Film Review – Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)
I had a rollercoaster of emotions after watching Godzilla: King of the Monsters. As a huge Godzilla fan dating back to my childhood, I was extremely giddy and pumped that I was able to experience a new chapter of this franchise. However, this was the first Godzilla film I was watching with my “movie reviewer goggles”, which forced me to watch it differently than I normally would. I had to actually pay attention to the always terrible human side of the story. Watching a Godzilla movie this way is such a rookie mistake.
If you are a huge Godzilla fan and are here to watch Titans carve a path of destruction around the world, then this is absolutely the movie for you. If you are here for a tightly spun narrative, focusing on heartbreaking human emotions and expecting the next evolution of storytelling, I’m sorry to tell you that this might not be the movie for you.
After my viewing, I complained and complained about how the human story made no sense, which gave me such conflicted feelings and almost ruined this movie for me. I then mentioned my feelings to a friend of mine who recently saw the movie. He reminded me as to why we watch Godzilla movies.
His response: “Meh, I couldn’t care less about the humans.”
The following review will be spoiler free.
Directed By: Michael Dougherty
Written By: Michael Dougherty and Zach Shields
Godzilla: King of the Monsters picks up a few years after Godzilla (2014) with the Government trying to take control of the Titans project from Monarch, the secret organization that dominated the previous film and Kong: Skull Island.
With both sides having different ideas of how to deal with the Titans, we then follow Dr. Emma Russell (Farmiga), a Monarch researcher and her daughter Madison Russell (Brown). Dr. Russell believes that she has created a machine that can talk to and control the Titans, ensuring that we would be able to make sure they wouldn’t hurt us again. At the verge of a breakthrough, eco-terrorists step in to relieve Monarch of this new power over the Titans and set up their own plot.
Enter Godzilla and the Titans, who get in the way of the best-laid plans set up by the humans and show us why this was their planet first.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a long-gestating sequel to the 2014 Godzilla, which was Hollywood’s first attempt on the franchise in almost 20 years. King of the Monsters is now the third film in Legendary’s “MonsterVerse” following Kong: Skull Island and will be followed by next year’s Godzilla vs Kong.
Godzilla was always set up as a metaphor for nuclear power, and our use of nuclear weapons during WWII. With King of the Monsters, Hollywood has decided to add onto Godzilla’s message as we currently deal with a pending Eco-Crisis. Updating Godzilla makes him more relevant in today’s climate and can make him relatable to a new generation of fans that might not be able to process the devastation of nuclear weapons but do see the impact of climate change daily on social media.
This addition to the lore was about the only plot point I could get on board with throughout the runtime and should be another reminder that the humans aren’t what we are here to see or care about.
Godzilla and the Titans
What we do care about, however, is Godzilla and his fellow Titans. Luckily this is where the movie shines perfectly. The destruction and battles teased in the trailers, that we have been watching for almost an entire year, are large and devastating. A spectacle that deserves to be seen on the largest screen available to you. With a quick note to go a row or two back from where you would normally sit. I discovered that with the filmmaker’s use of “shaky cam” as sitting too close gave me some problems always knowing what I was watching on screen.
There was care and also attention given to the creatures of this film. The filmmakers spared no expense when it came to making sure that fans of this franchise would be happy with how the Titans were handled. If you were excited to see an updated version of your favorite Titan, but nervous about how they would translate to this new universe, never fear as they were all represented with care.
Without spoiling anything, King of the Monsters is also filled with Easter Eggs, never wasting the lore that has been built over nearly 70 years. I kept catching moments, or even saying things that should or shouldn’t happen moments before they would. That joy of seeing things like that sprinkled throughout the runtime brought pure joy to this Godzilla fan.
This wouldn’t be an honest review if I didn’t look at the whole presentation equally. The story is usually the weakest part of any monster movie, but that is an understatement in Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
The story given to us in this film is filled with holes and inconsistencies that change on the whim of the plot’s needs. Characters’ motivations change and are never clearly displayed for us to know why they are doing what they are doing from one scene to the next. Everything that they do is just to move the plot forward, and it takes away the opportunity for any emotional investment to be placed in these characters. It gets so bad that entire characters are written in and out of the film based on the need of the story beats. For some characters, I couldn’t even tell you what happened to them by the end of the film. The filmmakers just expected you to forget they even had a story thread left hanging.
Like stated earlier, the humans aren’t really what we are here to see, but it seemed like the creatives really wanted to try this time. From the start of the film, it seemed like this one was going to be different and I had a lot of faith that they were going to do it right this time. That hope nearly ruined Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters was beautiful from a technical and effects standpoint. The design of all the Titans was amazing; they each had their own, distinct design and appearance. They also had an almost rubbery/latex appearance in homage of the original rubber suit Titans of the past. I think that the way they went about the creature design stands out and it will hold up better than a traditional CGI creature would as the film ages.
The creature design was also complemented by using stop motion animation for their movements. It all had a very classic Godzilla feel, something fans will certainly appreciate.
Looking back at Godzilla: King of the Monsters, it’s hard to say from a “film” standpoint that it isn’t flawed. The story on display here is broken in so many ways and should have never been released in its current state. I could go on for pages about all the story elements and errors that exist within this film.
Luckily for Godzilla fans, none of that matters. It’s all about the Titans and how they are treated within the lore setup previously. That was handled with care and love, from people who clearly understand the franchise, and because of this, the film excelled when it came to the attention given to Godzilla and his fellow Titans. It’s just a shame that that same attention wasn’t given to the human side of the story.
If you are in it for Godzilla you will not be disappointed, if that isn’t your thing and you are hoping for an emotional story involving the humans on the ground, I’m sorry to say that this might not be the movie for you.
Godzilla and the Titans Grade: A
Humans Grade: C
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