I’ve read some reviews where the critics simply disliked this film because it’s a bunch of monsters fighting each other endlessly and there’s no plot or nuance. Okay, that’s a fair comment – but then the Kaiju genre isn’t renowned for its subtlety. To go to a Kaiju film looking for nuance is akin to going to a death metal concert hoping for a ballad. The word “kaiju” means “giant monster” – and in the films, certainly in the past, these giant monsters were portrayed by men in rubber suits destroying amazingly detailed models of major cities. In Japan, they became a legitimate art form, while we in the western world were typically more cynical and prone to mocking. Godzilla seemed to transcend this humiliation to become a cult icon the world over.
But having said that, Godzilla movies tend to be the Marmite of the film world. You either love them, or you hate them – there is no middle ground with these. If you “get” them, then great. You’re in for a titanic blast of fun and entertainment. If you don’t, then it’s unlikely that you ever will. I’ve yet to meet a non-fan who suddenly “got it”. And that’s the problem I see with Godzilla King of the Monsters. It’s so heavily loaded with Easter eggs and references to past films, it’s practically inaccessible to a new audience while the die-hard Kaiju freaks are revelling and having the time of their (our) lives. While the film references Monster Zero, an Oxygen Destroyer and so on, I could imagine the inward groans from the people who hadn’t seen the earlier films (Monster Zero is what King Ghidorah was referred to in Invasion of the Astro Monster (1965) and the oxygen destroyer was what defeated Godzilla way back in his debut. I remember seeing the previous film five years ago, when an audience member asked out loud what was happening when Godzilla’s backplates started glowing a fluorescent blue. I can’t help but wonder what he made of Godzilla fighting a giant three-headed golden dragon and a giant pterodactyl. I’d have loved to have seen his face when he saw a giant moth flying around.
The film gets moving very quickly, taking place five years after the original, which saw San Francisco levelled to the ground. Godzilla has returned to the sea, whence he came. But – the mysterious Monarch organisation is aware that other Titans they’re monitoring are waking up. Among them, King Ghidorah (or Monster Zero) the flying golden dragon of alien origin, Rodan – a monstrous pterodactyl, capable of supersonic speeds, his wake levels cities as he passes overhead and the mysterious Mothra. Godzilla himself is also stomping around very soon.
So as not to be spoilery, the action sequences are peppered with what plot exposition there is, in this case, who’s waking them up and why. But really, we are here for the action – and there certainly is plenty of that. It brought back fond memories of Destroy All Monsters (1968) and Godzilla: Final Wars (2004). Basically, an all-out slam-bang-smackdown of a giant monster brawl which I delighted in watching.
The score is stunning. Bombastic and percussive when it needs to be, choral, slow and melodic at times – with two notable, standout moments. A nostalgic blast of the original 1954 theme just as Godzilla is about to make a dramatic entrance, and a soulful reimagining of Mothra’s theme at an opportune moment. Composer Bear Macready has definitely pleased the fans with this one.
There IS a sting at the end, which is unsurprising seeing that we know we’re getting a King Kong vs Godzilla next year, but what IS surprising is that that’s not the direction the sting goes to. Unless there’s a guest star next year, they’ve already set the scene for a fourth film.
Hail the King, baby.
Godzilla King of the Monsters (2019) review by Robin Pierce