GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS Review 2 – An Earth-Shattering Extravaganza!
If there is any universally accepted analysis for GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS that cannot be argued, it is that this film is never boring.
The same could not be said for the previous 5 Godzilla features, depending on your mileage as an audience member. While there are aspects of each film that I personally enjoyed, and even loved, there was a restraint and deliberate approach to pacing that has characterized the last 5 years of movies featuring the King of all Kaiju. GODZILLA (2014) is a dramatic and borderline minimalist monster movie that is so desperate to be taken seriously that it ultimately shoots itself in the foot, despite a killer final act. SHIN GODZILLA (2016) is basically a “what if Godzilla really came to town?” disaster film from the perspective of the red tape nightmare that is the Japanese political system. And then there’s the anime trilogy, which almost doesn’t seem to care if you don’t like it, which is strangely admirable.
Enter GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS, a film which throws out any restraint or concern about audiences “accepting” a world of ancient and almost Lovecraftian super-beasts that are now vying for control, and also throws out concepts like pacing and character motivation with it.
Which is not to say that there weren’t a lot of really strong ingredients here to make a perfectly satisfying dish. Far from that. To be clear, for us kaiju fans at least, this movie absolutely captures and embraces the go-hard-or-go-home Showa spirit of the 1960’s. It truly is like something caught between GHIDORAH THE THREE HEADED MONSTER (1964), ATRAGON (1963), and a dash of FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD (1965). Indeed this movie is so indulgent in its chosen genre, mostly thanks to the aggressive enthusiasm of writer/director Michael Dougherty, that it starts to feel like the most expensive fan fiction ever made.
As for the cast, it’s chock-a-block with strong character actors who are usually terrific at what they do…despite every now and then feeling like there wasn’t even time for second takes given this movie’s bone-crunching plot progression.
Seriously, I felt like I was getting an anxiety attack during the second act when I was practically begging for this movie to take its time and slow down a little. I have a sneaking suspicion that the wrong lesson may have been taken from G’14; rather than make a good central plot bolstered by fun monster action, a decision was made to take pruning shears to anything that wasn’t a lizard punching a dragon. There was a lot of decent character work at the top, with the core trio of Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, and Millie Bobby Brown all perfectly suited for the roles the movie has set up for them, not to mention a colorful cast of MONARCH operatives, featuring Ken Watanabe, Zhang Ziyi, and O’Shea Jackson, Jr. (a welcome comedic alternative to the tiresome one-liners of Bradley Whitfield).
Unfortunately, by the time the plot really gets going, these characters with tons of potential feel more akin to what happened with the cast in final season of GAME OF THRONES, where motivation and even believability get tossed in a bin in favor of simply shunting the film’s cast from one plot-centric or thematically resonant location to another. The villainous Charles Dance barely even gets any screen time, something I was hoping to get more out of.
All this being said, the ultimate point of the film, for better or worse, is the monsters. And boy howdy, is this movie eager to show you not just the monsters, but a bold new world full of them. There’s some really interesting world-building dynamics going on, with the government butting heads with MONARCH in ways that feels like a movie unto itself, but once again, the flick is so breathless in its desire to get to the goods that there’s hardly any time to marinate in this really cool universe they’re building.
But when the goods are gotten, the monsters really ARE the stars. Dougherty and the CG team, along with motion capture actors TJ Storm and Jason Liles among others, are putting it all on the table to not just show off all the ridiculously extravagant CG carnage that Hollywood money can buy, but make the monsters feel like actual characters with strange and endearing quirks, again harkening back to the Showa era of kaiju eiga, enough to make screenwriter Shinichi Sekizawa proud.
Ghidorah himself is a definite show-stopper, constantly moving in strange and unsettling ways, playing with his food and reveling in the wickedness he inflicts on the world. Ghidorah moves and acts in ways one would not have expected, even as a long-time fan of the genre. Godzilla, accompanied by Bear McCreary’s thunderous version of Akira Ifukube’s classic melody, made me shake with awe whenever he thundered across the screen and howled his battle-cry.
But the real show-stealers are Mothra and Rodan. The pyroclastic pterosaur is a carnivorous cavalcade of man-eating malevolence. However, even he is topped by the brief but extremely memorable Queen of the Monsters, whom literally had me in tears, also accompanied by Yuji Koseki’s classic song.
A host of new monsters also appear, but I won’t spoil those. I did my best to dance around the finer details of the film. Even though I had issues with it, I was engaged the entire time. And perhaps, as I’ll admit, I might be a bit too close to this genre to give an accurate assessment so close to seeing it. I’ll need to watch it a few more times and ruminate on it to come back around to how the critical dust settles. Heck, I would have been thrilled to see more rubber suits on display (something I hope Toho does in the future), but for now? This is the Godzilla movie for fans who really do find pure joy in watching monsters tear into each other. Honestly, I’m eager to watch it again…once I have a cigarette after that marathon of a monstrous maelstrom.
Matt Frank is a comic book artist, known for his work on GODZILLA, TRANSFORMERS, MARS ATTACKS, ULTRAMAN and more.
For more information on GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS, please see the earlier coverage here on SciFi Japan:
- Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ MonsterVerse Kicks Into Gear as the Next Godzilla Feature Gets Underway
- GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS Trailer and Production Info From Warner Bros.
- GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS Official Photos From Warner Bros.
- New GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS Poster From Warner Bros. Pictures
- New GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS Trailer From Warner Bros. Pictures
- New GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS Monster Posters From Warner Bros. Pictures
- GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS Figures From NECA
- JAKKS Pacific Globally Launches New Godzilla Toys Inspired by Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Entertainment’s GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS
- More GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS Figures From NECA
- GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS Figures From Bandai
- GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS TV Spot 2 From Warner Bros. Pictures
- GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS Titan Books Press Release
- GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS To Be Shown in ScreenX Format
- GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS Product Line From JAKKS Pacific
- GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS TV Spot 3 “Intimidation” From Warner Bros. Pictures
- Win The GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS Giant Godzilla Figure From JAKKS Pacific!
- Win The GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS Godzilla Electronic Mask From JAKKS Pacific!
- GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS TV Spot 4 “Beautiful” From Warner Bros. Pictures
- GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS – 3 New TV Spots From Warner Bros. Pictures!
- New GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS Poster From Warner Bros. Pictures
- GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS Final Trailer From Warner Bros. Pictures!
- GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Press Release
- GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS Japanese Press Notes, Photos and Logo From Toho
- GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS Final Credits
- GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS “Knock You Out – Exclusive Final Look” Video From Warner Bros. Pictures
- GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS Bus Shelter Poster From Warner Bros. Pictures
- GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS Cast and Director Interview Videos
- GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS Non-Spoiler Review
- GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS Update: The World’s Greatest Monsters Converge on the World’s Tallest Building
- Regal Cinemas Offering Exclusive GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS Collectible Tickets