GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS (dir. by Michael Dougherty, 131 min.)
BY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC It’s been five years since Godzilla reboot decimated the multiplexes. That film was an artier take on the monster film, directed by Gareth Edwards (Monsters, Rogue One), that seemed to focus more on the human story than the giant lizard namesake that has spawned 30+ films. Since then there has been a refocus of the series, thanks of course to Marvel, to franchise up these monster films. This re-think was introduced in the follow up Kong: Skull Island, which setup not only one of cinema’s most beloved monsters, but also a mythology that hinted at Legendary, who produced these films, would be bringing Toho’s entire rogues gallery of monsters to this new cinematic universe. This was very exciting news to long-suffering Godzilla fans who have waited patiently to see these monsters unleashed onto a new generation.
Cribbing a page or two from Avengers: Infinity War, Godzilla: KOTM takes place five years after the events of the first film. The once shadowy Monarch organization has come to prominence as humanity’s monster liaison with the revelation that 17 of these apex predators known as Titans are hibernating around the planet. Or they were, until they were awakened by a sonar device called “the Orca” wielded by a group of eco-terrorists lead by Colonel Alan Jonah (Charles Dance AKA Tywin Lannister from GOT) who want to rebalance the world by allowing the Titans to cleanse it. The film begins with Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga), the Monarch scientist who developed the Orca — which can control the Titans through bioacoustics — getting kidnapped along with her daughter Madison(Millie Bobby Brown). Its then up to her estranged husband and former Monarch scientist Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) to navigate Kaiju battles around the world while bringing his fractured family back together. Blessedly, the first Titan the terrorists bring back is Godzilla’s infamous nemesis King Ghidorah, the three headed dragon also known as Monster Zero.
Godzilla: KOTM wisely ditches the arthouse pretense of the first reboot and delivers a rock’em sock’em old school Kaiju beat’em up. Unlike his predecessor, director Michael Dougherty (Krampus, Trick ‘r Treat) isn’t stingy with the goods either. Just minutes into the film, Godzilla is on screen in all his glory doing just what he does best, laying waste to anything that gets in his way. We soon learn that mankind once worshipped the Titans as gods, and some are benevolent (Godzilla, Mothra) and some are in league with lucifer himself (King Ghidorah). The film culminates in the brutal and breathtaking spectacle of team Godzilla taking on team Ghidorah.
Sure it’s campy and a bit goofy but it’s the right direction for these films and the right audience to target since Godzilla belongs to the monster kids, both young and old. There were moments watching Godzilla: KOTM when I was once again a bedazzled 10 year-old kid watching Godzilla fight King Ghidorah for the very first time, cheering on the good guys, hoping Godzilla triumphs again. It says a lot that a film can still inspire that kind of awestruck reaction from a 40 something film geek who sometimes thinks he has seen it all, but this movie managed to do just that, time after time. Loud, over the top and utterly unrelenting, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is the WrestleMania of kaiju films and makes no apologies for it.