With director Michael Dougherty helming this latest installment in the Legendary MonsterVerse, we enter an era where Hollywood is finally giving the Japanese a run for their money when it comes to kaiju films, with both 2014’s Godzilla and 2017’s Kong: Skull Island being excellent entries in the giant monsters genre, and now with Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the cinematic world of monster smackdowns explodes even further.
Paleobiologist Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) works for crypto-zoological organization Monarch as she tries to move past the death of her son, him having died during the destruction that occurred from the Godzilla vs M.U.T.O. battle in the 2014 Godzilla film, which has also estranged her from her husband Dr. Mark Russel (Kyle Chandler) who spent his grief in a bottle before running off to study wolves. We are also introduced to Emma’s daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown), a spunky young girl who is becoming concerned for her mother, and though she lives with her, and has no contact with her absentee father, she isn’t completely on board with all that is going down — and some serious shit does go down. Things come to a head when eco-terrorist Colonel Jonah (Charles Dance), and a pastel of mercenaries, storm the Monarch facility to take possession of something called the Orca, a device that Emma has developed that can communicate and even influence the giant creatures. Emma and Madison are captured by Jonah, in what looks to be an opening salvo in a plan to awaken the hibernating “Titans” and unleash a new age of monsters that are capable of controlling Earth. Now, as mankind has been doing a pretty bad job of late when it comes to taking care of the Earth, you can’t totally fault his logic, but his methodology is certainly a little drastic.
As the story unfolds, certain elements will come to light that will literally tear our protagonists apart, with certain characters being revealed to have very suspect motivations, but family drama is the least of your problems when you have seventeen monsters rampaging across the globe. To save his family, Mark must team up with the people of Monarch to figure out the best way to not only rescue his wife and daughter, but also how to stop the rise of a creature known as “Monster Zero” — that’s King Ghidorah for those of you keeping score — who is possibly more powerful than Godzilla. So, alongside Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe), Dr. Ilene Chen (Ziyi Zhang) and Dr. Rick Stanton (Bradley Whitford), good ol’ Mark will have to put aside his hatred of the Titans and his belief that the only good giant monster is a dead giant monster — which is also the popular stance among the military — as it quickly looks like the only way to save Earth, and all mankind, is to help the very creatures that were partially responsible for his son’s death.
With this film, it is clear that director Michael Dougherty took to heart the complaints that the previous Godzilla film didn’t have enough monster action — though to be fair, Gareth Edwards brought about the same amount of monster destruction as your average Toho Godzilla film did — and to alleviate this concern, his Godzilla: King of the Monsters packs a surprising amount of kaiju carnage. Now, we still get some painful filler that always seems to plague this genre — if you cut out every moment of Bradley Whitford’s character proclaiming doom or narrating the countdown clock from various monitors, you could shorten the film by about ten or fifteen minutes — and some of the choices our human protagonists make veer between stupid and outright ludicrous.
What makes this film really stand out is not only the stunning visual effects required to bring the likes of Godzilla, King Ghidorah, Rodan and Mothra to life — which, and don’t get me wrong, are truly impressive — but it was the sound design and music that completely blew me away. From the first time you hear the sound of Godzilla’s atomic breath revving up to Mothra’s glorious screech, it was all just pitch perfect — just thinking about it gives me goosebumps — and then there is composer Bear McCreary’s wonderful score that brilliantly blends in the classic Toho Godzilla and Mothra themes, which will certainly please hardcore fans.
• In the original Gojira, it was Serizawa who developed a weapon called the Oxygen Destroyer, but in this film, it is a futile weapon developed by the military.
• Also, the fate of Dr. Serizawa in this movie is a nice twist on what happened to him in the original film.
• Young Madison is inexplicably able to escape the villain’s hideout with the Orca device. I guess Jonah doesn’t believe in pesky things like guards.
• We are told there are seventeen other “Titans” out there, but we only get teased with a few of them.
• The number of times our heroes are saved by Godzilla at the last second reaches such levels of ridiculousness that he’s literally become a “Godzilla ex Machina.”
• By the end of this film, every character should be contracting every form of cancer due to all the radiation they’ve been exposed to.
• Actor Kyle Chandler is quickly becoming a giant monster movie staple, what with his appearances in Peter Jackson’s King Kong, J.J. Abrams’ Super 8, and now 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
• Mothra needs her own goddamn movie in this MonsterVerse!
The one gripe I have with this film, and it’s a fairly substantial one, is that as an organization, Monarch is pretty much crap at doing their job. Monarch seems to be staffed with dudes who sit around waiting for events to happen while occasionally pointing frantically at a computer display, all while being rather ineffective at everything else. At one point, during a Senate Hearing, it is discussed whether or not Monarch should be under military control, and looking at how they constantly fail against not only giant monsters — which granted is a fairly tough job — but they can’t even handle Tywin Lannister and a half-dozen dudes, so turning this all over to the military isn’t necessarily a bad idea. Monarch looks to be outfitted like Marvel’s S.H.I.E.L.D. — flying around in a massive jet that has its own hanger deck — yet when it comes to fighting monsters, their biggest tactic seems to be, “Run away, run away.”
In conclusion, Michael Dougherty’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a rousing adventure movie, filled with fantastic visuals, unbelievable sound design, and some of the best monster-on-monster action ever put to screen, making this a must-see for fans of the genre, and now we just have a year to wait for the much-anticipated remake of King Kong vs Godzilla.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)
Movie Rank - 7/10
Michael Dougherty brings us an incredibly fun monster mash with Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Legendary’s latest MonsterVerse entry. A talented cast and brilliant effects work all come together in making a very fun outing.