Not to be confused with the 1956 film, Godzilla COMMA King of the Monsters, this is more of a remake of the 1964 film, Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster. I didn’t really want to see it, but the Barbarienne…well, her tastes diverge greatly from mine, and a dad’s gotta dad. The Boy and I were kind of “…maybe?…” about it, but a “…maybe?…” means “No, unless we’re desperate” and these days our relative busy-ness is high enough to just forgo a movie rather than see something porridge-y. And, well, yeah. It’s more-or-less what you’d expect. No surprises, nothing challenging, just competently done oatmeal.
Kind of a shame, considering director Michael Dougherty did the wonderful Krampus movie a while back.
The most common refrain about the movie is that “the monster parts are good and the human parts are not, but there aren’t many of them.” Truthfully, though, the monster parts are okay and the human parts are distractingly bad. I mean, you don’t think you’re going to lose the plot in a Godzilla movie, but none of it made a lick of sense to me and now I have to try to explain it to you.
The protagonists/antagonists of this story are the Russell family who were not in the 2014 Godzilla (and of course weren’t in the ’60s-based Kong: Skull Island). Honestly, I didn’t remember them not being in it. The movie sorta had me convinced they (Vera Farmiga and Kyle Chandler) were in the 2014 movie but I honestly didn’t care and it’s probably easier to watch this movie without ever realizing it’s part of a “cinematic universe”. Anyway, the Russell’s work on communicating with kaiju—they’ve built a device that is like a whale-sound generator that actually can control monsters—and ended up losing a child in Godzilla’s last rampage.
Which, don’t you kind of remember that? I kinda do, but it’s probably one of those Sinbad-plays-a-genie things. And the fact that as movies get increasingly generic and wound up in epic catastrophic CGI events, it gets harder and harder to tell them apart. (Not just epic-catastrophic-CGI-events, either: The same thing happens when any genre becomes dominant, like romantic comedies or westerns.)
Anyway, the kaiju control team Monarch has all the biguns monitored across the earth, most frozen in ice or whatever, and they’re being raked over the coals by Congress because they want to keep Godzilla alive…for reasons they don’t really explain. But in the giant rubber monster movies of yore, Godzilla ends up having a purpose because he can protect from other, REALLY bad monsters. I’m not sure why Monarch doesn’t mention this but maybe it’s because at this point, nobody but them (and the human villains) know about Ghidorah.
Anyway, the Russell’s machine falls into the hands of the human villains, there’s a (very early) heel turn where one of the good guys turns out to be on the villainous side, and the whole plan, apparently, is to unleash All The Monsters so that—and I am not making this up—they will bring balance to the earth. Now, I confess, I missed this bit of exposition because I was getting the Barb a popcorn refill, but we were both really unclear on how 17 or so giant monsters were going to “bring balance”. (Maybe they have heretofore hidden ecological powers?) And the slight flaw in this plan—if you can believe such an airtight plan has a flaw—is Monster Zero, a.k.a. Ghidorah who steals Godzilla’s Alpha Kaiju Crown and thus commands the lesser kaiju and apparently is just a vehicle for terraforming (presumably for jump-suited aliens, if I recall my rubber-suit-monster lore). Wait, I guess that would “xenoforming”.
It’s a good metaphor for environmentalists who want to destroy all of humanity to restore the Earth to some previous pristine era. But I sorta don’t think it was meant that way. Actually, it’s a really good metaphor: “Hey, let us control everything and destroy everything we don’t like and that will make things perfect.” But movie narratives usually require more coherent and convincing plots than real life.
Look, the giant monster genre has got a lot of built-in limitations. I think it’s possible to create an effective giant monster horror movie, like Cloverfield, by focusing on the human survival aspect. But that’s not what this genre is about. The horror aspect is quickly swamped by the spectacle. (Note the original Godzilla with footage of lots of suffering people with radiation burns has its own unique effect which is quickly abandoned in later films.) The problem that emerges quickly from the endless sequels is that monsters become not just less horrifying, they become downright goofy. (“Gamera is friend to all the children!”)
Fine for kiddie-fare, I suppose, though grossly at odds with the whole mass murder thing—at least in modern terms of trying to make kiddie fare hyper-realistic. Point is, this movie starts veering into the goofy, as the spectacle of the treacherous Rodan, the faithful Mothra, and a few of the other weirdos congregating with Godzilla is swamped by the fact they’re bowing down to him in a positively courtly manner.
The CGI is okay. It’s constantly rainy and dark (due to Ghidorah’s xenoforming) and I was amused but not uncharmed by the fact that state-of-the-art 2019 CGI can reasonably simulate a guy walking in a rubber suit. That’s really what it looks like, and it sorta has to, or it ceases to look like Godzilla. But the seams were pretty apparent in the movie and I suspect it won’t be long before all this stuff evokes the same chortles that the old rubber-suit stuff did.
The Barb liked it, though, so good enough.