Godzilla: King of the Monsters Review #2

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Rating:

8 / 10

Cast:

Kyle Chandler as Mark Russell
Vera Farmiga as Dr. Emma Russell
Millie Bobby Brown as Madison Russell
Ken Watanabe as Dr. Ishiro Serizawa
Ziyi Zhang as Dr. Ilene Chen and Dr. Ling
Bradley Whitford as Dr. Rick Stanton
Sally Hawkins as Dr. Vivienne Graham
Charles Dance as Jonah Alan
Thomas Middleditch as Sam Coleman
Aisha Hinds as Colonel Diane Foster
O’Shea Jackson Jr. as Chief Warrant Officer Barnes
David Strathairn as Admiral William Stenz
Anthony Ramos as Staff Sergeant Martinez
Elizabeth Ludlow as First Lieutenant Griffin
Jonathan Howard as Asher Jonah

Directed by Michael Dougherty

Summary:
As Godzilla and the MUTO destroyed San Francisco in 2014, the Russell family stood by utterly helpless as their young son was killed in the battle. Five years later, each family member has dealt with their grief in a different way. Mark Russell withdrew from his family and retreated into his work as an animal behaviorist. However, Dr. Emma Russell joined Monarch and used her research to try and find a way to control the giant monsters, or Titans. Her surviving daughter, Madison, joins her in her research yet finds herself torn between her now divorced parents.

Over the years Monarch has discovered seventeen Titans…and counting. But as they try to learn more about the creatures and how they fit into the Earth’s ecosystem, a new threat emerges. Former soldier Jonah Alan has taken it upon himself to exploit the giant monsters. He has launched a mission to awaken the Titans and unleash their fury on the Earth. And to do so, he needs Dr. Russell’s research.

As Alan’s plan unfolds, Monarch finds themselves in a race against time to stop him before he awakens a creature so fearsome that no power on Earth can stop it…except for Godzilla.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters is rated PG-13 for sequences of monster action violence and destruction, and for some language.

What Worked:
As fun as 2014’s Godzilla was, it was not without flaws. And Legendary and Warner Bros. seem to have taken those criticisms to heart and addressed them in Godzilla: King of the Monsters. They fixed some of those issues more successfully than others, but let’s start with the positives first.

If you felt that the previous film didn’t show enough of Godzilla and the monster battles, it’s turned up to 11 here. Godzilla is very much front and center and the battles with the other Titans are epic. His primary opponent is King Ghidorah who is impressively realized in this American version. Part snake, part dragon – it feels like it is more than a match for our monster hero. But not to be outdone, Rodan is pretty impressive as well. I’ve never been a big Rodan fan, but his air battle with a squadron of jets is one of the most intense action scenes of the movie. In short, the mayhem is everything you’re looking for in a summer popcorn movie flick.

Another criticism of the previous Godzilla was that it was way too serious. While this sequel is still played rather straight, there are bits of humor thrown in to lighten the mood somewhat. Most of the jokes are provided by Bradley Whitford as Dr. Rick Stanton and Thomas Middleditch as Sam Coleman. While they have varying degrees of success with the jokes, it’s generally a welcome change in tone.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters also builds on the universe in unexpected ways. They weave a rich history between the Titans and mankind. The film also answers a number of questions you never really thought of about Godzilla. How does he navigate the globe so fast? Where does he go when he disappears for years? These and other questions are answered in a way that opens a lot of new storytelling possibilities.

There are plenty of Easter Eggs for longtime Godzilla fans as well. There are references to the first Godzilla film from 1954, teases of Ghidorah’s origin as well that open the possibility of seeing aliens in future films. And, of course, there are callbacks by composer Bear McCreary to the previous music themes for Mothra and Godzilla himself. These little nods should please fans. There are also plenty of teases of the upcoming Godzilla vs. Kong which is coming in 2020.

Be sure to stay through the end of the credits for a final bonus scene that sets up possible sequels. While you wait, you’re treated to a fun cover of Blue Oyster Cult’s “Godzilla”. The original is better, but as you wait for the credits to finish you sing, “Oh, no! There goes Tokyo!” I’ve wanted to hear this song in a Godzilla movie for years.

What Didn’t Work:
While Godzilla: King of the Monsters addresses many criticisms of its predecessor, it introduces some new problems. First and foremost, the motivations of the human villains are hard to buy. I don’t want into get their reasons too much for fear of spoilers but suffice it to say that there’s some seriously faulty logic going on that makes it hard to empathize with. In fact, I’ve rarely been so eager to see humans die in a Godzilla movie as much as I wanted to see our antagonists die in this film. We were supposed to sympathize with our villains in this film. I just wanted to see them squashed between Godzilla’s toes.

Also, if you’re a fan of Mothra, you may be disappointed. With such a big cast of monsters, one of them was inevitably going to get shortchanged. This time it was Mothra. The monster feels very much shoehorned into the story because fans expected it. And while most of the monsters translate well into an American monster movie, Mothra feels very out of place compared to the other creatures. That being said, every other monster in this movie feels downright lame compared to Godzilla, Ghidorah, and Rodan. Their design is not particularly noteworthy, and they lack the character of the original monsters. The MUTO in the previous film was more impressive. Charles Barkley would have been more impressive.

Finally, for all the first film’s shortcomings, it did convey a sense of awe and menace with the Titans that is not as present in this film. The previous film had big “Woah” moments that I never felt here which is strange because there are some beautiful shots and jaw dropping action. It felt a lot like Pacific Rim where there was a lot of cool action and destruction but the audience was not emotionally invested in it. This film also seemed to make Godzilla less scary. You would think that if Godzilla was battling a monster and you were right under them, it would be a terrifying experience. Our characters seem to think nothing of it, so it takes away some of the intimidation factor of the monsters.

The Bottom Line:
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a childhood dream finally realized on the big screen. I’ve always loved Godzilla and seeing him and the other Titans / Kaiju brought to life with modern effects technology is a big treat. It’s a perfect summer popcorn film well worth checking out on the biggest screen possible.

Box Office

Weekend: Aug. 22, 2019, Aug. 25, 2019

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