Last week I was fortunate to attend an advance screening of Godzilla: King of the Monsters in IMAX! I haven’t seen the 2014 American Godzilla, but I have seen Kong: Skull Island. (Let’s consider Deep Rising as sequel to that!) I’ve also seen an assortment of Toho’s Godzilla oeuvre including Shin Gojira, but those are not required viewing to understand this installment. Here’s the collaboreview for Godzilla 2: Titan Boogaloo with with Jack Gattanella & guest star Alex Valderana for The Wages of Cinema! (Sorry, Andrew & Korey aficionados!)
Director-writer Michael Dougherty is a Godzilla geek, & his love for the property shines through. (He & co-writer Zach Shields are returning to help draft Godzilla vs. Kong.) Much could’ve been mangled in another Americanized remake, but this is reverent yet thrilling. This movie is gorgeous. (So are its posters.) It doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. The four main monsters clearly resemble their classic inspiration with minor adjustments to make their anatomy more realistic. Making the monsters CGI rather than tokusatsu didn’t sap them of their charm. Bear McCreary brings back traditional Toho leitmotifs plus an acceptable cover of Blue Oyster Cult’s “Godzilla!”Now comes the SPOILERY talk.
Godzilla has gone from a villain representing atom bombs to a hero that subtly implies nuclear power can be beneficial (providing meltdowns are avoided). This version is a nigh-immortal beast who’s existed for centuries. He travels rapidly across the globe by swimming through the tunnels honeycombing the hollow Earth. We get to see an ancient city of where he was worshiped inside Pellucidar, so Gojira is Cthulhu-adjacent. He’s still surly to human allies. (Ken Watanabe sacrificing himself to heal him, an inversion of the original Dr. Serizawa, is affecting.) His redesigned dorsal spines glow ominously before his radioactive halitosis activates.
Mothra’s redesign is all ethereally bioluminescent wings. This killer moth’s coloration mimics monarch butterflies’, so Monster-SHIELD picked an apt name. Her species is Titanus mosura. (They abandon this taxonomic conceit once Ghidorah is labeled Monster zero.) Even her larval form is adorably horrifying. She’s now a Gojira ally & vicious fighter who beats up Rodan. I was disappointed that she doesn’t get to do more before she’s killed in the finale. Her ashes give Gozdilla the power-up needed to end the usurper king’s reign. Another egg is shown in the credits so at least her replacement is lined up.
Rodan is the Sauron of the Monsterverse sans loincloth. He gets no respect! Being a giant magma-fueled pteranodon is impressive … until you see his costars. His placement in Mexico evokes Quetzalcoatl, but that’s the extent of their similarities unless you only know Him from Q: The Winged Serpent. He becomes Ghidorah’s prime lackey.
If Godzilla & the other titans are now avatars of our natural world, King Ghidorah’s supernatural might represents The Holy Trinity on a quest to convert. The kaiju are credited as themselves although three mo-cappers claim to have performed King Ghidorah. His bickering heads, which can regenerate after being chomped off, are cute. As an alien, they’re immune to
kaiju-Kryptonite oxygen-destroyer missiles. They were frozen in Antarctic ice like Megatron. (“At the Mountains of Madness” & The Thing are further examples that only amoral extraterrestrials arrive there.) Whether there’s a a secret backstory to the its inter-pantheon bloodfeud with Godzilla is unclear. It’s posited that all mention of it was scrapped from folklore for being too horrifying, yet lots of similar images of dragons & hydras are shown? Monster Zero has real kaiju taste & zero calories! Ghidorah is such an indomitable badass made of concentrated bastard sweat it makes me even madder the MCU has yet to go full Fin Fang Foom!
In many Toho movies the pacing grinds to halt when the focus shifts to the humans. Not so here! While the humans aren’t particularly well developed, the momentum chugs along as they connect the dots betwixt monster melees. They’re less characters than actors whose charisma remains from previous roles. I’ve heard this is an upgrade from the flat characters that detracted from the kaiju carnage of the prior installment. Since most will continue on to sequels, not trying to upstage Godzilla is for the best. They are like the buzzing of flies to him! I’m just going to refer to them by the cast’s real names.
Watanabe & Vera Farmiga are audience surrogates as they’re MONARCH’s biggest kaiju fans. Sally Hawkins dies before she can seduce another monster. Millie Bobby Brown plays the rare teenager who’s not agglomerated from things old men have heard are hip with the youths secondhand. Former MONARCH scientist Kyle Chandler despises Gojira for inadvertently killing his son, not that The Big G actually gives a tinker’s cuss about human lives. You can tell he’s the the ostensible lead because he keeps having the bright ideas that would occur to anybody else. Bradley “just wanted to see a merman” Whitford speaks exclusively in corny one-liners, which renders my role moot. O’Shea Jackson Jr. doesn’t do much as part of MONARCH’s military, but I figure I should give him a shout-out since I enjoyed Ingrid Goes West.
Ziyi Zhang plays twin MONARCH scientists from Infant Island. This is a nod to Mothra’s Peanut Twins. Sadly they don’t do much with this Easter egg. The ORCA biolinguistics machine fills their plot function more. The lack of Mothra summoning duet is disappointing. Alternately, I was kind of expecting MBB to be psychic.
Charles Dance is just effortlessly intimidating as usual. He’s supposedly a soldier turned eco-terrorist inspired by Ra’s al Ghul. (He was also in Universal’s Dark Universe, but this Monsterverse is already more successful.) I guess he’ll make Mecha-Ghidorah. Meanwhile Charles Barkley is not present to challenge Godzilla for dominance of the basketball court.
This is exactly the movie its trailers advertised in the best sense. Instead of hiding the monsters you came to see, about 3/4 is a kaiju big battle! It lets them fight! Rather than reserving the double G tussle for the finale, we’re treated to it thrice! Although mostly set during a stormy night, the brutal clash of the titans is still filmed so it’s comprehensible. It’s the epic slugfest BVS:DOJ aspired to be with no so-mo & less pretentious speechifying. (I’m just as surprised we’re still talking about that as you are.) The action works on both the “colossal beasts” & “humans evading being trampled a little too well” scales.
The Pixies’ “Wave of Mutilation” is foreshadowing. The level of destruction here is phenomenal. Although the mayhem is confined to Yunnan, Antarctica, a fictional part of Mexico, & eastern USA, the scope feels fully global thanks to Ghidoarh rousing all the titans simultaneously. While Toho would occasionally wreck non-Japanese cities like in Destroy All Monsters (How does that title not have an exclamation point?), WB’s mammoth budget is better equipped to sell the worldwide scope of disaster porn. We see evacuation sites but I’m not sure if there are enough habitable safe zones to transport survivors to. There are no blocks left to bust! If you can afford to splurge on IMAX tickets, do so!
What’s especially impressive is how realistic physics are incorporated into the monsters’ movements rather than just being wrestling matches. This isn’t necessarily new, but it looks more awe-inspiring now. Rodan causes hurricane gales just by flapping his wings. Monster Zero does that too in addition to generating lightning storms. Everybody in Gozilla’s proximity for the climax should have cancer.
The plot is simply ornery animals fighting over territory after having naptime spoiled, which is all that’s really need. Alphas are not a real thing in pack animals, but that’s one plot contrivance you’ll have to roll with. It’s more acceptable here when applied to titans, although most species shown only consist of one individual. (Maybe they’re not actually distinct species & can interbreed?) One titan emerges from a giant forest labeled Munich, which is actually a city. The other titans are new to the Legendary Monsterverse continuity. I was hoping to see Anguiras, but maybe they’re saving the Toho kaiju for non-cameos in later installments. (Jet Jaguar is a misnomer.) Or they couldn’t afford to license any more. Perhaps the insectoid was supposed to be Kamacuras?
This movie is endangered species conservation propaganda. Government bureaucrats led by the best Amanda Waller want to execute the titans for being catastrophic at worst & slothful at best. The news montage during the credits, however, shows the titans do restore ecological equilibrium. Much like Pacific Rim, their excrement is a natural resource. They also emit some kind of radiation that restores depleted wildlife & vegetation. Farmiga should’ve included projections of this in her video message instead of stock footage of humans ruining everything if she wanted support! Unlike some purple charisma void, the “villain'” plan wasn’t a gross oversimplification of Thomas Matlhus destined to fail. So it would’ve worked flawlessly if they hadn’t awakened Ghidorah! The terrestrial titans probably still would’ve run roughshod over densely populated cities though. Humanity’s inability to counter the titans would’ve been much more nihilistic if they were solely destructive. Can civilization rebuild & communicate effectively with titans via ORCA?
Rampage made me wish I was watching a Primal Rage movie. This feels like the prequel to that video game adaptation. The Chaos/Blizzard analogue is coming in the next sequel. King Kong didn’t respond to Ghidorah’s call because he hasn’t figured out how to travel through hollow Earth tunnels yet. I thought he’d finally show up in the stinger, but he’s only in archival footage. After Kong made me feel better about their forthcoming clash, this reverted me back to wondering how the big ape has any chance against the king of the monsters. Maybe King Caesar would be more in his weight class? (April 3 is Shisa Day!) His only hope is to stealing an oxygen-destroyer, though the two will instantly become pals once Gojira says “Save Mothra!” before sacrificing himself to stop Destroyah. Then a spaceship full of green Kongs (& their MechaGodzilla) arrives to retcon his origin.
If you were as excited by the petroglyphs in Kong’s stinger as I was, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is the blockbuster for you! Although I expected to enjoy it, I was gobsmacked by how enthralling it is. It’s legitimutantly satisfying spectacle! The plot can be dopey, but it’s not as if earlier films were particularly highbrow. I just like big monsters hitting each other! SKREE-ONK!!!
Godzilla hatching from the Hollywood Cinerama dome is keen but should’ve been Mothra.
This is the year’s second headline calling for hail since Speedy: Queen of the Monsters!
Before the screening we went to a Godzilla pop-up store. Although it had only been open a few days, its stock was denuded to a lone table of items like sandals, pens, postcards, & magnets. There wasn’t even any exorbitant whiskey! Supposedly they’ll get t-shirts in June.
Rather than settle for the cheapo Jakks figures, NECA is producing toys for the new film. The only problem is they’re not making King Ghidorah. They claim it’d be too expensive to produce. So this is now the most important petition! The pop-up store being a bust may be a boon if I have to set aside funds for the S.H. MonsterArts edition.
By the time this review is posted all the latest CW comic book show seasons should be on Netflix US. That means you can catch up to understand my recaps of Black Lighting, The Flash, Riverdale, Supergirl, & Legends of Tomorrow. (This year those are three separate articles instead of the usual one.) Unless you don’t live stateside, in which case your local Netflix may be slower to accommodate you.
Cloak & Dagger & Happy! will have also wrapped up their second seasons by now. Perhaps we’ll recommend them & the latest slew of Ducktales next time? Or will I go straight to panning Dark Phoenix?