If you're anything like me, and I know I am, you grew up on Godzilla. And if you're a little more like me, you grew up watching mostly the 60s and 70s Godzilla. Whether it was from what aired on TBS when I was quite young and managed to tape despite missing the first minute or two or one of my parents flicking the channels in the middle of my recording because they forgot I was taping something, or actual purchased VHS tapes from the local department store, or the movies that aired on MonsterVision on TNT when I was in my tweens and teens, the 60s and 70s monster-mash Godzilla movies were always the preferred fare of both those selling and those buying kaiju products. Colorful, with good music, and packed to the gills with men in rubber suits slapping each other silly, the Jun Fukuda Godzilla movies are the comfort food of kaiju eiga. If you're further like me, you hit a point where these movies seemed a little TOO silly and embarrassing for you. Sure, they were fun, but oh man that melodrama and those effects, right? I mean, could someone try to do this seriously please and maybe give it a budget?
If you're still further like me, and now you're just starting to creep me out, you probably grew out of THAT, and have come to just embrace the campy Godzilla with open, loving arms as part of the franchise's rich history.
Michael Dougherty is apparently like me enough to not creep me out. He never grew out of that.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is the Godzilla movie you'd get if you handed the reigns to the Godzilla franchise to a kid with a big imagination....and also if you gave him $200 million and a bucket of cocaine. Dougherty has made the highest-budgeted 70s Godzilla movie of all-time. He's taken it a tad more seriously than those movies, though it still has a very (American) sense of fun and campy charm, and he's glitzed it up and given it a base level of quality those films never had a CHANCE to have, but Godzilla: King of the Monsters is the movie I think we'd have gotten if you mixed the insanity of Jun Fukuda with the earnest optimism of Ishiro Honda, with a dash of mid-late 90s Spielberg and his propensity to overdo the spectacle and action.
If that's all enough for you, then stop here. I won't even get into anything I'd even remotely consider spoilery, yet, but some people just want a person to say "Was it good or bad or what?" and so, there you have it: it's crazy and fun.
If you're still here, let's talk a little about the bad stuff first, to get it out there and out of the way.
I wouldn't consider any of the below spoilers AT ALL, but some people kinda sorta MIGHT? I dunno, I don't want to spoil it for anyone, so I'll be careful here.
The music is improved from the 2014 film, though I'd want to listen to that score a little bit to see if it's as improved as I was thinking while watching it, or if that's just me getting tricked by the nostalgia feels of hearing Ifukube music.
So, that all said, where does the movie fall? It's probably too early to tell. I always have difficulty really accurately rating a movie after just one viewing, and this is no different. I could see it sidling up a little bit on rewatches as I wade through the overwhelming elements and into more familiarity, or down as I potentially start to feel less drawn-in by the world building and more worn-out by some of the mediocre dialogue (and that's not just corny humor, there's some real non-sequitur stuff happening with the dialogue at times).
What I do know is this: while I may not have been particularly jones-ing for a 70s Godzilla movie on a $200 million budget with enough cocaine to make Godzilla himself spazz out like a child who's just eaten the entire truckload of cotton candy, Michael Dougherty does THAT to its very best. In particular, he manages to do something that Toho hasn't figured out how to do: he provides a ton of satisfying kaiju action and fighting without (very often) resorting to WWE-style punching and insane camp to provide those visceral thrills. There's a LITTLE of it, mostly in how the kaiju's personalities reveal themselves while they're fighting, but it's never distracting (hell I wonder if most people will even pick up on those moments), and it just adds to the experience to me.
One thing you cannot doubt: Michael Dougherty is a fan, through and through and through.
If you're STILL here, I just wanna touch on a couple slightly more spoiler-y things.
It's not SPECIFIC stuff, but I just wanted to warn you, because everyone's thresholds are different.