TeamGodzilla squashes and pounds their way to Kaiju glory in this entertaining summer tentpole.
By Matt Cummings
Warner Bros in 2018 didn’t exactly hit it out of the park. Of the 10 highest-grossing movies of 2018, only AQUAMAN showed up to represent the beleaguered studio. But things are looking up in 2019, with mild successes for DETECTIVE PIKACHU and SHAZAM!, both of which are currently in the top 10. But things are about to get very interesting for WB with this week’s release of GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS, the third in the studio’s Monsterverse. Whether audiences hungry for the next big tentpole post-ENDGAME translates into success here is anyone’s guess, but any perceived lack of enthusiasm should evaporate once the theater lights dim. It’s big, loud, engaging throughout and gives audiences what they’ve been dying for: some of the best and most intense kaiju battles we’ve ever seen.
Five years has passed since Godzilla’s tussle in San Francisco. Since then, Monarch and its lead scientist Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) have been preparing for Godzilla’s return, hoping to communicate with the creature via a machine created by Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farminga). But dark forces are also watching, as the eco-terrorist Jonah Alan (Charles Dance) attacks a Monarch facility and kidnaps Russell and her daughter (Millie Bobby Brown), hoping to release other creatures in an effort to cleanse Earth of the human ‘virus’ which has attacked the planet. As Russell’s ex-husband Mark (Kyle Chandler) and other Monarch scientists struggle to understand Alan’s intents, he unleashes a slew of dangerous titans to begin the cleansing: Rodan, Mothra and King Ghidorah. The result will see Earth tremble once again under the feet (and wings) of these monsters whose intentions become quite clear: bring balance back to Earth by destroying in the infection.
Three movies in, WB had already hit its monster stride with 2017’s KONG SKULL ISLAND, perfecting balancing interesting characters with big-spectacle creatures. KOM continues that in grander style, bringing on a slew of iconic Toho creatures while actually giving the humans to consider whether each is friend of foe to humanity. KOM reminds us that the titans are here not to quote Shakespeare or to even communicate with mankind: their mission is to hunt and to dominate each other, humans notwithstanding. That means every scene they’re in will prove their power over man, whether it be the total destruction of a city or smooth way Godzilla swims away from the Monarch naval fleet. Humans are just too small and insignificant for him or the other titans to care. At the same time, there’s a ton of great mythos generated which fills in much of the monster backstories with believable effect. Performances are solid across the board, with Bradley Whitford chucking up the one-liners and Ziyi Zhang actually playing two different yet related scientists. Zhang’s character is actually a twin, but this reveal is not executed as well as it could have been. However, it’s possible that Director/Co-Writer Michael Dougherty dropped a much bigger reveal for fans who know the Mothra backstory. We’ll see.
Dougherty rightly views the creatures within KOM as the stars of franchise, with humans there to pass along exposition. At the same time, it’s also clear that Dougherty realizes this franchise couldn’t survive alone on monsters grunting at each other for 2 hours and 11 minutes. Dougherty makes creature destruction a spectacle as big and rewarding as anything we’ve ever seen but at the same time never makes it corny or cheap. For example, there’s a clear suggestion that two of the monsters might be ‘dating’, but that reveal is carried off so well that their interactions seem purposeful and even acceptable. Dating might be too specific a term, but we really don’t care as it’s soon back to monster bashing. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether the result works or not. What does works extremely well is Composer Bear McReary’s stunning score, complete with chanting, a marvelous redo of Toho’s Godzilla theme and a powerful drumbeat to march alongside TeamGodzilla’s destruction of multiple cities. It’s the Toho films done on a worldwide scale and with special effects that will look stunning in IMAX.
In the end, GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS is exactly what we need after AVENGERS: ENDGAME: a big spectacle tentpole that delivers on its promise to reward us with giant kaiju throwdowns, satisfying monster backstories and several twists to make humans valuable throughout. Professionals have KOM only opening to $50 million, a number I certainly hope improves as positive buzz surrounds this film. This is the perfect addition to your popcorn consumption, a film that embraces Toho’s deep monster history while gifting us with some of the best Kaiju fights since the first PACIFIC RIM. And with KONG vs GODZILLA slated for a 2020 release, it seems that WB has figured this franchise out and is going full atomic breath blast forward. Long live the king.
GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS is rated PG-13 for sequences of monster action violence and destruction, and for some language and has a runtime of 131 minutes.