I was pretty psyched to watch Godzilla: King of the Monsters on the big screen after seeing its trailer. I was excited to see the big guy as he was supposed to look and not the same way 1998’s US adaptation designed him. While that movie had a ton of complaints, it was okay by my book except for Godzilla’s sexy chicken legs but King of the Monsters promises something different. And I must say it delivered.
Synopsis: Just as the US Senate is determining whether Earth’s dormant monsters called the Titans are to be destroyed, paleobiologist Mark Russel (Kyle Chandler) is called by his friend Dr. Ishirō Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) for help in tracking down his ex-wife Emma (Vera Farmiga) and their daughter Madison (Millie Bobbie Brown) who were believed to be kidnapped by eco-terrorist Alan Jonah. It was discovered that Emma holds the key to waking the sleeping giants with a device called the Orca, which could result in the destruction of the entire planet if it falls on the wrong hands.
While I am a big fan of the grand scale monster vs monster action in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, I can’t say that I was similarly impressed by the overarching story about Mark’s family. As flimsy as Godzilla was, I think that the film could actually have benefitted from eliminating this story arc altogether and simply focusing on the eco-terrorism angle and Godzilla’s relationship with Dr. Serizawa.
I felt like watching Vera Farmiga channel Norma Bates and and Millie Bobbie Brown portray yet another iteration of Eleven was painful to watch. Its not the actresses’ fault that they got saddled with roles that called for them to do different versions of similar characters (Vera with the intense semi crazed view of right and wrong and Millie Bobbie with that tortured and panicked expression of disdain) but its just a waste of their acting skills to do the same things over and over again because of the projects they accept.
I liked Ken Watanabe as Dr. Serizawa. It seems like Ken Watanabe is being cast in all the Hollywood adaptations of Japanese projects to validate their faithfulness to the Asian source but he did well in this movie. I loved the way he interacted with the CGI character and his intensity conveyed his bond with the King of the Monsters effectively. I was a big fan of their milestone moment near the end. I wish Zhang Ziyi’s Dr. Ling Chen could have done more given her knowledge of the ancient beasts but this opportunity was not thoroughly explored by the film. Better luck next film?
Godzilla: King of the Monsters did not scrimp on the Monster vs Monster action. From the beginning, the film already effectively laid out the franchise with 18 total monsters and referred to Skull Island (where King Kong was), to establish a connection with the franchise. It also featured the most popular monsters from the Godzilla franchise like fan favorites Ghidorah and Mothra and made them highlights of the movie. The three-headed Ghidorah was pitted as the main villain with powers to regenerate and shoot electricity at his enemies but Mothra was portrayed as Godzilla’s main ally. There were tons of references and easter eggs in the movie too to connect it to previous films but I wasn’t hard core enough to figure them all out. Just keep an eye out for them, okay?
I loved the artistry in the film’s approach. Each battle was beautifully depicted and painstakingly crafted to give that well deserved sense of drama with each showdown. The simple dramatic music in the background also depicted the tension and the significance of each moment in the film.
Audiences can’t help but feel transported to the moment with the deep sense of urgency that this film portrayed before the monsters face off. You can’t help but root for Godzilla since he’s obviously the underdog in this film. While in previous movies, the King of the Monsters was portrayed as having the upper hand, this time around, he needed a hand from humanity to rid the world of Ghidorah. Again, the forced family dynamic took away from this key strength of the movie but the fact that this hulking CGI monster can get viewers to root for him like they would in an upcoming MMA battle — the fact that Mothra can bring tears to their eyes with her steel and mettle, it was an amazing feeling.
I loved Godzilla: King of the Monsters not just because of the action, or the magnitude of the effects, but because it got audiences invested in the character that has been around for the past 60 years or so. It made the world understand what was so special about this beloved monster from Japan and why Asians just lap up any movie or merchandise related to him. It was the first time that Godzilla was given the proper respect he deserved away from Japanese shores and the reverent treatment by director Michael Dougherty makes me suspect that he too, is a fan of the franchise.
All in all, Godzilla: King of the Monsters got a lot of flak from people who didn’t like it. I must admit that it was not a perfect film but it was beautiful. It was cool. It was epic. It was faithful to the franchise. It was entertaining and if you disregard the forced family dynamic, it delivered on its message that Godzilla was king for a reason. Growing up a fan of Godzilla, hats off to the filmmakers who made this movie the magnificent spectacle that it was. Long live the King indeed. I guess it depends on taste. I, for one, approve.
PS. Even when other people are leaving the cinema, may sure to stay behind for the post credits scene and the tribute to Godzilla creators and the set up for the sequel.