Godzilla: King of the Monsters review Millie Bobby Brown Vera Farmiga

Year: 2019
Director(s): Michael Dougherty
Writer(s): Michael Dougherty, Zach Shields
Region of Origin: US
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Rating: PG-13
Color, 131 mins

Synopsis: Godzilla collides with Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah. (Source)

When Godzilla was reintroduced to American audiences in 2014, he returned with a newfound sense of scale and awe. Though not perfect, the film rendered the ancient god as an awe-inspiring force of nature. Through him, we viewed our relationship to the environment, and how we as a species had become our own nightmare in need of a reckoning. In Godzilla: King of the Monsters, director Brad Dougherty has simpler but just as ambitious goals. His take on the universe is a massive-sized brawl that literally leaps off the screen. Sure, it isn’t saying much, but it’s a film that fully owns up to Godzilla’s zaniest mythological roots to dials them up to the nth degree. 

Years after Godzilla’s awakening, the world struggles to cope with a world in which giant monsters exist. Monarch, a secretive scientific agency has been quietly tracking and monitoring Godzilla. They’ve also been hunting dozens of other creatures like him (dubbed Titans) around the world. But Monarch is also split into two factions. One side wants to unleash all of the Titans to restore a “natural” balance, the other wants to keep them in hibernation or destroy them. After a terrorist organization begins to wake them up, Godzilla and Monarch are on the frontlines of a showdown that will determine the fate of our species.

Make no mistake, the stars here are the monsters. There’s just enough of the human element to give these creatures awe-inspiring perspective, but the Titans take center stage. Whereas the first film made it feel as if Godzilla existed in our world,  Dougherty shows us a world that belongs firmly to Godzilla and those of his kind. This thing is all about the hardcore, mythological sci-fi and fantasy elements, delving into the Titans and their otherworldly roots. With this in tow, the film plays out like a massive heist that jets from one part of the globe to the other. The retro adventure serial vibes blend well with towering monster battles which are vibrant, rich fantasy paintings. Seeing Mothra, Rodan and the three-headed King Ghidorah in all their brutal glory is well worth the price of admission, especially on the biggest, loudest screen possible.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters review Ghidorah

Regreattbly, the one lacking aspect of the film is how its stellar cast is used. They’re simply too good for what they’ve been given. Vera Farmiga and Kyle Chandler’s Emma and Mark Russell are fascinating opposites, an estranged couple doing their best in the face of a tragedy. But while they fully bring it, their place in the story is surface rather considering what could’ve been. Torn between them, Millie Bobby Brown is great as Madison, but again, not given much to do. Bradley Whitford’s Dr. Stanton is the only one who thrives with the material. He’s a sort of audience stand-in who plays his role with self-awareness and sincerity. Ken Watanabe’s Ishiro probably has the most emotional and humane scene in the film, but sadly his opposite, Sally Hawkins’ Dr. Graham is shamelessly wasted. 

The best thing about Godzilla: King of the Monsters, is that it knows exactly what it wants to be and doesn’t waste time trying to exceed its grasp. Needless to say, the spectacle is off the scale. Each set piece grows miraculously bigger without fatigue. When it all comes to a head, the climax is so head-spinning, we can’t help but watch it all with a big, dumb grin. At its core, this is a meticulously constructed love letter to the ancient gods that line it. With a razor-sharp focus on monster-sized showdowns, Dougherty has created something that is a great addition to Godzilla’s ever expanding universe and legacy.

SG