When I was about 9 or 10, we acquired the VHS for Godzilla, the 1998 Roland Emmerich ‘remake’. Me and brother proceeded to watch this movie, a lot. It wasn’t until much later that I realised that this movie wasn’t a Godzilla movie.
On 3rd June, I had just finished watching Godzilla: King of the Monsters. This was a Godzilla movie.
In preparation for the release I have spent the last month or so trying to work my way through all the Godzilla films (including all the Toho films that have later connections to the Showa series). However, due to exams and other commitments I have only managed to watch up to and including, Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster. This is the fifth film in the Showa Godzilla series, and was the 13th film related to Godzilla. The film featured the eponymous Ghidorah, fighting Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra. And is the closest comparison with this years, Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
What Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster did in 1964, was bring together the threads of the 4 previous Godzilla films (including the excellent 1964 crossover Mothra vs. Godzilla), Rodan (1956) and Mothra (1961). It also was the first film to properly position Godzilla as the good ‘guy’ (Godzilla Raids Again (1955) did have him fight Anguirus, but this was more of a confrontation than a fight to protect). Up until then Godzilla was a force that thundered through Japan, seemingly destroying all that was in his path at random, punishing mankind. With Mothra and Rodan, Godzilla would fight Ghidorah to protect mankind.
And protect mankind he did in 2014’s Godzilla. Directed by Gareth Edwards, this was the first film in Legendary’s ‘MonsterVerse’, followed by 2017’s Kong: Skull Island, this years sequel, and 2020’s Kong Vs. Godzilla. Godzilla was a force of nature that was awakened by nuclear testing, he protected mankind from the parasitic MUTOs and then drove off into the sunset after his mission was complete.
Which brings me to Godzilla: King of the Monsters. I loved this movie. I have seen critics argue that the film has bad writing, bad dialogue, bad characters, bad/boring action. To which I ask, ‘Why are you watching a Godzilla movie?’ This is a well made, fan-serviced accomplishment. All the elements that make a Hollywood blockbuster are here, and it is very good one.
Matt Singer (a critic I hold in the highest of regard), compared this film to Independence Day: Resurgence. Which is baffling. The action in that sequel was a boring CGI mash-up that tried too hard to service the fans of the first one. What Godzilla: King of the Monsters does is use the CGI and action beats to service the characters of Rodan, Ghidorah, Godzilla and Mothra with upmost repsect. Mike Dougherty and the writers of this MonsterVerse understand the monsters. They understand that us humans should merely run away when the fighting starts.
[This cover is awesome. I had no idea I wanted it in a Godzilla movie.]
The critical side of my mind all but vanished when Mothra appeared. And if there was any hope of it returning, then it went on holiday when I heard Mothra’s Theme, and that moment I heard the Godzilla theme by Akira Ifukube. I audibly laughed with glee when I saw that David Strathairn had a weapon called the ‘Oxygen Destroyer’, and again when I saw the references to the lore of Mothra. Honestly, when that Zhang Ziyi ‘reveal’ came I just got giddy.
The human characters are rightfully the worst part of 2014’s Godzilla. The writers of the sequel admirably attempt to rectify that. They give Ken Watanabe a moment his Dr. Serizawa deserved (and again is a homage to the 1954 original). Vera Farmiga, Kyle Chandler and Millie Bobby Brown have an arc which wouldn’t be lost in a Spielberg film. And I love the minor characters played by Thomas Middleditch, Bradley Whitford, Charles Dance and Aisha Hinds.
If, and that is a big ‘if’, I had any quibbles it would be that I wish there would be a fight that is in the day. The night scenes and storm effects are impressive, but would be balanced better by a daylight sequence. Like the introduction of Kong in Kong: Skull Island. And for those disliking the dialogue, its a Hollywood blockbuster, and to be honest some of the writing is no different than any of the 22 Marvel films (disclamer: I adore the MCU).
When Mothra appears, when Rodan awakens, when Ghidorah stands tall, and when Godzilla intimidates. Moments of awe.
Godzilla is an icon. Godzilla: King of the Monsters understands this. And if the ending is anything to go by, the icon is a king. But the King will have to fight Kong. Bring on 2020.