Sixty-five years after the big guy stomped onto the silver screen, Godzilla is still at it in 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters. A followup to Gareth Edward’s 2014 film, this monsterverse movie pits Godzilla against a couple of his greatest foes in a battle for earth.
The 2 hour, 12 minute movie further expands the monsterverse from 2017’s Kong: Skull Island. It also sets the state for the maaaaain event we’ve all been waiting for when ‘Zilla and Kong throw down.
Trick ‘r Treat and Krampus director Michael Dougherty directs this movie with a mostly new cast. Ken Watanabe reprises his role from Godzilla as Dr. Serizawa. So you know what that means…
“Let Them Fight“
The synopsis for King of the Monsters kicks off with the fallout from the first movie. Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) and his ex-wife Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farminga) are at odds over Kaiju, or Titans as they’re called here. Mark sees the destruction Godzilla has wrought while Emma has a scientific fascination and even an attachment to them. She also believes the Titans have a role to play for the planet. Stuck in the middle of the domestic conflict is Mark and Emma’s daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown).
Meanwhile the government is debating the threat of Titans and whether they should be eradicated.
When Emma and Madison visit a Monarch site to see the Mothra be born everything starts to hit the fan. An eco-terrorist group led by Alan Jonah (Charles Dance) storms in and takes Emma and Madison, as well as a device Emma uses to communicate with Titans called the Orca. The terrorists then travel the globe and unleash other Titans including Rodan and King Ghidorah.
The reason Jonah and his group want to unleash the Titans is after past Titan events, such as the one in San Francisco in Godzilla, nature seems to thrive and restore Mother Earth. How nice!
Who’s the Big Bad?
It doesn’t take long before King Ghidorah establishes himself as the head of the ‘bad’ Kaiju. Which head is actually in charge is up for debate, but it’s probably the one in the middle. Ghidorah is a three-headed hydra bent on terraforming the earth.
The whole idea of the restorative power of the Kaiju is kind of out the window though. Emma eventually realizes, while the earth may belong to the Titans, Ghidorah doesn’t belong to earth. That would be a problem. Ghidora’s path of destruction seems unstoppable, especially with Rodan and a few new Titans at his, or their side.
The Titans line up pretty similarly to how they did in Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, the first appearance of the alien invader. Ghidorah and Rodan land on one side against Godzilla and Mothra.
Of the monsters making their first monsterverse appearance, King Ghidorah is easily the most impressive. He is an intimidating presence, even when standing next to Godzilla.
The shot that burns in my memory from this whole film is when Ghidorah perches himself atop the volcano on Isla de Mara, the site where he unleashes Rodan. With a cross from a church in the nearby town is in the foreground with the backdrop of a fiery orange sky and Ghidora, wings spread atop the volcano — *chef’s kiss*. It’s beautiful and terrifying.
The King of the Monsters cast add some contextual elements to the who and why of the conflict but very little else.
The most onscreen tension among the main human characters is based around the family dynamics of the Russells coming to a head and the rejuvenation of a wounded Godzilla.
It is revealed Emma isn’t as much of a hostage as she appears to be. She, Mark and the Monarch team — which includes Bradley Whitford, Ziyi Zhang, Thomas Middleditch and Ken Watanabe — discuss the stakes at hand with Emma making it clear she is willing to sacrifice a large portion of mankind for the earth’s rebirth.
As for that piece about Godzilla, after a fierce battle with Ghidora in Antarctica, Godzilla retreats to an underground lair to restore his strength with the earth’s natural radiation. This could take years, even decades. There’s no time for that with Ghidorah on the loose.
So we give our favorite scientist and Godzilla’s No. 1 fan, Dr. Serizawa, the most emotional scene in film history. Not a dry eye left in the house.
‘Long live the king’
Finally, after a couple undercard fights we get to see all of the film’s monsters wage all out war against each other. This alone is worth the price of admission.
The stage: Boston. The stakes: the whole damn world.
If you liked the brief use of Godzilla’s atomic breath in the first film you’re in for a treat. Godzilla doesn’t hold back on showcasing his powers. From blue energy trickling up ‘Zilla’s spinal plates to beams of atomic breath shooting up to the sky, the King of Monsters brings all of his tricks to the table.
The battle itself felt as massive as you could imagine. Goodbye Fenway Park. Heck, goodbye most of Kenmore Square.
Even though Godzilla’s name is on the movie it did a good job of making him feel threatened and vulnerable. Ghidorah is just that powerful and it takes Godzilla almost going nuclear to stop him.
Mothra has her share of highlights in the third act too. And it’s a good thing because she needed a little more screen time. Especially considering she was established as the Titan Emma and Madison were most attached to.
When the dust settles, only one monster can stand above all and that, of course, is Godzilla. But there were enough threads left to carry on the story in regards to Mothra, Ghidorah and maybe another Godzilla foe.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters was as advertised. It had a larger-than-life battle royale between two of the most fearsome Toho monsters. It expanded the monsterverse greatly, setting the climate of a world where man lives under the protection and threat of monsters.
The human characters were weak overall. Millie Bobby Brown was a big selling point leading up to the film but didn’t add anything aside from a role in the climax. Bradley Whitford did more with less. And this will always be Ken Watanabe’s franchise in my book.
Less would have been more in this movie. The human element was necessary to continue growing the shared universe with Kong, but it was also the slowest part of the movie. Unfortunately it’s unrealistic to expect 2 hours of monster fights.
I can’t put into words how much I love the monster design of Godzilla in these films. There will always be a place in my mind for the silly costume of the old Godzilla movies but this Godzilla is the most powerful and intimidating Kaiju I have seen.
Now let’s bring Kong to town!
Overall score 2.5/5
The Shameless Plugs
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