarrassing glitch in the old filmography for the lot of them.) That unreality extends to the action: gravity still exists in the Monsterverse, but other physical and natural laws would just get in the way of the show. And it is a Monsterverse, with all the earmarks of an attempted franchise a la Universal’s Dark Universe. Talking of which, it shares this problem with that doomed attempt to make episodic heroes out of monsters: why should folks care about them, again? I mean, yes, they look cool, it’s nice when they save our skins (viz. Godzilla, Kong: Skull Island), but that doesn’t quite make us invested in them as characters. They’re not even problems to be solved, just gargantuan forces to be accepted, like the weather. Or maybe our new masters; here to somehow help us restore balance to the planet. It’s hard to say. Anyway, the lesson here is that humanity sucks, but family is still super important. And the payoff is about five minutes of kaiju combat that doesn’t come close to justifying the other 127. (2019) — Matthew Lickona
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