Game of Kaiju Thrones: A review of Godzilla: King of the Monsters

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Image owned by Warner Bros and Legendary and from Dread Central (Ghidorah goes for the jugular)

There is nothing from my recollection of Godzilla: King of the Monsters to suggest the decidedly mixed reception it has received.

Many have cried dissent for the human characters and their role in the film. I don’t think they were anything special and some did have cliche backgrounds. At the same time, they didn’t bore me or made me miss when the monsters were tearing up.

It came across as an earnest love letter to the over sixty years of Godzilla films, the vast majority from Toho’s Japanese output. The callbacks and allusions, real or perhaps imagined were really touching. When it comes to an American production handling the tropes, aesthetics and flavor of a Godzilla film, it seems peerless. It certainly was as entertaining a romp as anything I had been expecting.

So, why the divide? Perhaps critics want more from a franchise that has been around for so long. They wanted better dialogue, better plotting and if it were even possible, sensible explanation for something like giant monsters. Perhaps if I am being too harsh or am misreading the complaints, it could be they wanted what they actually did get but better.

I can’t blame anyone for wanting a group of human characters that go beyond the needs of propelling the monsters from place to place, from fight to fight. Perhaps, after all this time having a human cast that lingers in the mind as strongly or just strongly enough is an innovation they want from these type of films.

I would be fine with that one day, and no, I will not be recalling the human characters as strongly as the monsters. That was expected and the film met expectations. Speaking of monsters…

As is more or less agreed upon, the monsters are the best part of the film and that’s not just a case of victory by default. The characterization and presence of the kaiju or as the film titles them, “titans”, is marvelous stuff.

Sometimes, all that needs to be said in any scene with the monsters is how they act, how they observe what is happening around them and how they look at those squishy little humans.

Even though the movie confirms there are plenty more titans than just the four advertised: Godzilla, Ghidorah, Mothra and Rodan, they are given for my tastes, just enough screentime.

It’s not new to give the monsters characterization that verges, if not becomes practically human, but it works wonders in suspending the proper disbelief. I buy into the excessive nonsense of this world because the monsters feel real. The sense of scale of these monsters and their impacts on the world, whether they intend the carnage they bring or not, is something to behold.

It is beautiful yet terrible.

King Ghidorah, who has only ever been the hero once before in the franchise, is the main kaiju antagonist and he is legitimately scary. He has come a long way from his 60s debut, when his sound effect and the inflatable-tube man way of moving his three heads was more hilarious than ominous. Ghidorah is just a mean S.O.B. and I love it.

I will admit that the acting from my species is not the best, but its not bad either. I don’t remember cringing from anything anyone said. It’s more a case of how cliched each person’s role is and that is more of a nitpicky gripe I can fall in agreement with.

Kyle Chandler’s role is Mark, both as an ex-scientist from titan-monitoring organization,Monarch, and as the divorced formerly drunk father dealing with a dead kid from Godzilla’s battle in San Francisco last film and the divorce that came with it.

His wife, Emma,played by Vera Farmiga, is also a scientist dealing with a gizmo that can be used to interact with the kaiju to calm them down and even direct them away using an advanced echolocation device known as ORCA. With it, humans can communicate  how the monsters communicate.

Their daughter, Madison(Millie Bobby Brown), is probably the best human actor in the film and also, if this is any indication, speaks the least of the main humans, and often just her body language is enough to sell her part, especially a funny exchange she has with the main human villain, played by Charles Dance.

This family dynamic is put in peril by Dance’s Jonah Atwell, an eco-terrorist who wants to use the titans, particularly Ghidorah, as a way to purge enough of humanity to recorrect the natural balance. In other words, Ra’s al Ghul using giant monsters.

Mark rejoins Monarch to search for his ex wife and daughter who were taken by Atwell due to one’s expertise in ORCA and the other as incentive and  as we find out, more.

Ken Watanabe’s Dr. Ishiro Serizawa, the leading Monarch scientist, is both the Japanese audience surrogate as well as being an apologist for the better angels of Godzilla and his kind.  He is one of the few from Godzilla 2014 to return alongside Sally Hawkins and David Strathairn.

He seems the most invested out of the cast, particularly in how the destructive creatures can help us through their special radiation having nature benefiting effects which allows one impressive silver lining to their rampages.

The movie’s politics, that of the titans being a possible solution for many of mankind’s self inflicted mistakes like climate change is given lip service, but perhaps to push the plot and the monster mashes along, is made a secondary concern. The main concern is whether coexistence is feasible with such beasts and even if the “good” monsters beat the bad monsters like Ghidorah, can human civilization endure in the meantime? Several American cities by the end aren’t just destroyed, they effectively cease to exist when the dust settles.

Perhaps the film’s unresolved politics and stances are the result of writing not thoroughly enough. Perhaps its an ongoing debate that next year’s Godzilla Vs. Kong will continue. Perhaps there is no easy resolution to such a question anyway. Whether humanity does ally with Godzilla and like-minded Kaiju isn’t the problem, it’s that the arrangement is ever in G’s favor. As Serizawa espouses to the United Nation, we would be Godzilla’s pet.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters is one of those films where it’s a better or worse product depending on what you want from it. This is a case that has been at the Godzilla franchise’s feet for almost its entire run. I have been wracking my brain for what is,so far, my only viewing of the film for any serious problems. I can’t think of anything that gives you a 40% on Rotten tomatoes or a 48 out of 100 on Metacritic.

As a viewing experience for those both into giant monsters or not, it is not a below average experience, though in fairness, those sites judge by number of favorable reviews, not an estimate of every critic’s score which is much more difficult.

It is an above average,at least, end result and an A-grade example of how you do monsters CG that were once rubber suited.

Originally posted 2019-06-04 20:21:06.

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