Must there be a Godzilla?
GODZILLA : KING OF THE MONSTERS
DIRECTOR- Michael Dougherty
CAST- Godzilla, Ghidorah, Rodan, Mothra, several new Titans.. a few humans like Ken Watanabe, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown and others.
“Count the dead, Alfred..thousands..what's next? millions? He has the power to wipe out the entire human race...”
The movie starts in 2014 right during the events of the first movie, where Mankind is introduced to these God-like beings. We get a glimpse of the same events but from the perspective of the human beings who suffered while Godzilla was trying to save the city from other monsters yet causing enormous collateral damage in the process. Further into the movie there are news report debating what the discovery of these super-powerful beings mean to us, there are senate hearings discussing the impact of these Titans. A centuries old villain is awoken...he is an alien abomination who is a desecration without name who can re-grow body parts which have been cut off. He also uses yellow lightning like beams and appears almost unstoppable. Our hero nearly fights him and dies. But sun light and radiation save him. He appears at the last moment to fight. But just when it looks like he is outmatched again, the female goddess like protagonist shows up to save him. The human character who initially lost a dear one in the battle later on learns to accept and appreciate our hero.
Maybe it’s the BvS fandom in me, but by God (zilla) does this movie have several parallels to Zack Snyder’s super-hero epic. I mean why not, with the success of comic book movies, almost every genre is taking inspiration from them. Shared universes which used to be a novelty are now a demand from the studios looking for the next cash cow franchise. About time someone tried to do to the monster movies what Snyder did to comic book genre. But it tries at best, doesn't necessarily succeed in that aspect.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is the 3rd movie in the Legendary films’ ‘Monsterverse’ Godzilla franchise started in 2014 by Godzilla then followed by Kong: Skull Island in 2017. While the first two movies in the franchise received lukewarm critical yet decent audience responses, this one is the longest of the movies clocking in at 132 minutes. Director Michael Dougherty (who career includes low budget horror movies like Krampus and primarily as a writer on movies like Xmen 2 and Superman Returns) has also said in a press conference that he has a 3 hour cut which he feels wouldn’t work as it would be too long. However, the cut supposedly fleshes out the human characters more.
A major criticism of Godzilla (2014) was that it tried to follow the ‘Jaws’/ 'Cloverfield' approach to monster movies by not showing a lot of Godzilla and concentrating on the human drama too much. KoTM tries to remedy that by showing not 1 or 2 but actively 4 on screen with glimpses of 3 others. It literally tries to dazzle you with its apocalyptic imagery and you know what? It excels in that area. The visuals are outstanding, while some of the scenes are filmed in the horrific ‘shaky-cam’ technique, most of the action can be witnessed in its full glory. The the movie through its ingenious visuals and sound-design manages to convey the gigantic scale of these monsters. Plus, I really loved the creature design and apparently they have designed a few more original creatures for this movie which I thought were really interesting. The action is beautifully crafted monster-mayhem and the inner kid in you will definitely walk out satisfied. It deserves to be experienced in IMAX, so if possible please do watch it in an IMAX theatre. The music by Bear McCreary is good if not particularly memorable in my opinion. Except for when Godzilla’s theme kicks in. I am personally not really well versed in the Toho-verse, so I do not know whether the theme is a call back to earlier Godzilla music but the theme is primal, tribal and has a sense of excitement yet dread to it.
In case you are not aware of Godzilla’s 60 years of movie history and the various Kaiju that are part of his lore, do not worry. In case you haven’t seen the 2014 Godzilla or Kong : Skull Island and the only Godzilla movie you remember is the 1998 Ronald Emmerich version starring Matthew Broderick, do not worry. This movie does a good job of bringing you in to the universe of Titans (as they are called here instead of Kaiju as is the traditionally used term for the Godzilla and other monsters established and owned by the Japanese Toho co.) To summarize a bit, it is soon discovered that Godzilla is not the only pre-historic Titan on earth and that the secretive organization Monarch has been researching 50 plus sites around the world. These Titans form the basis of our myths and legends and were literally the Gods that we worshiped in ancient times. An eco-terrorist organization is trying to wake all the Titans up for their own reasons and soon Godizlla’s alpha status is challenged by another gigantic monstrosity. The one good thing the movie does is that it doesn’t resort to exposition dump. It doesn’t have on-screen text before the movie or some typical Hollywood scientist like figure dump it on you in one go. The information is spread throughout the movie and forces you to pay attention.
The script does try to balance out the extreme monster-mayhem with human characters. Ken Watanabe and Vera Farmiga are the stand out performances with a decent performance by young Millie Bobby Brown as the estranged daughter caught between two destructive parents (see what I did there?). While the movie does offer some interesting arcs particularly for Farmiga’s character, it still turns out slight bit clichéd towards the end. The characters aren't particularly memorable and their drama does appear to be the weakest part of an otherwise enjoyable movie.
But you know what? It doesn’t matter. Why? Because there is a 3 headed monster residing on top of an exploding volcano! There are giant monsters running at each other (again BvS parallel) and crashing into each other in middle of a city! There are flying monsters! And ancient undersea civilizations! The cast and the human characters are serviceable and act as the perfect foil for the epic fights. This does not hamper the movie as many critics will have you believe. Also, the monsters are not just monsters. Although they are shown as this unstoppable forces of nature, the movie does well to give each of them a personality without ever having humans explain it to us. You know when Godzilla is pissed or hurt, you know what kind of douchebag evil minion Rodan is….you feel the goddess-like presence of Mothra. That is the real success of the movie.
The plot maybe somewhat convoluted, but not more so than Avengers Endgame. This is not a dig at Endgame but if you can enjoy Endgame for its fan service and fun moments, then KoTM shouldn’t be a problem. The movie may have its flaws but it delivers what it promises in dollops. The world-building and showing the real world after effects of the existence of such Titans (a trait again inspired from Snyder’s deconstructed super-hero movies) is something new to see in a monster movie and although not a thorough deconstruction plants some really good ideas.
Godzilla: King of monsters is TOTAL TIMEPASS!!
PS- Must there be a Sequel?...There is.