Godzilla King of the Monsters (2019) Directed by Michael Dougherty. Aided by Mothra and the monster hunting organization Monarch, Godzilla goes to war with the evil King Ghidorah and the deadly Rodan in a contest for supremacy over the Earth.
Mild spoilers follow. Unless you don’t already know, this film is about monsters destroying cities.
At the outset of this sequel to Gareth Edward’s 2014 “Godzilla,” we meet scientist Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga), her zoologist husband Mark (Kyle Chandler) and their daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown). After suffering a kaiju-related family tragedy during the climax of the first film, the couple splinters into estrangement. Emma dives into her secretive work with Monarch, creating an electronic means to communicate with, and even awaken, massive kaiju such as Godzilla.
5 years after Godzilla saved us from the insectoid MUTOs, Emma’s completed communication device attracts the interest of ecoterrorist Alan Jonah (Charles Dance) and his band of mercenaries. They kidnap Emma and Madison in hopes of awakening several quite famous monsters around the globe. Unfortunately, they start their quest by unleashing the mysterious Monster Zero aka King Ghidorah. It’s always a brilliant idea to empower a monster who has the nickname The King Of Terror.
The three-headed dragon finally makes good on the mythic threat he presented in the Toho classics. When his golden noggins are not squabbling amongst themselves about who gets to kill the next batch of helpless humans, he’s incinerating soldiers and even eating people.
You know your villain is a complete badass when he flies around inside a lightning-filled storm of his own creation. His entourage is literally a hurricane. The sequel uses his classic 1964 origin story and establishes his contentious relationship with Godzilla. After gaining freedom, Ghidorah sets about summoning other sleeping Titans and maximizing the global havoc.
Godzilla rises from the depths to defend the world once more, and Mothra eventually joins the fight. They are pitted against Ghidorah, human military bozos attempting to wipe out ALL monsters, and the wildly destructive Rodan. The gigantic pteranodon engages in an incredible aerial battle with jet fighters and destroys cities simply by flying over them at supersonic speed.
The film jets around from the frozen wastes of Antartica to the simmering heat of Mexico, to the streets of Boston for the final battle.
And what a final battle it is! It may go down as a franchise-best ever, and this is the 35th Godzilla film.
In a sequel loaded with monster combat-Mothra Vs Rodan, Rodan Vs Ghidorah, Godzilla Vs Ghidorah, Rodan Vs Humanity, Ghidorah Vs Humanity, Mothra Vs Ghidorah-it is the ultimate payoff for fans. Some of the images during the sprawling struggle are almost surreal and gorgeous. You want to see these great beasts go to Boss Level 8000 and just get Super Saiyan nuts, and you get what you want.
Not only does the sequel ramp up the creature combat to new heights, but it also gives the humans more emotional weight and actual story arcs.
Mark has a justifiable grudge against the creatures, Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (the great Ken Watanabe) has a serious love and respect for Godzilla and his kind, and we see these elements come to fruition. I’m not a hater of the Gareth Edwards original. That film gave us amazing creature designs and an epic final battle, but I would argue that Edwards’s take failed to offer human stories of this level of complexity and yet spent more time exploring them.
The humans in King Of The Monsters are sympathetic, but also perform the three major functions of people in monster movies:
1) Give us exposition about each creature.
2) Track the monsters to the next battle site.
3) Die a lot.
Michael Dougherty stated that he wanted to present these creatures as mythic and awe-inspiring as possible, and he succeeded. They are treated seriously and with reverence by a director who is obviously a fan. Not only are there prominent Easter Eggs from the earlier films, but it also recaptures that crazy sense of fun the older films specialized in when literally anything could happen during a battle, and mysticism played a part. You don’t want this thing to be 2 hours of unrelatable and empty CGI figures throwing buildings around repetitively, so the establishing of the creatures as having emotional states and even social structures is important. They have to become real characters that we can root for, and they do.
King Of The Monsters features close up shots of the kaiju’s eyes in various moments, and you can read the emotion in them.
The ideal mission for any sequel is that it expands the universe of the original while retaining what was beloved in the first place. In that regard, King Of The Monsters is a roaring triumph that honors the legacy of the past and paves the way for more mayhem in the future. It’s also the only truly satisfying continuation of a mythic saga involving winged dragons released this year.
Sorry, Game Of Thrones.