Godzilla: King of the Monsters was among the most anticipated films of summer 2019, which made its disappointing reception a little surprising. The Legendary sequel's box-office performance has been attributed to multiple factors, but now a new one has emerged: effectively, giant-monster fatigue.
Yes, an analysis on Forbes.com suggests that audiences may have already "feasted on a deluge of crowd-pleasing monster movies," including The Meg, Rampage, Pacific Rim: Uprising and Kong: Skull Island, and that King of the Monsters was "outclassed by recent kajiu-type movies from its own studio." Let's take apart this hypothesis, and look at the other reasons for the movie's less than monstrous box office numbers.
Reign of the Monsters
The notion of "monster fatigue" is ludicrous, considering the relative lack of kaiju films released in the West. In fact, the Godzilla franchise is, and has been, Western audiences' primary exposure to the genre. To bolster the argument, the Forbes article includes not only actual movies in the genre, such as the two Pacific Rim movies and Kong: Skull Island, but also The Meg, Rampage and Jurassic World. Although Rampage's inclusion makes some sense, given that its video-game inspiration was based on kaiju films, The Meg and Jurassic World are debatable.
These films are more "man vs. nature" than giant monster, even when taking into account the size of their prehistoric animals. Although that distinction seems moot to some, the size and scale of the creatures creates a far different relationship between them and the humans that populate the films. It would be like lumping in the Godzilla franchise with horror, even though the connection would be tangential at best. Conversely, even counting those films, that's simply eight in these supposedly over-saturated genre in a six year time span. Meanwhile, there have been more than 30 superhero movies released since 2008, and yet the much-discussed "superhero fatigue" has yet to set in. Fatigue for such a comparatively niche genre in a short period is a flimsy argument on the best of days, let alone when it has to be stretched to include such vaguely related entries.
Also, neither Pacific Rim movie did particularly well at the box office, so was there "monster fatigue" then, too? There were even fewer features in the genre then than now. Meanwhile, Godzilla 2014 and Kong: Skull Island, both of which came out after the first Pacific Rim, performed better critically and commercially. Is the fatigue selective, or is it simply non-existent?
Clown of the Monsters
The more accurate, and far less disingenuous, explanation for King of the Monsters' performance was its lousy execution. Although its predecessor, 2014's Godzilla, was rightfully criticized for featuring too little in the way of monster mayhem, the sequel sadly went to the opposite extreme. The monsters bring the action, but at the expense of anything resembling a coherent story with proper development. Also lacking were the horribly written human characters, who range from the idiotic villains to one of the worst moms in blockbuster history.
Characters exist to make annoyingly cheeky one-liners, and not much else. Zhang Ziyi and Ken Watanabe are in the movie to either die or else provide commentary that serves little more as Easter eggs for longtime fans of Godzilla. All in all, King of the Monsters gives no reason to care about the characters or the world they inhabit, resulting in a movie that would only ever satisfy the most easy-to-please fans who came for mindless monster battles.
Godzilla Raids Too Late
One point the article raises that has some credence is the fault in releasing the movie this summer. Dropping King of the Monsters so soon after Avengers: Endgame was a bad business decision, but an even bigger mistake was waiting until 2019 at all.
Even without Endgame, summer 2019 was crowded with hits, many of them also made by Disney. King of the Monsters wouldn't have had much breathing room under optimal conditions, but that's also forgetting that its predecessor was release five years ago. Although 2017's Kong: Skull Island was set in the same continuity, that connection wasn't used to promote King of the Monsters. If King of the Monsters had been released in, say, 2018, it may have stood a better chance of capitalizing on public interest. As is, it came far too late, and delivered nothing worth waiting for.
Time will tell if this supposed "monster fatigue" will also affect the upcoming Godzilla vs Kong, and whether pitting the two most popular monsters against each other can drum up the interest that King of the Monsters couldn't.