Godzilla: King of the Monsters (Movie Review)

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

As someone who was extremely letdown by 2014's GODZILLA, my expectations were set a bit lower on the follow up, GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS, which sees TRICK R TREAT and KRAMPUS director Michael Dougherty in the director's chair and a line up of not one, not two, but three new kaiju to contend with (well, maybe a few more…). While I loved the look, sound design and excellent eleven minutes of actual Godzilla footage in the first film, the human story was a snooze and executed so poorly that I found myself just skipping past them to get to the monster "teases" upon rewatching the film. It was a clever attempt at giving us mere peeks at the creatures, but it ultimately left me asking the question; "Isn't this movie called GODZILLA?"

With that said, I'm happy to say that GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS is the complete opposite of 2014's GODZILLA and delivers all the epic monster mash moments you could want out of a kaiju movie. When looking back at the many attempts to push the genre forward in recent years, from the PACIFIC RIM films to KONG: SKULL ISLAND (all of which I enjoyed), GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS is, without question, the best of the modern bunch. While I know many will champion SHIN GODZILLA as a strong contender (and it IS a fun movie), it still hinges very much on the old-school presentation, whereas GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS honors the nostalgia, while pushing the effects forward into the big-budget realm of awe and spectacle.

godzilla king of the monsters

The story is fairly simple, picking up years after the events of 2014's GODZILLA, where the world is dealing with an awakening of monsters across the globe and attempting to find a way to combat them in their limited capacity and understanding. Of course, we have the Monarch agency working in conjunction with various government bodies in these attempts, but one scientist, Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga), has found a way to communicate with these beings with the help of a new device, which changes the game completely. Of course, such a device would become a very valuable assett, especially to the mysterious and dangerous Jonah Allen (Game of Thrones' Charles Dance) and his horde of mercenaries. Kidnapping Emma and her precocious daughter, Madison (Millie Bobbie Brown), we find out his ultimate aspirations with this device and uncover some mysteries surrounding Emma, as well as her estranged husband, Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler), also a scientist, who shares a tragic event with both Emma and Madison that's torn them apart and caused a rift in their relationship.

With the ability to communicate (and awaken) these sleeping giants, it quickly becomes a race against time to stop the threat of these raging kaiju, as Chandler's character is scooped up to help. However, he's no longer interested in the monsters as much as he is rescuing his daughter and, hopefully, surviving. David Strathairn, Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins return as their characters from the 2014 film, while the military contingent, made up of a Rick & Morty-esque Bradley Whitford, Aisha Hinds as a military commander, O'Shea Jackson Jr. as a strike team lead, Ziyi Zhang as a scientist and Thomas Middleditch as a Monarch stooge, fills in the gaps. It's a strong, diverse cast and each of them brings personality and a certain level of charm and/or weight to their roles, but one thing GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS wants you to know is that it has its priorities straight and this is a film about kaiju battling kaiju, not a kaiju movie disguised as a meta human drama. However, don't let that deter you in the human department; there are some really great human moments in the film, with Ken Watanabe getting the best one.

godzilla king of the monsters, ghidorah

Where we only got glimpses of the creatures in the 2014 film (until the very end, anyway), here we get long, lingering shots, beautifully and lovingly orchestrated by Dougherty, that remind us why we're here. You don't have to squint or freeze frame to soak in these awesome beasts, rather you get to see them in their full glory, rendered masterfully and given their time to shine onscreen. The sound design is astounding and each creature has their own signature sounds and "voice" to carry them through the film. It most certainly makes the case for that tiring phrase "see it in the biggest, loudest theater you can". However, that applies generously here. The action is grand in scale here with one battle after another (and one location after another) creating a thrilling spectacle to behold. Quite simply, this feels like the monster movie Hollywood has been trying to make since Roland Emmerich's abysmal 1998 GODZILLA, but haven't quite cracked. Until now.

With a careful attention to detail, a focus on what's really important (i.e. what you're there to see), through-the-roof special effects, ear-shattering sound design (and a killer, thematic score by Bear McCreary) and an assortment of fun, cool and quirky human characters, GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS is the perfect summer blockbuster. In many ways, I felt like I was watching JURASSIC PARK for the first time all over again, as it stirred that same sense of awe and wonder as it actually gives a shit about these creatures and lets them bask in their cinematic splendor. It's a true drive-in spectacle with a TON of Godzilla Easter Eggs (even as a casual Godzilla fan, I spotted a ton of them, which I won't spoil here) and a real passion for the genre. Also, props to the mega stealth ship used by the protagonists in the film, as it almost becomes a character in itself. It's rare that you care about a "vehicle" in a movie, but I came to really dig that damn ship throughout the film.

If you're looking for a true summer movie spectacle, you can't do much better than GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS. This is the kind of epic kaiju movie you've been waiting for that delivers on all fronts, leaving you with the rollercoaster satisfaction of a ride well spent. It's no epic human drama and the plot is fairly simple (albeit with some interesting layers about the origin of the kaiju themselves), but when it comes down to having a great time at the movies this is a ticket worth buying. Bring on GODZILLA VS. KONG!

Source: Arrow in the Head

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