I know a lot of people who have “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” high on their lists of most anticipated films of the year. If you grew up watching the many variations of Godzilla movies that were primarily a man in a suit, stomping on miniature versions of Tokyo, it’s easy to understand your attraction to this franchise. These were the original disaster films, that featured large swaths of civilization laid to waste by giant monsters battling one another. Before “Transformers” or the MCU, this was your go to fix for mass destruction.
A few years ago, I had a slight aversion to these types of movies, a hangover of 9/11. The thought of the death that would be involved took most of the joy out of this after a while. Maybe it is true that time heals all wounds because I did not have a negative reaction this time around. In part it may be that the cities are mostly abandoned in anticipation of the arrival of the monsters, but I also think that since there is such a heavy emphasis on the scale of the creatures, everything else looks like toys being crushed, despite the improvements of Computer Generated Images. It still comes across as if we have guys in rubber suits wrestling among the sets.
“King of the Monsters” does not waste time setting up a backstory or building a narrative. It launches right into what passes as a plot with Scientist Emma Russell, played by Vera Farmiga, plowing forward with a tool to communicate with “Titans” in a primitive way using sound. She is estranged from her ex-husband after they lost their son in Godzilla’s rampage in San Francisco five years ago. Her daughter Madison however is still in touch with her Dad electronically, and she has some worries about her mother’s obsessions. Millie Bobbie Brown from “Stranger Things” plays the young Maddy and to no one’s surprise, ends up in the middle of the “clash of the Titans”. Kyle Chandler is her Dad, and he is a veteran of these kinds of films having been in Peter Jackson’s remake of “King Kong” and the J.J. Abrams genetically derived from Spielberg “Super 8”. Ken Watanabe returns as the character he played in 2014’s “Godzilla” and so do Sally Hawkins and David Strathairn. Their presence is not essential to the story, it merely adds a link to try and connect the events of the earlier film to these proceedings. New characters abound and are played by familiar faces but their parts have little impact on the main focus of this film…monsters fighting.
The pace of the movie is relentless, and that may sound like a good thing but I’m not sure it is. There is virtually no time to reflect on the implications of each new discovery or every turn in the tide because the next plot complication arrives almost immediately. Maybe that’s why the movie feels so much like a cartoon and is more easily digested, because the human characters are so superfluous to the events happening on screen. The locations around the world keep shifting so quickly that we don’t get much sens of our bearings before we are whisked off to another battle on a different continent. The best things that the movie has going for it are it’s scope, size and volume. Spinal Tap must have left their equipment in the studio when the sound engineers of this film went to work because this movie plays at eleven, for all Two hours and eleven minutes. There is so much, roaring, screaming and explosive impact from the screen that I would advise you to bring earplugs if you want to avoid tinnitus for a few hours after the film plays.
Monarch is the name of the secret agency tasked with dealing with these monsters, see there is a link to Godzilla even in the name of our science group. The scientists solve problems in seconds but the military component of the group leaves something to be desired. The tactical units don’t know how to secure an area that they are taking control of. The equipment is always damaged in some way as to require a fix that presents a distracting side complication to the fight. And finally, there does not seem to be a very clear chain of command. Basically, a terror group that wants the monsters to remake the planet, is battling with Monarch over control of technology and the monsters themselves. So in addition to the Three headed invasive species of Ghidorah, Monarch has to deal with Tywin Lannister. This plot thread will allow a continuation of the franchise and the restoration of some of the destroyed creatures in future episode. There are also a few seeds of the future Kong vs Godzilla battle that all the fans of these movies are waiting for. There were no crossover characters from “Kong Skull Island” in this film, but the location is referred to a couple of times and it is clear that Kong is one of the titans that will battle for apex status in the future.
So the human characters are not great, they just hold together enough plot to make the giant monster battles serve some purpose. Those big battles look pretty spectacular, but I’ve got to say, if it were not for human intervention, there would be little reason to think of Godzilla as the king. He gets whooped a couple of times in the movie and it is only “Science” that makes him able to challenge for the throne again. Look it’s big and LOUD, and a lot of fun, but it means little and you will not be permanently impacted one way or another. Go have some popcorn, put your favorite candy in the popcorn and then butter it. Wash it down with a large soda, because after all, you are being asked to swallow an awful lot by this movie.