Godzilla: King of the Monsters ranked very high on our list of most anticipated movies of 2019. I was actually a fan of 2014’s Godzilla entry despite wishing there’d be more Godzilla in it. Also worth mentioning, I was not a fan of 2017’s Kong: Skull Island, a film set within the same MonsterVerse that Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros have established. This film brought back a series of classic monsters to the fold and also boasts an impressive cast-and that’s on top of the visually stunning trailers that wowed fans at SDCC in 2018. So how does this monster film stack up and should you venture out to see it?
[Image Credit: Warner Bros.]
The short answer is a resounding yes if you’re a fan of the disaster and monster film genres. After a brief introduction, the film opens up five years after the events of Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Godzilla film. Kyle Chandler stars as Dr. Mark Russell, an expert in his field who works in animal communications and behaviour who is brought into action by Monarch to search for his missing wife, Emma (Vera Farmiga) and daughter (Mille Bobby Brown), who were abducted by a mysterious organization in order to make use of Emma’s technological breakthrough. See, there are more monsters out there on the planet and Emma has been using different frequencies and pitches to try and bring the Titans in line. Of course, in the wrong hands, this device could make the last movie’s cataclysmic showdown look like play time.
Being a movie about giant monsters, things naturally go from bad to worse. Unlike the last film though, which introduced us to new monsters called MUTOS, this film brings it back to the classic Toho monsters. Aside from Godzilla, King of the Monsters features Mothra, Rodan and, more importantly, King Ghidorah as the primary antagonist of the film. This fearsome, three-headed dragon is no pushover either and makes his mark on the plot of the movie pretty early on. From there, the action just doesn’t let go as things get more and more epic as events continue to transpire. That’s one of the strengths of this film. With credits, the movie clocks in at around two hours and fifteen minutes, yet I wanted more. It felt shorter and that’s a testament to the pacing of the film and how crazy entertaining this carnage was. If you’re not a fan of giant monsters duking it out and levelling cities, this won’t win you over or anything, but this movie isn’t made to try and win over new fans. This is for those who grew up on the old black and white Godzilla films from Japan, who relished in seeing these skyscraper-sized behemoths fight it out in a climactic duel.
[Credit: Warner Bros.]
While the monsters are excellent, the human story is mainly lacking. Chandler is solid as Mark, a man who questions why there are programs trying to preserve the life of some of the Titans despite their destructive capabilities. According to his logic, the world was fine before monsters were a thing and they’ll be fine again once they’re removed. He may have a point. Fairing less well is Vera Farmiga. She does a good job acting the part she’s given but her character motivations and logic do seem to be laughably ridiculous at best. Mille Bobby Brown and Ken Watanabe round up the cast as Madison, Mark and Emma’s daughter, and Dr. Serizawa respectively. Watanabe is there once again to largely serve as exposition while Bobby Brown does the best with what little she’s given. That’s probably the biggest flaw of this film. The characters do just enough to not be cardboard cutouts but they’re largely uninteresting and don’t have all that much to do. Most of the plot centers around the Titans and much of the dialogue focuses on that, so when it comes time for smaller character beats, they’re so few and far between it’s hard to care.
[Credit: Warner Bros.]
What is front and center is some of the shots in this film. Oh boy, will this make fans of the monsters happy. Hero moments, villainous epic shots. It’ll be enough to bring the eight-year-old in you giddy with joy. The reveal of Godzilla in this film was incredibly well done, with good use of lighting and tension. Also interestingly, there were a lot of shots of the fights from the perspective of the people on the ground. This is an interesting take; instead of the wide shots, we get shakier shots looking all the way up. I’m not sure how effective this will be on home video, but in IMAX, the format you should see this in for the sound alone, it is quite effective. However, it does mean some of the fights are harder to see. Also worth mentioning is that I felt there was no supremely epic moment like Godzilla spewing atomic breath down the MUTOs throat from the last film. Plenty of epic Ghidorah moments though.Overall, this movie is pretty simple: monsters awake, Godzilla must fight them. While this is going on, there are humans out there either trying to help him or carry out their own nefarious agenda. I’d say this flick knows exactly what it wants to be and that’s a great, big old entertaining monster film with plenty of epic and ridiculous action. Does it make a lot of sense? Not really. Character motivations can be pretty dumb and it can be hard to root for some of the characters when you know so little about them. Is it fun? You bet your ass it is. King of the Monsters is the best film in the Monsterverse thus far but this franchise has the capability to become even better. Oh, and be sure to stick around after the credits for a tease for what’s to come. Before you head off, why not check out our thoughts on the Tarantino cinematic universe and our first entry in films that were hated by critics yet loved by fans.