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Godzilla: King of the Monsters is made by someone who enjoys the original material and did everything he could to present that in this film.

The two previous stabs at this by western creators didn’t feel like Godzilla movies. The terrible Roland Emmerich film Godzilla (1998), was a proxy for his love of destruction and was both insulting and hard to watch. The 2014 Godzilla, directed by Gareth Edwards, was dynamic visually, but focused way too much on the humans (who were all boring, except for Bryan Cranston who was dispatched early… sorry, spoiler alert for two seconds ago).

What Godzilla: King of the Monsters nails is the tone, the kaiju, and the spirit of the 70s and 80s Japanese films that it’s based on.

When I was a boy I grew up watching Godzilla films at the local theater, and later on Saturday afternoons on UHF television. There’s a certain feeling that those movies have, and King of the Monsters had that same quality.

The credit for making this feel like a real Godzilla movie is director and writer Michael Dougherty, who grew up watching the films and loving them in the same way I did, probably more so.

He described what Godzilla means to him in this interview for io9,

“I was a little half-Asian kid growing up in Ohio. And I was made fun of a lot, and to watch these amazing movies about giant monsters—and I already had a love of dinosaurs and animals and nature—that were made by other Asian people meant the world to me. You know? Because other than that, it was cowboys and cops and robbers. Godzilla provided this weird security blanket because he was so strong [and] he was so powerful.”

Why Godzilla Means the World to King Of Monsters Director Michael Dougherty

You can see the influence of that love throughout Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

There are a lot of Easter eggs in this film, including Serizawa’s watch, the Oxygen Destroyer, the old Godzilla theme, the twins controlling Mothra, and that remake of the old Blue Oyster Cult song. If you’re familiar with the old stuff, there’s a lot here to chew on.

Dougherty shows a lot of respect for these creatures and the history of the Japanese films they are based on. Some of the scenes feature special effects where actors bring life to the monsters through motion-capture.[1] That’s a uniquely-modern way of paying tribute to the guys who used to wear hot rubber suits and tear up miniature cities long ago.

Dougherty understands how to make a Godzilla film. He adds a lot of his own mojo as well though. The atmosphere is thick throughout the film. Much like a Zack Snyder film, this world, despite being in modern times, doesn’t look like the world we live in. Every scene is painted like fantasy or science fiction. The cinematography is pretty. The effects are good. It’s all very immersive.

That doesn’t mean that everyone is going to enjoy this film. Again, this feels like an old Godzilla movie. Do you watch, or have you watched old Godzilla movies? If you love them, you’re going to enjoy King of the Monsters. If you couldn’t be bothered to watch those old films, then this movie may rub you the wrong way.

The actors are good (two are excellent… I’ll go into that more in a minute), but the script and plot of this movie are a bit of a mess. The pacing is uneven, the dialog is average, and the overall plot is thin.

Now look… this is a damn Godzilla movie, okay? If you want a serious dissertation on the human spirit, then hopefully you’re not expecting that from King of the Monsters.

King of the Monsters is loud and proud. But it’s not high art.

This movie does exactly what a Godzilla movie is supposed to do, which is set up a reason for all these big monsters to beat the stuffing out of each other. And they do plenty of that! The action scenes are fun. They do a good job of giving the fights scale, and putting you in the middle of the action.

The cast for this movie is solid, but two actors stand out. Millie Bobby Brown out-acts every adult around her. She’s compelling in the role of Madison Russell and steals every scene she’s in.

The other surprise is Bradley Whitford, who plays Dr. Rick Stanton, and delivers the best lines in the film. He takes a smaller role and sticks out like Bill Paxton in Aliens (“Game over man, Game Over!”).

Not only is this film connected to 2014’s Godzilla, but it’s also connected to Kong: Skull Island (2017), and they make it very clear that there’s more of that coming in the future.

A couple left during the IMAX screening where I saw the film and I think for a certain crowd this movie is going to be more irritating than exciting.

Ironically, Shin Godzilla (read my review here) is a much more modern and mature take on the subject. And I think Pacific Rim has better fight scenes and is crafted better overall. This is not the King of the Kaiju films.

But, if you’re a Godzilla fan, particularly if you’re a fan of older Godzilla films, or if you just enjoy senseless destruction, big monsters throwing down, or want to get away for a couple of hours of mindless thrills, then Godzilla: King of the Monsters could stomp its way into your heart.


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