Back in 2014 when Godzilla came out, I had a blast with the film, though one of the major complaints seemed to have been that there were 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, and for those critics, this movie wasn’t made for them. This is a movie made for the kid in all of us that 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 five-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 understand 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 an appearance over the course of the film.
What’s also refreshing is 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.
What I would recommend, if you’re unfamiliar with Mothra, King Ghidorah, and Rodan, 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. Piggy-backing on this, I’m a little disappointed that 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.”
Godzilla King Of Monsters is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The ultra-high-definition 2160p image is arrived at by an HEVC codec with a relatively constant bit rate of 60mbps. Few films released on 4K to this point make the kind of use of the upconverted 4K image and HDR color and contrast advantages. Let’s be honest here. This film was not always presented to give you the clearest look at the action. Many of the monster scenes are driven in dark, rainy and extreme cold images that glow with the blue-tint that colder temperatures provide. Still, the film is carefully constructed so that very specific elements are quite vivid and sharp. It’s a cool idea, and the HDR truly delivers that intent like no other current format can. I absolutely loved those beautifully razor-sharp images among the vast video confusing. It might be Godzilla’s face or another creature’s tail or claws. This is an upconvert. While much of the movie was shot on film and is natively 4K, the CGI aspects were rendered at 2K, and the entire film was then mastered at 2K. It’s a disturbing trend of the digital filming world. Filmmaking honestly hasn’t caught up with the home video abilities to date. Black levels are not always deep, inky, or full of shadow detail. You have to accept a ton of stylish choices here, but this is the only way you will experience the full intent of those choices. Colors aren’t really very vivid or bright. Film choices fill the screen with heavily tinted backgrounds of blue or orange, and that’s produced rather fully here. There’s a particular scene where King Ghidorah takes Godzilla high into the air, and there’s this moment just before freefall in the reddish clouds that looks like a painting, and it’s a striking image.
The Atmos track defaults to a solid 7.1 mix. The first thing I noticed is that the surrounds were not nearly as aggressive as I expected. There certainly is plenty of room for that to be the case, but the audio presentation is much more intimate than I expected. Obviously, this is another stylish choice, and I’m still not completely sure if I like it. The subs work incredible magic here and bring great weight to these giant creatures. Godzilla’s iconic roar fills the room, and you can feel it as much as hear it. The score is often frantic as is the action, but dialog cuts through at all times. Where the film lacks in aggressive surrounds it makes up for by the use of some rather clever panning both in the stereo channels and the rears. It’s the mids that don’t really come alive very much. Never fear. You will get caught up in these huge battles.
(Audio Commentary with Director Michael Dougherty, Executive Producer Zach Shields, and Actor O’Shea Jackson Jr.) Considering there are three people, it’s a little surprising how many extended pauses there are on the track, but there is a lot of fun information here. My favorite little Easter egg of sorts is hearing the cabin that Kyle Chandler uses in the film is the same one Tony Stark calls home in Endgame. There is a lot of Godzilla history thrown around here and many behind the scenes tidbits. If you’re a fan and want to know all there is to know about the film, this is a track worth listening to.
The extras are all on the Blu-ray copy of the film.
Monsters 101: (5:43) This is broken up into four segments that you can watch individually or hit the Play All button. This gives a brief description of the four key monsters in the film along with some cast and crew reactions on the characters.
Evolution of the Titans: (27:24) This is a bit of an extension of the previous feature, which also comes with the option of hitting Play All. This is more focused on the history of the monsters and how they evolved for the film. We get some BTS footage involving motion capture as well as sketches of how the monsters evolved to where they ended up on screen.
Monarch in Action: (32:56) Another feature where you can hit the Play All button or choose which segment you want. This covers the main locations where Monarch has a facility as well as where we see where these monsters call home. This is filled with BTS footage as well as pre-visual designs and sketches.
Millie Bobby Brown: Force of Nature: (4:07) The director discusses why he chose Brown for the role. It also has some interview footage with her on set.
Monster Tech: Monarch Joins the Fight: (8:34) A look into the technology Monarch has developed over the years to learn about the MUTOs as well as defend against them.
Monsters Are Real: (14:18) This is my favorite segment. It’s a brief documentary about mans obsessions with stories about monsters over time. Gets into cave drawings, the Bible and even “real” monsters we’ve discovered in modern times.
Welcome to the Monsterverse: (3:42) An extended trailer of sorts covering the films and how they intertwine together leading up to next year’s Godzilla vs King Kong.
Deleted Scenes: (5:01)
The first clip basically is filled with flashbacks the Kyle Chandler character has while he’s recovering from the attack in Antarctica. The second scene delves more into the conflict between the mother and daughter about them possibly taking sides with the bad guys.
I’m a bit surprised this film didn’t demolish at the box office, but hopefully this film will find an audience on Blu-ray and through streaming. For those who complained about there being not enough story, well, it’s a giant monster movie. This isn’t something trying to win awards; it’s about entertaining those in front of a big screen. I continue to have a blast with this film, though there really is something different when you are not watching it on large theatrical screen. I understand why Legendary is a bit nervous about the Godzilla vs King Kong film, though for me that is the movie of 2020 and makes me feel like a little kid.
Parts of this review were written by Gino Sassani