A Brief History
On May 31, 2019, the latest in the Godzilla themed movies, Godzilla: King of the Monsters makes its wide spread opening across the country. With a budget of as much as $200 million you would expect a 2 hour+ festival of eye candy, and you would be right! The 35th film featuring the legendary monster that first destroyed Tokyo in 1954, this edition is produced as the sequel to the 2014 film titled simply, Godzilla. We had the opportunity to pre-screen the film with a test audience, and we certainly got what we came for, which is giant monsters causing mayhem and destruction, while battling each other to the death, with the survival of mankind and civilization hanging in the balance.
Director Michael Dougherty (Krampus) also co-wrote the screenplay, so as you would expect the direction was pretty coherent. Without spoiling the movie for you, suffice to say the scenario revolves around Godzilla and other god-like “Titan” monsters are sleeping, hibernating, or otherwise in hiding, while meddling humans debate how to deal with the threat or opportunity these creatures pose to humans. Are the monsters part of the natural order, and inherently a “good thing,” or are they a menace to humans that must be destroyed posthaste? Those in government and scientific positions do not agree on the proper course of action to take regarding Godzilla and his peers. Is Godzilla, previously a wrecker of cities and killer of humans, actually on the side of humans in this titanic struggle, or is he just part of the problem?
The Monarch organization is apparently the expert human authority on these Titans, with Emma Russell (played by Vera Farmiga of television’s Bates Motel) as a leading researcher into the subject of the monsters. She is accompanied by her daughter, Madison (played by Millie Bobbie Brown of the Netflix show, Stranger Things), the remnants of a family that includes her estranged husband, Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler, who boasts an extensive resume of television success with a wide movie portfolio) who is also a research scientist, but one that wants to see the monsters destroyed, while Emma is more fascinated with the role the monsters could/should play in the world. The son of the Russells, Andrew, was killed in the previous film 5 years ago amid the titanic fights between Godzilla and other monsters. The loss of their son and their respective attitude toward the monsters has caused the family to split up.
We are introduced to the larval form of the monster known as Mothra, and as with the other monsters in the film, the special effects are pretty good. In an effort to keep Godzilla fans happy, the Godzilla monster retains his human like proportions from the original film in which a real person wore a Godzilla suit. Again, without revealing too much, the plot revolves around human meddling with the monsters and the subsequent battle for supremacy between “Monster Zero” and Godzilla for the title of “King of the Monsters.” Monster Zero, also known as Ghidorah, a “demon who fell from the sky,” is the obvious malevolent antagonist, a possibly alien life form resembling a Hydra. Apparently these gigantic one of a kind creatures that have no resemblance to each other are on some sort of monster wavelength that causes them to act like wolves in a pack struggling to become the Alpha creature. The humans, notably Emma, exploit this struggle for supremacy through modern technology.
A certain level of comic relief is provided by the Dr. Rick Stanton character (played by Bradley Whitford), allegedly based on the Rick Sanchez charactrer from Rick and Morty cartoons. Sally Hawkins, award winning actress from The Shape of Water (2017) and Happy-Go-Lucky (2008) provides more star power, though in a limited role. Ken Watanabe plays a convincing founder of Monarch as Dr. Ishirō Serizawa, a conflicted scientist that just wants to do what is best for people and the Earth, without seeming all that sure of what exactly that action should be. Most of the acting is good, with reasonable casting for the various roles, though some of the dialog is a little campy that reads like a script instead of like normal human conversation, though far less so than in previous Godzilla films. In fact, this current production is by far the most modern cinematic presentation of the giant lizard we have ever seen, in all aspects of production. Despite its heritage in seriously B-movie genre, this film has to be considered a cut above that level, perhaps not Gone With The Wind, but at least an A- level movie.
Audience reaction was pretty good, not wild, but at least clapping at the end. Lots of eye candy and monster vs. monster fighting. Monsters were scary and well made, retaining a level of hokey stemming from the origins of the Godzilla story, to wit, the nuclear nature of Godzilla as he glows with some sort of internal nuclear reaction taking place. Humans are portrayed as both victims and perpetrators, with an ample quantity of bad guys and human vs. human shoot ‘em up to keep the action going between monster fights. Nifty images of an underwater Atlantis type setting seen from a submarine provides a change of pace. Fans of fantastic futuristic aircraft will get a charge out of the gigantic aircraft carrier sized stealth bomber type of airplane that can carry, launch and land Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft from an internal hangar!
Bottom line, if you like Godzilla type monster movies, you will undoubtedly love Godzilla: King of the Monsters. The movie delivers all the aspects of a great monster movie, clichés and all. The youngest and most sensitive of children might be scared, but human carnage is minimal, so we believe most normal kids are okay with seeing the film. We eagerly await the next film in the Monster Universe, Godzilla vs. Kong (2020)!
Questions for Students (and others): Have you seen the original Godzilla: King of the Monsters! (1956, American version)? Have you seen the 2014 version of Godzilla? What is your favorite monster movie? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Bernstein, Abbie. The Art of Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Titan Books, 2019.
Keyes, Greg. Godzilla: King of the Monsters – The Official Movie Novelization. Titan Books, 2019.
LIFE Special. LIFE Godzilla. LIFE, 2019.
The featured image in this article is a poster for Godzilla: King of the Monsters. It is believed that the use of scaled-down, low-resolution images of posters to provide critical commentary on the film in question qualifies as fair use under the copyright law of the United States.