REVIEW: “Godzilla: King of the Monsters”

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In 2014 director Gareth Edwards brought Godzilla back to the big screen. His monster reboot was the 30th film in the near 70-year-old Godzilla franchise and the first film in Warner Brothers’ interconnected MonsterVerse. I loved the movie and its slow-burning, old-school, creature-feature vibe.

Relatively new director Michael Dougherty (“Krampus”) takes the reins of the sequel “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” and delivers a movie quite different from its predecessor. The slow-burn is gone and the large-scaled Kaiju action is front and center. And where the Edwards’ film could also be sold as a stand-alone movie, this one feels very much a part of something bigger and broader.

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I wouldn’t call this a spoiler but the last film ended with Godzilla sinking back into the ocean after leveling San Francisco in a fight with an earth-threatening monster. Jump ahead five years. Paleobiologists Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) and his wife Emma (Vera Farmiga) lost their young son during the destruction of San Francisco. They have since divorced under the stress of loss leaving their 12-year-old daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) caught in the middle.

While Mark has been off the radar Emma has been working with the super-secret shadow organization called Monarch. They’ve been monitoring not just the movements of Godzilla but the locations of numerous other monsters (called Titans) scattered across the globe in various forms of hibernation. Even more, Emma has constructed a device called ORCA that emits a sonar pulse which can either calm or rile the Titans. This catches the attention of a devious eco-terrorist group, Mark is drawn into the chaos, and a lot of big monsters rise up.

The human dynamic is interesting in a variety of ways. The Russell family drama is easily the most intimate, but it’s the broader human story that’s most compelling. As Dougherty himself describes it to Entertainment Weekly, “The world is reacting to Godzilla in the same way we would react to any other terrifying incident, in that we are overreacting.” We see mankind responding to the monsters impulsively – out of fear and uncertainty. And the question becomes how far can humanity’s intelligence and ingenuity take them in the face of such mighty threats?

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All of this is explored through a fine ensemble – Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, Bradley Whitford, David Strathairn, Zhang Ziyi, among others. They all fall in nicely with a script that hearkens back (in a measured way) to the classic Toho Studio films. We get countless reaction shots, stunned utterances, and quick quips. Some may not like what they’re going for, but I got a kick out of it. And I appreciate how the film steers clear of drawn out exposition and loads of scientific mumbo-jumbo.

A handful of characters do get pushed to the side but that’s okay because they do exactly what they need to do – service the story and keep it moving towards what we really are there to see – the monsters! And the Titans really are the showcases. In addition to Godzilla we get classic Toho creations Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah. The creature designs are stunning and their epic-scaled clashes are breathtaking spectacles. The special effects, Lawrence Sher’s crafty cinematography, and top-notch sound design makes for some truly satisfying and immersive Kaiju mayhem.

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I can already hear the pushback from those wanting more human drama in a movie about massive earth-moving monsters. I actually like the way they unpack the human story amid a breathless array of action. And I appreciate how they add layers of intriguing mythology without drowning us in babble. And I can also hear those wanting more of Godzilla on the screen. There are indeed huge segments where we don’t see him. But I was fine with it because his presence never leaves our mind. While things were playing out in front of me, I kept thinking “but Godzilla”.

So it makes sense to me that many have dismissed “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” the way they have. But at the same time it saddens me. Michael Dougherty has delivered a Godzilla movie that is unquestionably action-heavy, probably too much for those with no affection for the classic creature-features. But while the film is tipping its hat to its roots, it’s also subtly holding a mirror to modern society. I feel many have missed that element which is unfortunate. But when that human detail is combined with some of the best big monster action ever put on screen, all I can say is ‘Long Live the King’.

VERDICT – 4.5 STARS

4-5-stars

27 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Godzilla: King of the Monsters”

    • It’s a ton of fun. Unfortunately it didn’t get the best reception (which I obviously disagree with), but hopefully it’ll do good enough to keep the series going.

  1. YEY I am glad you iked it! I have my review almost finished and I very much enjoyed it too, I’m shocked it’s not doing better when it’s so much more entertaining than Dark Phoenix and MiB. It looks great, it’s entertaining and I laughed a bunch of times, it was just good time at the movies all around

    • Can’t wait to read your take on it. I’m with you, the mediocre reception has really surprised me. It was a great time at the theater and exactly what I like about big summer movies. I also love how it doesn’t shy away from its roots.

  2. I was really surprised that this movie was given such a rough ride really . For me it was amazing epic monster bash . The human element was there enough to connect all the dots and the fight scenes were off the wall good. The kid in me that relished seeing all theses iconic giants brought to life and although there was much going on, I never thought it lost its narrative nor the human element .

    Plus I liked the fact that didn’t over use Godzilla it made his appearance more epic .After re-watching the first one before seeing this one , I also have come to enjoy that one even more .I always liked it but have rethought a few of my concerns with it after recent viewings .

    I was a a bit disappointed in hows this one has been received . Perhaps it was too long after last one but since they are knee deep in Godzilla vs Kong , we are assured of at least one more . Solid 9 out of 10 from me and one hearty roar for the king of monsters .

    • YES! You absolutely nail it. I’m really wondering what people’s expectations were for this. I found there to be more story depth and satisfying mythology building than I ever expected. And then the monster action. The film packs some truly epic sequences that my son and I absolutely loved. I can’t wait to see it again.

  3. Hate to be a naysayer, but I could not stand this movie. For me, the problem was a huge technical one, I couldn’t see it. It was all too dark and creatures were far too obscured. I just couldn’t make heads or tails of what was on the screen. You say the creature designs are stunning, but I simply couldn’t tell. This made it way too frustrating for me to enjoy. My full review should be up tomorrow, but that’s the gist of it.

    • Oh bummer. Hate to hear that. If that were the case for me I would certainly feel the same way. For me it was often breathtaking. Thankfully the screen I saw it on was great which definitely provided a better visual experience.

    • The first movie really got this particular version off on the right foot. It was too slow for some but I thought the slow-boil was just right for that film. This movie is probably too action-packed for some. Me, I loved the big action and it felt in line with the story this one was telling. Hope to see it again before it leaves theaters.

  4. Love your positive take on a movie that’s just gotten SLAMMED. Ugh. Mind you I still haven’t seen it but you’ve reconfirmed that this will be a great time for me.

    • I am literally baffled by the bad press. I don’t know, maybe ‘dismissive’ is a better word. I found it to be an absolute blast, full of old-school (and nostalgic) monster action. I think it dodges so many of the potholes that can often make a movie like this a real drag. For me it almost felt yanked out of a time capsule but with a stunning new coat of visual effects paint.

      Oh, and speaking of big movies that get hammered, I have a review coming up tomorrow for another big release that has gotten slammed worse than Godzilla. Hint – I disagree with the majority on that one too. 😉

  5. I was lukewarm on 2014’s Godzilla, but everyone I’ve talked to about King of the Monsters say this one straight up rocked! Admittedly, there are few movies I’m excited for post-Endgame (LOVED Endgame, but it’s a lot of movie and a lot of hype to come down from). This one, however, seems right up my alley.

    • I really enjoyed Godzilla (2014) but King of the Monsters is a much different movie. The monster action is simply fantastic and I would definitely recommend seeing it on the big screen. It was even more fun watching it with my son. Hope you get a chance to check it out.

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