Back in 2014 when Godzilla came out, I had a blast with the film, though one of the major complaints people had seemed to have been that there was not enough fights or not enough of Godzilla. Personally I didn’t see how this could be a complaint to take too seriously; after all, if you watch some of the older films, we’d only get maybe 15 minutes of screen time, but thankfully this wasn’t always the case. Now with the release of Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the human story is a bit of an afterthought, and it’s the titans that carry this blockbuster bonanza. Is this a good thing? You bet it is, though I’m sure there are plenty of stuffy critics who will complain about there being too many monster fights; for those critics, this movie wasn’t made for them. This is a movie made for the kid in all of us who wanted to believe in the possibility that giant monsters could exist, and seeing these hulking giants duke it out while destroying cities in the process just made us smile.
Right from the get-go we get to see Godzilla in action, though it’s back in 2014, and Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) is trying to find his son during the chaos of the final fight from the previous film. Then we get a 5-year time jump where we meet up with Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) and her mom, Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga), who are living in a Monarch facility in China. Emma and Mark are clearly having difficulty handling the loss of their son, and Madison is simply doing what she can to maintain a happy balance between the two. But the film doesn’t waste much time with this, as we are immediately introduced to the ORCA device, an invention Emma and Mark created that was originally meant to communicate with whales, but Emma has figured out a way to use it to communicate with the MUTO’s of the world (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms). And it’s early on where we get to meet one of these new organisms, and it’s none other than Mothra. But just as we’re enjoying getting to see this new incarnation of Mothra, a group of environmental terrorists led by Jonah Allen (Charles Dance) come into the Monarch facility and kidnap Madison and Emma along with the ORCA device. Yeah, basically this film is not messing around when it comes to story as it keeps things at a nice fast pace so we can get to the monster action.
The film takes some typical story tropes to get Mark involved in the pursuit of his family and the ORCA device, and that’s fine. This isn’t the movie where I’m here for intense plot turns and character arcs, and this movie very much gets that and embraces its freedom to just throw crazy fun action sequences at us. When we meet “Monster Zero”, it’s a beautiful moment. You’ve seen the trailers where you see a certain big bad frozen in ice…it’s one of the moments in this film where I was struck by the imagery. It’s a great little moment where you can tell the director and the creative team behind the film understands what these moments mean to the fans. And then we are given the first fight between these creatures that takes place in the unforgiving terrain of the Antarctic. It’s vicious and mean, but most importantly, it’s there to keep whetting our appetites, because there is so much more film to go and monsters to meet.
When it comes to the how and the why all these monsters seem to be making their appearance at once, it’s a bit of a stretch, but at the same time we’re watching a movie with giant moths and three-headed dragons. I appreciate where they were attempting to go with rationalizing bringing these monsters together, but it’s an idea you can see is more impulsive and once it’s brought up it isn’t really explored much at all over the course of the film.
If you’re still doubting and not sure if this is the kaiju fest for you and you think it’s all been given away in the trailers, there is so much they have managed to keep from you. Sure, going into this you know Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah are going to rumble, but there are others that make appearances over the course of the film.
What’s also refreshing is that we get some unique backgrounds that are explored with these monsters. For those who have seen all the films, you know certain monsters have played both good and bad guys over the course of the films. The route they chose to go here is a fun one, and I feel sets up this kaiju universe for numerous films if they decide to go further with this. Just as Skull Island introduced us to a vast hidden world, we get a glimpse of another world here that simply had me so excited, and I wished so badly we got to spend more time there; it’s such a wonderful tease that I hope at some point in another film we’ll get to find out more or see even more curious worlds that seem to be hidden on our planet.
What’s worth the price of admission alone is seeing Godzilla and King Ghidorah throw down on the big screen. Sure, they were fun to watch when it was a man in a suit, but the CGI effects for these two are simply amazing. They are two menacing foes, and when they are on the screen it is a spectacle as it should be. I don’t want to give much away; it’s sad that the trailers revealed as much as they have already, but when these two go head to head, it’s the kind of thing most kaiju geeks have been waiting to see for years, if not decades.
The cast for this film is impressive, just as it has been in the 2014 Godzilla as well as the 2017 Kong: Skull Island. Aside from the names I’ve mentioned you have Ken Watanabe returning, Bradley Whitford (who seems to be playing real life version of Rick from Rick and Morty or am I just being crazy?), and Sally Hawkins (Shape of Water), and they are all supporting these notorious giant monsters.
I would recommend, if you’re unfamiliar with Mothra, King Ghidorah, and Rodan that it would help watching a couple of the movies if you get a chance before seeing this release. I wouldn’t say its required viewing, but it will certainly elevate the viewing experience. Personally I’d recommend the 2001’s Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, but really that’s just my opinion, and I feel just about all of the Godzilla films are worth watching.
One thing that bummed me about my experience seeing this seemed to be the lack of enthusiasm in the crowd during moments I felt there should have been cheering. Personally moments like when we first hear Godzilla’s theme or Mothra’s theme, these are scores that have me excited to get the soundtrack. One thing that was missing here are the twins who were basically Mothra’s voice. Sure, it seems cheesy, but they are such a crucial part of who the creature is that I was sad not to see them. Piggybacking on this, I’m a little disappointed they also drifted from the idea of Mothra being the planet’s protector, and instead this seems to weigh more on Godzilla’s shoulders. Maybe it’s because I have a soft spot for Mothra, but it kind of sucks seeing Mothra get her thunder stolen. But who knows what can happen if the franchise continues?
This is what a summer blockbuster is supposed to be, and this is a film that deserves to be seen on the biggest screen you can find. I love this film and had a blast with it. Will it be nominated for best picture? Not likely, but this is the kind of movie as a kid I would have begged to see at the theater again and again. They’ve already finished filming Godzilla vs. Kong which is coming out in March of next year, and my excitement level is already raised to about a 10 for that one. Stay after the credits for this one, because there is a fun little stinger which has me wondering just what may be in store for the future of this franchise.
“Long live the king.”