Godzilla: King of the Monsters, 2019.
Directed by Michael Dougherty.
Starring Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, Bradley Whitford, Charles Dance, Ziyi Zhang, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds, Anthony Ramos, Randy Havens, Jonathan Howard, Elizabeth Ludlow, Van Marten, CCH Pounder, Joe Morton, Zac Zedalis, Tracie Garrison, Joshua Leary, and Lexi Rabe
The crypto-zoological agency Monarch faces off against a battery of god-sized monsters, including the mighty Godzilla, who collides with Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah.
Godzilla has come roaring onto shelves today with the release of Godzilla: King of the Monsters on blu-ray. The sequel to Garreth Edwards’ 2014 film Godzilla ups the ante a great deal as Michael Dougherty takes the reins and introduces multiple monsters for Godzilla to fight against. Though the story is not wholly original, it’s a pretty entertaining sequel that delivers some exciting action scenes between the monsters and human drama more compelling than its predecessor. The wealth of bonus features included on the blu-ray offer great insight into the work behind the film, making this blu-ray well worth it for any fans of the film or the Godzilla franchise.
One of the most common criticisms of the 2014 film is how it lacked a lot of screentime of the titular monster. That is not the case here as Godzilla: King of the Monsters offers a whole lot of Godzilla and his battles against King Ghidorah and other creatures. He feels a bit more like an actual character thanks to the amount of time the human characters spend around him. The fights are definitely the most entertaining aspect of the film as it showcases Godzilla’s strength and power while also displaying that, despite his brutish looks, he’s got some cunning to him during some of the battle sequences. In fact, each of the monsters are given flecks of personality, specifically Ghidorah with each of his three heads acting independently from each other. The subtleties in how they move and interact is a nice touch that adds more menace to them than just being a gigantic monster.
Despite the cool fight scenes between Godzilla, Ghidorah, Mothra and Rodan, King of the Monsters is a bit slow. The beginning operates on a slow burn as new humans are introduced and the film’s MacGuffin is set up, though it does actually work nicely as a build-up to Godzilla and Ghidorah’s proper arrival. The problem is the scenes between the action aren’t always compelling, even with the strong cast the film has. There is a lot of exposition-heavy scenes as one character or another explains the nature of one of the Titans, where they are and what they can do to stop it. It doesn’t feel slow the whole way through, but bogs the film down just enough that you may notice the passage of time a little more readily than otherwise. It picks up in the second half of the film, but even then still has a lot of exposition that slows things down to the next big fight.
Another point against the film’s overall story is that it lacks a touch of originality, at least in its motives for its villains. We’ve seen so many films in the past few years that have touched on the evil of mankind and the Earth’s dwindling resources, necessitating an eradication to act as a reset. Just this year alone those were the villains motives in Aquaman and Avengers: Infinity War/Endgame, making it a bit tired in King of the Monsters. The only things that differentiates it from other films is Emma’s belief stems more from personal loss than a desire for bloodshed and the implications during the credits that she was at least partially correct in her hypothesis. King of the Monsters also tries to examine the sorts of themes the older Godzilla films had, such as the dangers of nuclear power and man vs. nature, but doesn’t quite succeed as well as it could.
The cast is pretty good together with the standouts being Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga and Millie Bobby Brown as the Russell family. Chandler delivers a nice portrayal of a father trapped in mourning while Farmiga shows a bit of complexity to Emma in her misguided zeal to save the planet. Millie Bobby Brown is a very welcome addition to the franchise as the Russell’s young daughter Madison, capturing the mix of confusion and resolve throughout the film’s events. She and Farmiga share good chemistry between each other, especially in the latter half of the film when Emma’s plan goes off the rails thanks to Ghidorah’s volatile and destructive nature. Other cast members don’t have too much to do, though Bradley Whitford gets a few comedic moments and Ken Watanabe is slightly underused, but gets some good moments with how his character views Godzilla and the other Titans.
The visual effects and cinematography are simply stunning. Dougherty makes some very entertaining action set pieces and the designs of the monsters look fantastic with their rich detail, whether it’s the scars on Godzilla’s body or how each of Ghidorah’s heads operate. King of the Monsters is quite a good looking film with its colours, imagery and camera movements. There is a nice flow to the action scenes and the human drama between the main characters is not that bad, especially since the primary cast does well with the material they’re given. If Dougherty had better balanced the action, drama and exposition, Godzilla: King of the Monsters would probably have been regarded a bit better than it initially was.
Included on the blu-ray is almost two hours of bonus content, not including the full-length audio commentary, that give a lot of great insight into how Doughtery and his team brought these iconic monsters to life. They are:
Commentary – Audio commentary for the film with director Michael Dougherty, writer/producer Zach Shields and actor O’Shea Jackson Jr., who plays Chief Warrant Officer Barnes.
Monster 101 (5:44) – Stats on each of the film’s monsters with Michael Dougherty alongside some of the cast and crew talking their love for them.
Evolution of the Titans (27 min) – Behind the scenes look at the creation of each of the Titans. It offer nice insight in the production team’s approach to re-imagining these classic heroes while looking to their past interpretations as well. For instance, Doughtery updated Edward’s vision of Godzilla by using the scales on Godzilla’s back from the original film into this one. Their homework on the creatures really shows throughout the feature.
Monarch in Action (33 min) – Looking at some of the biggest scenes involving MONARCH, the production team discusses the design of the sets and sequences with storyboards. It’s cool to see how scenes like the attack on the arctic base was constructed with Dougherty and his team providing interest explanations for their choices.
Millie Bobby Brown: Force of Nature (4 min) – One of the biggest casting coups for the film was Stranger Things‘ Millie Bobby Brown in one of the lead roles as Madison. This feature goes into some detail on how Brown joined the film and the energy she brought to set, including her chemistry with her onscreen mother Vera Farmiga and Michael Dougherty. It’s clear from the clip just how excited she was to be in a Godzilla film which makes her more endearing.
Monster Tech: Monarch Joins The Fight (8:35 min) – One of the differences between Godzilla and Godzilla: King of the Monsters is the amount of tech available to the characters. This feature details the creation of the various vehicles and gadgets MONARCH uses, such as their gigantic air command centre The Argo or the Orca device.
Monsters Are Real (14:19) – Several academics in zoology and cryptozoology offer their thoughts on mythological monsters and how their stories or legends are still prevalent today. Dougherty and the production team discuss how the used the power of these myths as inspiration in crafting Godzilla: King of the Monsters‘ story. It’s pretty insightful and makes some of the more fantastical elements of the film a bit more grounded.
Welcome to the Monsterverse (3:42 min) – Talking about the monsters within the Monsterverse. It doesn’t really offer more insight than the other features as it’s more focused on teasing next year’s showdown between Godzilla and King Kong in Godzilla vs. Kong.
Deleted Scenes (5 min) – Only two deleted scenes are included and they both involve the Russell family and their tragic past. One is an extended flashback Mark has to the day of Godzilla’s attack in the 2014 film and the other is an extended and alternate take with Emma and Madison’s argument. Neither scene really offers anything more to their characters or their backstories and the scene in the film of Emma and Madison’s argument is the better one as it fleshes out the friction between the mother and daughter more as well as focusing more on Emma’s feelings in the wake of her massive miscalculation.
It’s a pretty nice collection of features that makes this blu-ray worth the purchase. Godzilla: King of the Monsters is entertaining with its massive action and stunning visuals, though the cast could have been given more to do while the exposition a little less of a bog to get through. Nevertheless, it’s still a good film and worth the watch as we wait for Godzilla vs. Kong.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Ricky Church – Follow me on Twitter for more movie news and nerd talk.