Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): ‘Getting it Right?’ – A Film Review

 

Introduction

Almost Instantly after the success of Gareth Edwards‘ 2014 American version of Godzilla, Legendary pictures green lit sequels for a MonsterVerse. Following up would be Godzilla: King of the Monsters with Kong: Skull Island coming before as a spin off which would then be integrated into the MonsterVerse with Godzilla vs. Kong. Though this feels like they’re mirroring the MCU (they might be in part), this has been a big part of the Gojira/Kaiju universe for a long time. The original Gojira became a series integrating other films MosuraRadon and their version of King Kong into the franchise. The USA haven’t exactly been kind to Gojira, with films being cut up, reproduced and their first attempt being completely disrespectful. But Godzilla (2014) seemed to start to take the subject seriously but Godzilla: King of the Monsters looks to give us our very first American version of Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah. Excited? Nervous? So were many.

 

The Good Bits

The overall look and special effects of the film is good, though there’s a different cinematic presence. Images of the monsters and the sacrifices of the characters are immense. Great care is given to the characters, both human and kaiju. With Godzilla: King of the Monsters we’re a lot closer to the super hero-like presence of such kaiju as in the Japanese film renditions. Whilst the characters discuss themes, sometimes a little on the nose, their emotional struggles and performances give the film a message and a driving force. However, there are points where the dialogue is basic and this can take from the characters. It is almost not believable that some characters would feel the way that they do about how to change the world and whether to protect or help the kaiju.

 

Though many mention the similarities the Godzilla: King of the Monsters has to Ghidorah, The Three Headed Monster; there are far more similarities with other films. These similarities or references show the care that the filmmakers have for the source material. For any gojira fan this is a far too long awaited love-letter from Hollywood. The title itself is a reference to the americanisation of gojira as Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, however the film takes this title as a literal narrative device this time. Despite the line up being similar to Ghidorah, the Three-headed Monster, the film, in fact, borrows more from Destroy All Monsters. There are more monsters than in Ghidorah, the Three-headed Monster and their narrative function is much more similar to Destroy All Monsters, though the kaiju (though borrowed from Greek mythology as Titans) take on a more active participation as animalistic characters. SPOILERS: They fight for the Alpha position. END OF SPOILERS. Also, borrowed from Gojira/Godzilla, King of the Monsters! is the weapon of the oxygen destroyer and the themes of sacrifice are also present. References to, though in a much smaller way,Invasion of the Astro-Monster and Godzilla: Final Wars are also present in name (Monster Zero) and in ability (Mosura’s ability to imbue life to another), respectively. Whilst another small link can be seen between Godzilla Vs Destoroyah and Godzilla: King of the Monsters. SPOILERS: The overheating gojira is also present. END OF SPOILERS. It is also worth noting that the filmmakers go as far as making official/scientific names faithful to the Japanese names (but Rodan. As Rodan is more widely accepted, even in Japan, despite originally being Radon), whilst keeping origins the same. This just shows the amount of care they took to honouring a beloved franchise, which is likely to please fans considerably. Scores wonderfully remix and make reference to Akira Ifukube‘s awe inspiring and enduring classics – another nice addition.

 

The nit picks

This film is by no means perfect. As a film, it struggles to balance how it wishes to show its arguments, or even how to make them effectively; whilst characters can be underdeveloped or annoying when they shouldn’t be. The drama had between the characters does manage to hold up to at least make them memorable and to further the narrative tensions …at least. Unfortunately, though much reference is made to the grief that a society experiences after such disasters as were faced in Godzilla (2014) (and unfortunate comparisons to Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice are not out of place here.), they do not keep this sense of grief to character deaths as effectively as they should though. Some deaths feeling like they had no send off whatsoever. As mentioned, the names of the kaiju/titans are kept to honouring their Japanese counterparts, but this can be subtle at times, with many alternative names being used for the majority. Unfortunately, a proper balance between destruction, size, fight choreography and pacing hasn’t been met. At times, though recalling 2014’s Godzilla, they come across rushed in favour of getting to other moments within the film. Actually Godzilla: King of the Monsters would benefit from taking its time with such moments. Whilst it is also true that the kaiju/titans have more presence on screen, their fight sequences haven’t much improved. Their blows are felt and important spectacle is given to these struggles, but there isn’t enough there to carry a developing tension and progression – it is instead rushed.

 

Conclusion

As a film, Godzilla: King of the Monsters shows some wonderful effects work and a great look, whilst giving some of the most important monsters in film history the respect they deserve. Acting in the film is good but the script can sometimes hold them back, but ultimately the bigger problems lie in what’s rushed and whats left out. As a franchise film within the MonsterVerse, Godzilla: King of the Monsters works as a continuation and worthy addition to the world of gojira. Where it could have instead botched it and rushed any characterisation of these monsters in order to fit them into one film – a risk the film took but not actually a problem. But compared with Godzilla 2014… this is much harder. Godzilla:King of the Monsters works to give us more monster action, more developed characters and more fights and occasionally succeeding at this. But Godzilla: King of the Monsters manages to rush important moments of power and size that were crafted so effectively in Godzilla (2014). An awkward, but at times impressive, spectacle. Gojira will return… in fact very literally he will be back next year in Godzilla vs. Kong.

 

Synopsis

After the events in 2014, a family of scientists are divided after the death of their son, whilst the world is split on the debate of what to do about the kaiju/titans. Monarch, the company charged with ensuring the world’s knowledge and protection from these kaiju, find themselves at the sudden mercy of such kaiju. When the catalogued in stasis kaiju are awoken, they have to submit to an Alpha kaiju/titan: King Ghidorah or Gojira, King of the Monsters?

 

Ratings

Entertainment:

starfish starfish starfish starfish starfish

Performances:

starfish starfish starfish starfish starfish

Predictability:

starfish starfish starfish starfish starfish

Technical:

starfish starfish starfish starfish starfish

 

A Note on My Reviews

Please read ‘On Reviews‘ for a guide to how I write film reviews. Any spoilers are appropriately marked and, though I personally prefer to know little about a film before seeing it, there is a synopsis below the review for any who wish to see one.

 

Films Mentioned

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (d. Zack Snyder USA 2016)

Destroy All Monsters/Kaiju Shoshingeki (d. Honda Japan 1968)

Ghidorah, The Three Headed Monster (d. Ishiro Honda  Japan 1964)

Godzilla / Gojira (d. Gareth Edwards USA/Japan 2014)

Godzilla: Final Wars/Gojira: Fainaru Uozu (d. Ryûhei Kitamura Japan/Australia/USA/China 2004)

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (d. Michael Dougherty USA/Japan 2019)

Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (d. Ishiro HondaTerry O. Morse USA/Japan 1956)

Godzilla vs. Kong (d. Adam Wingard USA 2020)

Godzilla Vs Destoroyah/Gojira vs Desutoroia (d. Takao Okawara Japan 1995)

Gojira / Godzilla (d. Ishiro Honda Japan 1954)

Invasion of the Astro-Monster (d. Ishiro Honda Japan/USA 1965)

Kong: Skull Island (d. Jordan Vogt-Roberts  USA/China 2017)

Mosura / Mothra (d. Ishiro Honda Japan 1961)

Rodan/Sora no Daikaiju Radon (d. Honda Japan 1956)

 

Further Reading

rottentomatoes.com

metacritic.com

Official Site

Interview with the Cast

Interview with Mike Dougherty

Interview with Mike Dougherty and Ken Watanabe

Behind the Scenes

Easter Eggs

Meet the Titans

Hollywood Premiere

How Has the Franchise Evolved?

Ending Explained with Mike Dougherty

Mothra Queen of the Skies

King Ghidorah Explored

Godzilla: King of the Monsters Soundtrack

 

If you liked this

Godzilla / Gojira (2014) – A Film Review

シン・ゴジラ or Godzilla Resurgence (2016): ‘The Political and Cultural Icon’ – A Film Review

Kong: Skull Island (2017) – A Film Review

Kaiju Cinema Narratives – An Essay on Film

Gojira in Defence of Kaiju Cinema – An Essay on Film

Pacific Rim Uprising (2018): ‘Too Many Threads’ – A Film Review

Rampage (2018): ‘The Rock of Friendship’ – A Film Review

 

This was an analytical review of….

 

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (d. Michael Dougherty USA/Japan 2019)



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