Godzilla returns to the big screen this Friday, May 31st. Along with him are some of the biggest stars in Hollywood: Mothra, Rodan, and the three-headed King Ghidorah. Oh yeah, Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, and Millie Bobby Brown are also there.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters picks up five years after the events of 2014’s Godzilla. The movie follows an estranged family who lost one of their children in the attack on San Francisco. Several years later, Emma (Farmiga) and Madison (Brown), the mother and sister of the victim, are living in Japan. Emma is working for Monarch, the top secret government agency that has been monitoring the monsters – known as Titans – all these years. In the years following the attack on San Francisco, she has developed a device called the Orca, which can be used to communicate with the Titans – a much sought after tool.
One day, an eco-terrorist group led by Colonel Asher Jonah (Charles Dance) breaks in to the laboratory, steals the Orca, and kidnaps Emma and Madison. Their plan is to use the Orca to awaken the Titans and restore balance to the world. The belief is that the land that humans now call their home was never meant to be theirs.
Jonah believes that the human race is an infection that the world must be cured of. By freeing the original, rightful rulers, the group is allowing a chance for the Titans to restore order in the natural world. Upon learning this, Emma’s ex-husband and Madison’s father, Mark (Chandler), teams up with Monarch to track down the terrorist group.
By freeing the original, rightful rulers, the group is allowing a chance for the Titans to restore order in the natural world.
For the first half of the movie, King of the Monsters plays very episodically. Once we have been introduced to the main set-up of the movie – the Titans being released from hibernation – it is a fast-paced transition from one monster introduction to the next. This isn’t a complaint though. As each Titan is freed, we are treated to breathtaking shots that fully capture their beauty in awe-inspiring ways.
Mothra extends her colorful wings, Rodan rises from an erupting volcano, and King Ghidorah uses all three heads to shoot lightening at any one who dares threaten them. With a pulse-pounding score, every shot is more exciting and more intimidating than the last. The monsters are so carefully generated and detailed that the movie almost doesn’t need its all-star cast. With so many gratuitous fight scenes between the Titans, it seems that the filmmakers were beginning to think the same thing.
With a pulse-pounding score, every shot is more exciting and more intimidating than the last.
Chandler, Farmiga, Brown, and Dance are only the tip of the iceberg that is the extraordinary cast for this film. In addition to those named, Ken Watanabe, Bradley Whitford, Ziyi Zang, Sally Hawkins, Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds, O’Shea Jackson Jr., and Anthony Ramos all play a part in the attempt to save humanity as we know it. Unfortunately, this impressive cast is better on paper than it is on screen. While all of these actors do what is asked of them, there is no one who really stands out – as an actor or as a character – outside of the family of three.
Emma and Mark experience a sort of emptiness that can only be felt by a parent after losing a child. Farmiga and Chandler portray this in a compelling way – both clearly disillusioned with the world, despite their attempts to convince themselves otherwise. They want so badly to move on but know that it is impossible to do so. Although they have experienced the same loss, the two characters cope in different ways, neither of which are healthy. This leads Madison to grow up a lot quicker than any child should have to. Brown portrays this with a certain tenacity that brings a sense of maturity to the role so as not to be seen as the kid living among the adults.
Brown portrays this with a certain tenacity that brings a sense of maturity to the role so as not to be seen as the kid living among the adults.
There are times when Madison is the only one to act as an adult. Although this is good for the characterization of Madison, it can cause some of the other characters to be frustrating. During a time of crisis such as, I don’t know, “seventeen and counting” monsters being released from hibernation to wreak havoc on Earth, I would expect there to be more people than just a teenage child showing concern. Towards the end of the movie, it did not seem like the adults in this movie even cared about what was happening anymore. Their lack of apathy was contagious. I genuinely forgot that there were human characters that we were supposed to care about amidst all the excitement of Godzilla asserting his dominance over the other Titans.
Ultimately, that might not be a bad thing. Going in to a Godzilla movie, there are expectations one might have. An enormous dinosaur/lizard-like creature will breathe fire, a city will be destroyed, there will likely be fatalities, and a sequel will be set up in anticipation of the movie making boatloads of money. Take notice that good character development is not among those expectations. That’s not to say the movie shouldn’t have good character development. Trust me, this movie would have benefited from it. Even so, King of the Monsters succeeds at what it is trying to do. It is an all-out, over the top monster movie that looks prettier than it has any right being. If, after reading this, you still find yourself intrigued, Godzilla: King of the Monsters might be a good way to spend your weekend. Long Live the King!