The Movie Guru: ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ a fantastic return to form
Unlike some of Hollywood’s earlier attempts, “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” captures the true spirit of the original Godzilla movies. A sprawling, mostly solemn disaster movie, it manages the trick of being heavy with meaning without sacrificing a single minute of action. Just as important, there are also plenty of really cool monster battles.
The movie is set in the same universe as 2014’s “Godzilla” and 2017’s “King Kong: Skull Island,” showing a world that has been dealing with monsters for a while. A secret government organization wants to study the monsters, but the military wants to destroy them. When an eco terrorist group decides to wake up and release all the monsters into the world, including an ancient threat, the fate of everything is at stake.
Though the 2014 “Godzilla” was a vast improvement over the 1998 movie of the same name, it made the nearly unforgivable mistake of largely sidelining the big guy himself. “King of the Monsters” neatly solves this problem by giving us monsters early and often. Here, the humans are the supporting characters, and that’s exactly as it should be.
Godzilla movies have always truly been disaster movies as much or more than they have been monster movies. This one expertly mixes tropes from both, fusing everything from mad scientists to divided families together into a seamless story. More importantly, the monster battles are an integral part of that story instead of just being a fun extra. True, the dialogue is fairly cheesy and the technobabble is questionable, but that’s also a common trope for both genres.
Nods to the Original Godzilla
There’s also a strong mythic quality to the movie, along with a solemn take on current environmental problems. Many characters see the monsters as old gods, part of the natural order that we humans have screwed up over the years. The Earth is trying to set things right, and if we get crushed along the way that’s just how it goes. And when they battle, it’s epic. We get several knock-down, drag-out monster fights over the course of the movie, all of them between a variety of different monsters. It’s clear the creative team thought through all the intricacies of how each monster would fight, using that knowledge to create really intense, detailed battles. The flashes of personality we see from some of the monsters only make them that much better.
There are also several nods to the original Godzilla movies. They’re treats for fans of the original films, but don’t take anything away from the movie if you don’t understand them. The one reference that does benefit from explanation is a small memorial during the credits, honoring two of the men involved with the original Godzilla movies. One of the men is Haruo Nakajima, the first man to wear the Godzilla suit.
It’s clear that “King of the Monsters” would like to set up a “Godzilla” franchise, with plenty of opportunities for future films. If they’re all as good as this one is, I would welcome it.