Review – He’s Back and Cranked Up to Eleven (“Godzilla, King of the Monsters”)

Yeah, I’ve been a fan of the big guy since I was a kid. From Godzilla’s early 1956 “kill ’em all” days, to his goofy man-in-a-rubber-suit decades, to his rebirth back into the badass lizard that he truly is. This movie is a sequel to the 2014 movie and part of Legendary Films MonsterVerse. Move over MCU and DCU!

 
It’s been five years since Godzilla walked away from a ruined San Francisco and cynical Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) had enough with monsters after the Big G killed his young son. So he took off, leaving his scientist wife, Emma (Vera Farmiga) and his teenager daughter, Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) behind. In the interim, Emma has invented the Orca, a laptop gizmo can communicate with Titans (monsters) and potentially control them. Good news: a ginormous caterpillar (Mothra) has just hatched and Emma can ‘talk’ to it. Bad news: an Eco-terrorist named Colonel Alan Jonah (perennial bad guy Charles Dance) wants it!
 
Meanwhile, doctors Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) approach Mark, telling him that nasty Colonel Jonah has not only kidnapped his ex-wife and kid, but plans on resurrecting a frozen super-monster called Monster Zero (aka King Ghidorah). But things go south quickly as Mark gets the shock of his life–Emma has gone full Daenerys Targaryen and drops a bombshell on her ex-hubby and the others. She wants to unleash all the hidden Titans all over the world! I guess she sides with Ra’s Al Ghul, huh? And what about Eleven… sorry, I mean Madison? How does she figure in all this?
 
Anyway Mark, who’d rather kill every monster in sight, decides that Godzilla is our only hope and joins the Monarch program in getting ol’ nuclear breath to fight the others. . .which isn’t gonna be easy since King Ghidorah has three heads, can fly, AND has electric/fire breath! Then there’s the U.S. wanting to drop a weird bomb on them (a cool callback to the 1956 Godzilla movie) and the sudden appearance of Rodan, a flying fire monster from Mexico who’s thrown into the mix, as well as a fully-hatched Mothra who (thank God) is on our side! Godzilla’s gonna be busy!
 

There are fights, smack-downs, more fights and a conclusion that is about ridiculous as it is jaw-dropping. I laughed at the monster-sized plot holes, the hilarious  ways any human managed to stay alive in this movie, and the sheer audacity the filmmakers brought you a movie that has gigantic behemoths duking it out while a ‘family’ story is running in the background. Screenwriters Zach Shields (Krampus) and director Michael Dougherty (Superman Returns) must’ve had fun writing this; a throw-back to the old Toho monster movies of the 60’s & 70’s. Sure they used the same old clichéd tropes before, but you’ve come see great big monsters fight each other and inflict severe property damage, right? Right!

Unlike the 2014 film where you barely saw Godzilla and then he was mostly in the dark, this time he’s the star and looks great! I must say, the CGI is damn impressive and looks real enough. I also have to give kudos to the actors for NOT playing it like a joke. They all take this very seriously, with the exception of Bradley Whitford who plays sarcastic scientist Rick Stanton. Whitford said he (and I’m not making this up) patterned his character after Rick Sanchez from Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty cartoon series! This movie is wholly ridiculous and absolutely dumb, but it’s also extremely fun to watch and highly entertaining.

 

Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)


*
Say what you will about those “silly Japanese monster movies”, but they’re a multi-billion dollar cottage industry for Japan and taken very seriously… despite the fact for several decades it was a couple of guys running around in giant rubber suits thrashing papier-mâché buildings. Yeah, I’ve been a fan of Godzilla since I was a kid.

Even though you KNOW every film like this kind yields high levels of destruction, explosions, untold carnage, and gigantic monsters battling each other for no reason other than to do it, there are always several human side-plots for you to forget, and this one has a few. We start with a visit from Princess Selina Salno of Selgina (Akiko Wakabayashi) and intrepid police detective Shindo (Yosuke Natsuki) that has been assigned to guard her. What’s weird is, as Selina’s plane is destroyed by a bomb en route, she STILL shows up in Japan anyway. Huh?? AND now she claims she’s from the planet Venus! Could it have something to do with that mysterious meteorite shower? To everyone’s surprise, her new prophecies are coming true: Rodan (the ginormous flying reptile/bird-thingy) shows up along with Godzilla rising from the sea.

While an assassination side-plot is being played out with Selina, Godzilla and Rodan engage in battle, forcing everyone in the city to flee. Selina reveals her final prophecy–that an evil, golden three-headed dragon named King Ghidorah will arrive on Earth. Sure enough, a meteor-egg lands and hatches the fearsome King Ghidorah who begins tearing up the countryside with lightning-beam breath! To combat the monsters, the government calls upon the Shobijin (two tiny fairy twins–don’t ask) to summon the good monster Mothra to help. Mothra arrives and attempts to ask Godzilla and Rodan to team up against the evil alien threat, but both refuse.

Severely outmatched, Mothra fights Ghidorah by herself, but nearly gets killed in the process. Godzilla and Rodan, impressed by her courage and selflessness, put aside their differences, and attack Ghidorah in an all-out war. As all three gain a clear advantage and kick it’s alien ass, Ghidorah flies off in defeat, back into outer space. Mothra returns to her Infant Island home, while Godzilla and Rodan go their separate ways. Selina, having retained the memories of her time with Shindo, bids farewell to him as she meets her bodyguards at the airport to return home.

The side-stories are just a distraction to the real treat: Godzilla, Rodan, and Mothra battling the new kid on the block… King Ghidorah! And what an epic battle it is! Yes, it’s silly, ridiculous, and done with an over-dramatic tongue-in-cheek style, but you can’t help but be entertained by it all. Godzilla, by this time, had become the epic anti-hero, switching sides to protect Earth from whatever was thrown at him. Only later (in the 2000’s) did he go back to the screamingly ferocious nuclear-charged death lizard we all know and love today. And NO guys in rubber suits either!

Directed by the master of kaiju (monster) movies, Ishiro Honda, he spans a formidable career starting in 1949 and directing nearly every Godzilla or Japanese monster movie made. I suggest the book, Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda by Peter Brothers for insightful reading. Honda’s style is unique and long accepted as the only true kaiju monster movie-maker around.

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