“Long Live the King”
Directed by Michael Dougherty
Starring Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds, O’Shea Jackson Jr., David Strathairn, Ken Watanabe and Zhang Ziyi
As Monarch struggles to maintain autonomy and funding against governments keen to shut them down and, as it were, Destroy all Monsters, a research base led by Dr Emma Russel (Farmiga) is attacked by ecoterrorists led by Alan Jonah (Dance). She and her daughter Madison(Brown) are kidnapped, while their subject, Mothra, escapes and goes into a cocoon.
Monarch’s top brass, Dr Ishiro Serizawa (Watanabe), Dr Vivienne Graham (Hawkins), Dr Rick Stanton (Walsh), Dr Sam Coleman (Middleditch), Dr Ilene Chen (Ziyi) and Colonel Diane Foster (Hinds) recruit Emma’s estranged husband Mark (Chandler) to help them track a device they originally developed together called the ORCA, capable of manipulating the Titans by mimicking their ‘bioacoustic’ communication. They catch up with Jonah’s team in the Antarctic, where Emma reveals herself as a turncoat and triggers the release of the three-headed ‘Monster Zero’. Godzilla arrives in time to stop Monster Zero killing everyone, but Dr Graham is stepped on and Jonah and Emma go on to release the ‘fire demon’ Rodan in Mexico.
Chen identifies Zero as Godzilla’s ancient rival alpha, Gidhora. Gidhora triggers the awakening of all the titans, before battling Godzilla. The clash is interrupted when the military deploys an oxygen destroyer, which seemingly kills Godzilla, but not Gidhora, whose regenerative powers are unprecedented because – dun-dun-dun! – it turns out he comes from space.
Madison plays a hail Mary, using the Orca to stop the rampage of the Titans at the cost of attracting the notice of Gidhora, while Mark and Serizawa are led by the now adult-formed Mothra to deliver a nuclear torpedo to help the critically wounded Godzilla regenerate, at the cost of blowing up his ancient, underwater temple.
Godzilla and Mothra tag team battle Gidhora and Rodan, while the humans do some stuff. Mothra is gacked, but bequeaths her power to Godzilla or something, which combines with the nuclear kickstart to cause him to go all red and kick the snot out of Ghidora.
And there was much rejoicing.
What’s wrong with it?
For a film about giant monsters fighting each other, that’s a really big human cast, and for the most part they just weigh down the pacing of the movie. In particular, there is basically no narrative reason for Mark to even be in this film; he’s just a rather hangdog, cis-het white presence who angsts about his family and gets unaccountably groks the titans better than most of those who have studied them for years. Ziyi’s Dr Chen – or rather Drs Chen, as there are two of them, being third generation Monarch researchers and Mothra’s twin custodians – is a missed chance at what seemed like a way more interesting story than any of this rather tired old broken family nonsense.
Man, I can’t believe they fridged Mothra. I know she’s traditionally the fragile kaiju, and that she tends to come back, but seriously, she literally dies to get Godzilla back on his feet.
The archaeologist in me is fucking livid at the destruction of that temple. I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS!
What’s right with it?
Godzilla versus Ghidora is always going to fly well with me.
The supporting characters were all pretty baller.
The visualisation of the monsters was amazing. All traditionally played by dudes in costumes, the use fo mo-cap retains a lot of the movement features, while allowing for refinements like Rodan’s wings actually flapping.
How bad is it really?
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a baller kaiju movie, hamstrung by some cliche human drama. Ditch the Russels, make either Serizara or Graham the traitor based on the threat of the titans’ destruction and shave half an hour of humans off the runtime and you’d have something awesome.
I guess I can still hold out hope for Godzilla vs. Kong.
Best bit (if such there is)?
The final monster fight is amazing, but for me the real standout is the exploration of Godzilla’s underwater haven.
What’s up with…?
- Monster – or robot – movies with all these humans in?
- Anguiras? Why deny the G-man his sidekick?
Production values – On a visual level, this is the Godzilla movie I have always wanted. 1
Dialogue and performances – The cast is pretty good, but there’s just nothing for most of the human characters to do. 14
Plot and execution – The plot is bogged down by the human drama that is apparently necessary to add interest to the cataclysmic struggle between ancient titanic forces. 16
Randomness – For a movie with this many monsters, this is a movie without a great deal of randomness… unless you count the whole human plot. 6
Waste of potential – Oh, man; the ‘Monsterverse’ has been so good up to now. 15