Godzilla: King of the Monsters Movie Review
Seldom do sequels work out, often because they try and explore new directions that aren’t aligned with what fans liked about the original. Godzilla: King of the Monsters doesn’t make that mistake. In fact, it goes a step further as it returns to familiar stomping grounds. As a lifelong Godzilla fan, I wasn’t let down. A myriad of monsters and makes this another huge addition to a monstrous franchise.
King of the Monsters stays true to the trend of the last movie, keeping Godzilla in a more reality based universe, but it offers a lot of nostalgia from the older 50s-70s Godzilla movies. Most noticeable is the main title redone from the early movies by Bear McCreary. I knew what it was the second it started playing, and what an epic moment when you hear it the first time! McCreary captures the nostalgia completely. References to the oxygen destroyer from the very first film, as well as Mothra’s twin sister human companions, are more examples of successful inclusions that reference the early films.
A big theme of the movie is transitions. The nostalgia references above bridge the older movies into this new universe that is being built with Mothra, Kong, and the others. More directly in the movie, mankind must find a way to transition from the old world order of mankind as the apex predator. Now, a new world order must be organized where more powerful forces get to move the chess pieces around the planetary chess board. And of course on a smaller scale, the family central to the film must also transition from a happy nuclear family, to the realities of this new monster menace. Even the monsters themselves experience a moment of transition at a very, what I think will become iconic, moment in the movie.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters has pretty solid storytelling overall, especially given its sequel status. I like that the movie doesn’t end up in overly-trod places like New York or Los Angeles. I also like that the movie doesn’t push any kind of politics beyond your very basic be-kind-to-the-Earth message, which I think stays at a low enough level to not be political at all. It’s followed the same message throughout the history of the series. Luckily the human story in the movie is kept pretty light. Your classic wife versus husband divorce drama, sprinkled with a kid stuck in the middle. Everything is focused, as it should be, on the monsters.
Most central to any good Godzilla film are, in my opinion, the monster battles. Godzilla: King of the Monsters definitely lays into the monster battles. Ghidorah, Rodan, Mothra, and of course Godzilla himself are all great CGI wise in the close-ups, and all the wide shots are epic. I loved seeing Godzilla get tangled up in Monster Zero’s heads, and Mothra slamming into Rodan. The teamwork between the monsters wasn’t quite as coordinated as the older movies, each monster was left to their own battle. I loved seeing Godzilla biting down viciously on his opponents. That’s just something you can’t quite capture with a rubber suit. Overall the fights are fast paced, brutal, knock-down, drag-out slugfests. They’re very rewarding, and very satisfying to watch on the big screen with some serious sound effects to accompany them.
The movie does take a few monster blasts to the face. The widely shared scene where Godzilla sends his radioactive breath into the sky is really hard to take in the movie. The scene in all the promotional material is framed very differently from the scene in the movie. Lame. I also felt like the unnamed monsters in the movie were pretty unimaginative design-wise. This was the most serious offender to me, especially considering the available options to choose from. There were some low level plot holes too. One came as a main character with no technical background is sent to repair a malfunctioning door. Meanwhile this ‘craft’ has tons of personnel on board undoubtedly more qualified. Another near the end of the movie, a highly advanced piece of equipment is repaired, in two minutes, in the open rain, after being bounced around during a clash of titans. And no MacGyver in sight.
The movie also isn’t shy about telling you where it’s going next. Parroting the announcement of Godzilla vs. King Kong being released next year, Godzilla: King of the Monsters makes tons of references to Kong and Skull Island. In fact, the credits at the end themselves all but tell you that King Kong’s return is imminent. Speaking of credits, make sure you stay until after they are all finished. There is a final scene that teases a classic foe’s possible entry to the story, but with a twist! There’s also one moment where it’s mentioned Godzilla is on the side of the humans “for now”. Whether that’s a reference to the Kong storyline, or to a broader character arc for Godzilla is anyone’s guess at this point.
If you want some high level, art festival flick, this isn’t going to be it. That’s just not what Godzilla movies are about. If you want to watch some of nature’s most enormous gladiators play king of the ring in metal and concrete jungles around the world, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is for you. It’s a fun summer flick with heart, and offers a little something extra for longtime Godzilla fans.