Godzilla: King of the Monsters, 2019.
Director Michael Dougherty.
Starring Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds, O’Shea Jackson Jr., David Strathairn, Ken Watanabe, and Zhang Ziyi.
When ancient super-species, including Godzilla and King Ghidorah —thought to be mere myths—rise again, they all vie for supremacy, leaving humanity’s very existence hanging in the balance.
The experience of seeing a kaiju movie on the big screen is almost indescribable. From the way the theatre shakes when Godzilla steps on the screen to the way King Ghidorah strikes fear in viewers’ hearts, it’s a feeling that stays with you. That’s what makes the new film Godzilla: King of the Monsters such a joyful experience; it’s a movie that impacts you, even if monster movies aren’t typically your thing.
That’s something that needs to be touched on when talking about Godzilla: King of the Monsters. It seems this film is splitting critics right down the middle, with the ones who dislike it being just as vocal as the ones who did. But the common thread I’ve seen from most reviews is the feeling of “well, what do you expect from a monster movie?” Even the critics who enjoy it seem to think less of this genre and have low expectations.
That mindset doesn’t help this film by any means, but it does show exactly the “niche” nature of a movie like this. Much like superhero movies or horror films, this isn’t a genre piece for everyone. As the specific market for a dark kaiju movie, it does factor into my overall enjoyment, but that fact does not take away from how the strength of Godzilla: King of the Monsters. If you take away any genre bias, this would still work as an exciting cinematic journey.
Following 2014’s Godzilla reboot is a difficult task as the film was received reasonably well, but had some glaring flaws throughout the piece. Issues like a lack of the titular character, and questions like how do you indeed find the balance between absolute monster madness and trying to tell an engaging human story? Director Michael Dougherty somehow addresses both those issues by crafting a human tale with emotions but allowing the monsters to bring feelings to the story as well.
Yes, just as much as Kyle Chandler or Millie Bobby Brown contribute to the heart of this film, so does Godzilla and Mothra. For the first time in a mainstream kaiju movie, the monsters are allowed to show they are much more than mindless beasts and do have their own stories to tell. Godzilla is allowed an arc in the film as he battles for the title of King of the Monsters, and Ghidorah’s villain plan is remarkably similar to human villain storyline. Mothra plays the role of a beautiful but bad-ass queen and Rodan is nothing more than Ghidorah’s version of Jafar’s Iago. Each is a character with a role to play and a personality to sell, and that should factor in when discussing the acting in the film.
That’s not to take away from the real actors in the film. Each of them plays a thin, but a viable role to the overall story and never feels like a distraction. A common complaint with the previous entry into this series was the fact they’d cut away to human stories right when the monster battles began to heat up. Again, Dougherty took those notes and allowed humans to enhance the actions instead of hinder them. If two monsters were fighting and they went down to the military story or Millie Bobbie Brown’s Madison struggle to live, I wasn’t angry but engaged in their tension. It’s still not the exact thing you come to a kaiju movie for, but the entire plot of the film served as a significant thread between the major monster moments.
Another thread that runs throughout the entire film is an exciting tone. Somehow, Godzilla: King of the Monsters manages to be campy and bleak at the same time. You feel the sense of dread, you see the world of crumbling around us at the hands of evil monsters, but you are still enjoying the ride. Where the 2014 film felt comfortable in its dark tone, this new entry lightens things up quite a bit. It doesn’t go into slapstick comedy or doesn’t come off as kid-friendly as films like 1969’s All Monsters Attack, but it never forgets its roots in cheesiness.
While a few jokes incite more of a groan than a chuckle, it still feels nice to have some fun in between all of the insane destruction. Surprisingly, some of the most comedic moments come from the evil Alan Jonah played by Charles Dance. His work with Vera Farmiga is always sharp and keeps the scenes moving with his hilarious dry humor. It’s a shame Charles Dance & Ken Watanabe never shared the screen as they both seem to get the tone of the film.
If you are looking for an entertaining summer blockbuster, this is the film for you. If you crave a lot of action but enough heart and humor to accent that, make this a must-see. Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a nearly-perfect entry in this long-running franchise and almost feels like one of Toho’s original classics. See this on the biggest screen possible and prepare for monster madness!
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★