Kaiju Frenzy: A Review of 'Godzilla: King of The Monsters'
The diehard fans of Kaiju—defined as the film genre which features strange and giant monsters/creatures attacking big cities and wreaking wholesale havoc and destruction—like to think of their devotion to the genre as an acquired taste. But in reality, this is a mainstream genre that needs no explanation for being. After all, the 2014 Legendary MonsterVerse release of Godzilla was universally panned by critics and fans alike, yet racked up grosses of $529.1 million worldwide, of which $200 million was earned in the USA. That’s some mighty impressive box office earnings for a film that purportedly disappointed viewers, and has it’s so-called niche origins traced to Japanese pop culture.
So no surprise to see Legendary MonsterVerse now releasing Godzilla: King of the Monsters, directed by Michael Dougherty. Historically, it’s the 35th Godzilla film, the third produced in a Hollywood studio, and the third of MonsterVerse. Say what you will of the screenplay and the human elements that populate the storyline; and you know that will all play second fiddle to what the movie is all about. And that’s upping the ante by featuring Godzilla with three other major kaijus and a host of other minor ones. In this installment of the film franchise, it’s Godzilla saving the human race, teaming up with monsters Mothra and Rodan to ultimately fight three-headed King Ghidorah to the bitter end. And the more cities, humans, buildings, and monuments get in the way, and end up as collateral damage... the better!
Ok, there is in fact a storyline somewhere in this monster film. It involves the kidnapping of Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga)—who worked for Monarch and developed “the Orca” (which allows humans to somehow communicate with the Titan beasts)—and her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown), by an eco-terrorist group. Game of Thrones’ Charles Dance plays the villain once again, leading the group bent on letting the monsters take over the world that originally belonged to them, the planet that we humans have made such a mess of as the dominant species. Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins reprise their Godzilla (2014) roles as Monarch executives, and ditto for David Strathairn as a US Navy Commander. And they recruit estranged hubby Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) to rescue his wife and daughter—but do they want to be rescued?
So, do we even care about this plot involving humans? The audience during the screening I watched did seem to make a big deal of the major role given to Millie Bobby Brown—the most popular star to come out of Netflix series Stranger Things. But honestly, it was more about appreciating how this could be a breakout movie role for Brown; but yes, can we get on to the kaiju battle scenes? King Ghidorah and Mothra were the obvious crowd favorites after Godzilla, and kudos to the production team for making these battle scenes exciting, even when you’re talking of gigantic super-beasts.
As ancient monsters thought to be mere myth, and with all of humanity on the brink, the film tries hard to impart some environmental message, and plays with gallows humor for shafts of lightness; but as in any kaiju film, the real stars are the monsters. With Godzilla vs. Kong scheduled for a March 2020 release, this film is a pit stop on the continuing saga of these kaiju films. Monsters Rule!
Photos from Warner Bros.