(A version of this review was first published on The FilmCritters)
It’s the choices that we make that ultimately matters; not the intentions no matter how noble they are.
In ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters,’ the choices made by the characters set the tone for this epic-sized monster movie that didn’t fall short on delivering high octane monster action.
Michael Dougherty’s sequel to 2014’s Godzilla attempts to do more than satisfy fans of the genre; it tries its best to tell something. And you have to hand it to the filmmakers for trying.
Written by Zach Shields and Dougherty, this sequel is all about the monsters. Don’t let the likes of Vera Farmiga, Kyle Chandler, Millie Bobby Brown, Ken Watanabe, Zhang ZiYi, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, and Bradley Whitford fool you into thinking this is about them. It’s not. It’s all about Godzilla and his huge ego.
In its core, the movie doesn’t really mean anything. Although it’s the 3rd film in the MonsterVerse being established by Legendary Entertainment and the 35th in the entire Godzilla franchise, there’s really nothing to it other than Godzilla trying to establish his alpha status and letting the other titans know he is running the show.
And that’s why I have to hand it to the filmmakers for trying to make something more of the movie by adding the Thanos plot.
Years after the disastrous events of 2014, Emma (Farmiga) lives in a facility in China with daugther Madison (Brown) while his ex-husband, Mark (Chandler) is somewhere shooting animals. Reeling from the lost of their son years ago, Emma focuses her efforts on ORCA, a device that serves as a communication tool for the titans. And that somehow worries Madison. In one scene, she starts to email her dad about her concern for her mom. Then their usual day is disrupted by the birth of a humongous monster, Mothra, and the subsequent attack of ecoterrorist Alan Jonah (Dunce).
This sets off a series of events that would cause massive destruction to different places on the planet. And in the middle of this is the only element of human drama: Emma was the mastermind of the villainous plot to unleash the deadliest monsters on Earth. Her horrified ex-husband and daughter can’t come to terms with her decision so they set out to help the only creature that can stop Gidorah–the petrifying three-headed winged monster that has taken over the planet: Godzilla.
As the default hero of the movie, Godzilla couldn’t really care less about the welfare of the people of the Earth, which is really interesting. He’s not there to save the planet; he was simply there to drive down a point: that he was the baddest titan of them all. It just so happened that he saved the world from further destruction along the way.
And this is one of the things I enjoyed about the movie. While it’s a cookie-cutter blockbuster, it doesn’t resort to tropes and tries to make Godzilla humane.
Everything is anchored on that primal instinct. It’s not about the need to preserve human life but to remain on top of the food chain.
The fanfare revolving the Godzilla franchise is, I presume, on the visuals and adrenaline rush that comes with his clash with opponents. The whole idea of seeing monsters beat each other to death has always been enticing to viewers of all generations. And that’s what the film really capitalized on. The CGI used was good. The tension and terror from all the biting and clawing and explosion translated well on the screen.
Again, there was nothing specifically remarkable in terms of the effects but there’s a certain charm that Godzilla brings to the screen. And when he starts that screeching sound and electricity starts to run through his rocky scales, you’ll feel electricity and excitement running through your veins as well.
That, for me, is what makes the movie work.
You just take it as is.
That choice by the filmmakers, for me, is a really good one.
They know what to capitalize on and really focused on that. At some point after the start of the movie, you’ll really stop caring about the human characters. All you care about is whether or not Godzilla will defeat his enemies.
And that’s not entirely bad at all. Besides, there are some nice choices here and there in the script. Emma’s left-field decision to play god and decide what’s good for the planet is one. It’s a clever way to inject the idea that we are the ones killing the planet. It brings to mind issues of climate change and how mankind is killing the planet. There’s also ZiYi and Watanabe. Their characters are basically second fiddle but they both had their memorable moments: a one-liner and a pivotal plot-pushing move.
When you put all these into consideration, you’ll realize that, despite its shortcomings, Godzilla: King of Monsters is a highly entertaining movie that made the right choices.