As a statement of standards: I enjoyed ‘Godzilla’ of Gareth Edwards. I loved the long tease of showing just glimpses of Godzilla until the very end when he finally emerges from the Pacific Ocean to battle the two monsters in San Francisco. I didn’t mind the story of the soldier (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson) trying to get back to his wife (played by Elisabeth Olsen) and child in San Francisco as a means to give us a human element to follow. I was extremely satisfied with ‘Godzilla’ and, suffice to say, I was super excited to see the follow-up, ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters.’
After all, they don’t give us just one monster but a plethora of titans from Godzilla to Mothra, from Rodan to King Ghidorah.
A movie this large needed a larger human element to ground the piece and to explain all the pseudo-science and history and mythology of the titans. This is told in two sets: the first is the story of Dr. Emma Russell (played by Vera Farmiga) and her daughter Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) and ex-husband Mark Russell (played by Kyle Chandler), who joins the team led by scientists from Monarch who returns from the first movie — Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Dr. Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins), and their team which also includes Dr. Ilene Chen (Ziyi Zhang) and Dr. Rick Stanton (Bradley Whitford).
From Dr. Emma Russell, we discover that in the five years since the last film, Monarch has identified and set up research stations on all the titans and Emma has invented a machine that may serve as a means to control the titans. But they are then attacked and kidnapped by a eco-terrorist group lead by Jonah Alan (Charles Dance). Coming to the rescue is Emma’s ex-husband and Madison’s estranged father, Mark, who teams up with Dr. Ishiro Serizawa as they must find Jonah Alan and the machine that has the power to awaken the sleeping titans.
Director Michael Dougherty promises that unlike its predecessor, ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ will not tease at the titans but put them front and center of this 2-hour and 11-minute behemoth of a film. There’s a whole lot of scientific babble and historical exposition to sort of contextualise the titans and what their place is on this world. Unlike the first movie, ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ has a much more biting, much more severe theme that runs through this narrative and that nature has a way of balancing itself out and cleaning house — and in this case, it is the titans — and that these titans are waking up to undo all the ecological and environmental damage with done to this world.
There’s a whole lot of set up for gigantic monsters clashing and battling it out with each other in land, sea, and air and causing massive havoc and destruction everywhere they go. My biggest issue is that, without any real explanation (maybe it was in the first film, but I don’t remember), Godzilla is on our side and is here to keep the other titans in check. From Thanos of the MCU’s ‘Avengers’ to even the DCEU’s ‘Aquaman,’ we’ve been seeing a fair share of villains attacking mankind (or life in the universe) because we’ve all ruined the world and have spoiled or wasted our resources to the point of ruin.
The consistent message here is clear: as a race, we’ve really messed up. While the actions of these antagonists are severe and extreme and unlawful, the reasoning is not wrong. In ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters,’ the titans are nature’s way of cleaning house. Who can blame nature for all the environmental damage that we’ve caused? The film never addresses why we should be given a chance in the first place.
It’s a nihilistic view and a pessimistic one at that. Why should Godzilla save us? I find it interesting that as the massive destruction of the world and the cities that have come in the way of these titans when they battle it out, I am just here for this fight and I’m not thinking about the wanton destruction or the collateral damage to all the humans in the film. Unlike ‘Godzilla,’ where I felt bad for everyone caught in the crossfire, in ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ I couldn’t care less. I just wanted to see Godzilla battle it out with Rodan and King Ghidorah.
For all the human element that’s in this film — and there’s a lot, since I really like all the human cast from Millie Bobby Brown to Vera Farmiga to Kyle Chandler to Sally Hawkins and Ziyi Zhang — they were just useful to me to help me contextualise the story. There wasn’t a single shred of emotional evidence that tells me we didn’t deserve any of this. The film never addresses this.
But it’s an observation, not a gripe, because I got what I wanted: massive scenes of these titans being awesome. The fight scenes could have been better — Gareth Edwards knew how to compose the shots so you could see the action and feel the size and scope of the titans — because Dougherty often comes too close to the action that at times, we don’t really understand what’s going on nor do we get the feeling of size and scope. The monsters are supposedly bigger than before, with Godzilla having grown and evolved since the last movie, but there are a lot of moments when it still felt small.
Or maybe because I didn’t watch 'Godzilla: King of the Monsters' in an IMAX theater (which I should the next free day I have). There are lapses in physical logic (there’s no way that these humans could survive some of the things they go through in the film) but I’ll toss it up to suspension of disbelief. I’m here for the titans and I got a good dose of them. Mothra is gorgeous, Rodan is regal and frightening, King Ghidorah is menacing, and Godzilla is still champion of monsters. He’s the greatest of them all and I’m all for it.