I’m going to be honest with you all up front: I don’t know if I can review this movie. Not because it upset me like Shazam! did. This movie did something completely different. Godzilla: King of the Monsters completely bypassed the logic centers of my brain. Every time I started to think about underlying themes or characterization or anything that works on a narrative level, one of the film’s Kaiju appeared on screen and my inner five-year-old went “Phwor! Lookit! Big monster!” and I completely lost all logical abilities.
However, I’m going to make an attempt at this. No spoilers in this review, unless you consider talking about the premise to be spoilers.
Let’s get into that setup:
Godzilla: King of the Monsters takes place five years after the events of the 2014 Godzilla reboot. Two main factions are vying for control of Kaiju research. One is Monarch, the Kaiju cataloging organization that views these Kaiju – called Titans in the film, but I’m stubbornly calling them Kaiju because that’s what they are – as a natural event that should be monitored but is not an inherently bad thing. The other one is the United States government, wanting to turn the Kaiju into weapons because they looked at the script and realized they were in a Godzilla movie and they were the United States government.
Our main human characters are drawn from a family of four reduced to three during the events of Godzilla 2014, composed of Science Mom, Rugged Science Dad, and Eleven from Stranger Things. Science Mom is working on the MacGuffin, a device that allows for limited communication with Kaiju. This draws the attention of a third faction that wants to use Kaiju to reset humanity led by Tywin Lannister. Tywin kidnaps Science Mom, Eleven, and the device and in doing so sets the plot in motion. The movie has one last big twist that I’m not going to spoil, but it put a nice spin on a particular cliche.
If you watched Godzilla 2014 and were upset because the movie featured too little Godzilla, you might be worried about how much I’m talking about the human characters. I will admit, I spent the first thirty minutes of the movie wondering if Legendary had learned nothing and was going to be spending most of its runtime on borning humans doing boring human things.
Then, about a half hour into the movie, the action fully kicked into motion and the inner five-year-old grabbed my brain’s logic centers and shut them down to shout in excitement.
From there, the movie plays out like a one hundred million dollar version of a child smashing their plastic toys together – at least, when the Kaiju are on screen. When the humans are on screen…okay, these are some phenomenally talented actors, and they do a great job with the script they are given. Ken Watanabe and Millie Bobby Brown are probably the standout among them. Charles Dance does a great job with the main human antagonist, although it was really difficult not to see Tywin Lannister every time he was on screen.
That being said, the plot is one of those rare ones that manages to be both threadbare and at the same time completely impenetrable. The attempts at real science are laughably stupid, especially when the film delves into the wildly discredited ‘alpha pack leader’ theory. Characters speak either in broad operatic declaratives or to exposit something about the Kaiju – often something that the viewer didn’t need explaining – and their actions are driven mostly by what the plot demands they do.
And none of that matters at all, because it’s a goddamn Godzilla film. We aren’t here for the humans. We’re here to watch giant monsters absolutely wreck shit. We’re here for the spectacle of the toys being clacked together more realistically than ever before.
On this front, Godzilla: King of the Monsters absolutely delivers. The Kaiju action sequences are gloriously realized. Godzilla is amazing to watch in action, and the battles against the other Kaiju are an absolute blast. Each Kaiju is beautifully realized with some of the most stunning CGI ever applied to produce giant monsters, and they are written as actual characters with clear thoughts and motivations. I haven’t had this much fun watching monsters brought to life since Pacific Rim.
In a way, the plot being a mess kind of reinforces the “kid with toys” mentality of this move, smashing their favorite monsters together and screaming in excitement as they imagine the epic battles taking place – but in this case, the imagination isn’t needed, because the epic battles are right there on screen. We get to see Godzilla, King Ghidorah, Mothra, and Rodan engage in epic clashes, while in the background brand-new Kaiju are shown rampaging across the landscape. Given that Legendary Films is banking on the Monsterverse being an ongoing franchise and that their contract with Toho is up for an uncertain renewal after Godzilla vs King Kong next year, these brand-new Kaiju might become more prominent later on. One in particular, a beast that looks like a Wooly Mammoth had a baby with a Gorilla and named that child Behemoth, I definitely hope we see more of in the future.
Of the pre-existing Kaiju, all of them are awesome, but Rodan absolutely steals the movie. I can’t go into details without spoiling anything, but his characterization is the strongest of all four main monsters, and you actually get a pretty good sense of what he’s all about. If Legendary is able to renew their contract with Toho, I’m desperately hoping someone there is working on a Rodan movie starring this version of the monster.
Now, for the big question: would I recommend Godzilla: King of the Monsters?
That depends. If what you’re looking for is fun Kaiju action, then absolutely, without equivocation. If what you’re looking for is a well structured or written film? No. That being said, if you’re on the fence about seeing the movie, you absolutely should go and see. This is one of those films that has to be seen on the big screen to fully be enjoyed.
If you can’t go see it this weekend, why not read a free book? …that was the best segue I can come up with. Monster action fried my ability to write transitions, I think.