Godzilla is back and bringing glorious carnage for new and old fans alike.
Motion Picture Rating: PG-13
Production Company: Legendary Pictures
Director (s): Michael Dougherty
Writer (s): Michael Dougherty & Zach Shields
Dr. Mark Russel: Kyle Chandler
Dr. Emma Russel: Vera Farmiga
Madison Russel: Millie Bobby Brown
Dr. Rick Stanton: Bradley Whitford
Dr. Vivienne Graham: Sally Hawkins
Alan Jonah: Charles Dance
Dr. Sam Coleman: Thomas Middleditch
Colonel Diane Foster: Aisha Hinds
Jackson Barnes: O’Shea Jackson Jr.
Admiral William Stenz: David Strathairn
Dr. Ishirō Serizawa: Ken Watanabe
Dr. Ilene Chen: Zhang Ziyi
Dr. Ling Chen: Zhang Ziyi
King Ghidorah: Himself
Release Date: 5/13/2019 (Beijing), 5/31/2019 (USA)
Five years after the events of Godzilla (2014), the world is still reeling from the awakening of both Godzilla & the MUTO. Monarch has shifted from covering up the Titans to cleaning up the aftermath of those events. As well as actively dealing with Titans once they begin to awaken from their ancient slumber.
Being a spoiler review here is your first and only warning to back out. If you want to know the score you can skip straight to the bottom or just look at the thumbnail for this article.
The movie starts with a flashback to the finale of Godzilla (2014) showing the Russel family searching the hellscape for their son. Unfortunately, he’s just one of the many casualties before we shift to the present. While we did get to see the destructiveness of the Titans from a human perspective in Godzilla (2014), we get a much clearer view of it here. Part because the family is desperately searching for their son. But also due to being far enough away from the battle, they can see how truly large they are. Also not drowning in smoke. This scene mostly serves to set up how the Russels get divorced. Mark hating Godzilla with a passion and Emma returning to Monarch with their daughter. Emma has rebuilt the Orca, a device that uses sound to communicate with the Titans in various ways. Which she quickly shows in the awakening of Mothra…Who quickly goes into a frenzy. They calm her down just in time for Eco-Terrorists led by Alan Jonah murder all but the Russels. Mark joins Monarch to help save her and retrieve the Orca. But once they awaken King Ghidorah, the survival of mankind becomes the primary focus.
Let’s get this out of the way now, the story itself isn’t bad. It has a lot of parts that work and some that don’t. It’s mostly how the plot tries to take inspiration from Toho Godzilla while also keeping what it’s done with Legendary Godzilla. Leading to some mixed results. The human plot can be boiled down to two halves. Emma, who is actually a traitor, working with the Eco-Terrorists to return the planet back to the Titans. Mark, who wants to save Madison, stop Emma, and eventually stop Armageddon with Monarchs help. Emma joining the Eco-Terrorists can work as the main plot focus. Adding the dead son angle seems to be more as a reason to make her more sympathetic. Historically, Godzilla has focused on environmental themes quite a bit. From the overt message about nuclear weaponry in basically every Godzilla, pollution in Godzilla vs Hedorah, and even dumping waste into the ocean in Rebirth of Mothra II. So having the focus be just on global warming would’ve been entirely acceptable as a Godzilla film. Jonah would be “the bad guy” while the message remains strong. Instead, Emma comes off crazy. Ironically, this is actually also a plot point. Jonah and others repeatedly call out her craziness and irrational actions that led to King Ghidorah waking up.
Marks half of the plot fares a bit better as his half is largely where the Titan stuff happen. He’s an Anthrozoologist so we get to learn more about how the Titans this time around are more like real animals. How they act, how to track them, and more importantly how to coexist with them. The characters aren’t too boring with Serizawa remaining one of the highlights. But given that the plot is a lot about ending the world, we don’t actually get that much overt development from them. The plot is very focused on the Titans and given how fast things happen, it makes sense. If they focused more on the environmentalist angle/message they may have been able to slow down the story a bit and flesh them out more. Which, wouldn’t necessarily be the better option but it would’ve helped the Humans stand a bit more on their own. It’s not quite Godzilla (2014) where it was way too focused on the humans but it’s not up to Toho Godzilla standards where you get more of a balance. Monarch does, however, get points for taking more sci-fi inspiration from the Toho Godzillas. Showing more of their futuristic technology and a flying base that managed to not crash like the SHIELD Helicarrier.
The Titans are where the film really shines. Every time any of the main Titans are on screen, it is just a treat. As a Godzilla fan since childhood, my face was sore from all the smiling I was doing. This is also where taking more inspiration from Toho has really helped the film. Godzilla himself has a new design that is a bit thinner with new dorsal fins. Making him look more in line with traditional Godzillas. He is also noticeably more mobile and willing to use his Atomic Breath this time around. They call Godzilla an Alpha and it shows in how he carries himself. He always stands tall, does intimidation displays to assert his dominance, and just gives the impression that he truly is king of his kind. Something that’s especially clear when a remix of his classic theme begins to play for the first time.
Mothra is one of the three Toho Kaiju to be translated to the MonsterVerse. Remember how I said she went into a frenzy earlier? While she was quite aggressive, they also show hints that Mothra isn’t actually an evil Titan. Namely, she uses her classic webbing to stop the soldiers from attacking her. Rather than simply eating or crushing them. They refer to her as Queen of the Titans and for once she has a positive relationship with Godzilla. Going out of her way multiple times to help and save him. She also helps Monarch locate Godzilla after he’s presumed dead (more on that later). Mothra is also a bit of a mysterious Titan in a way. When she emerges from her cocoon (accompanied by a remix of Mothra’s Song) we see a number of fireflies begin to gather around it. When Godzilla is missing, she glows like the sun and makes a sort of spotlight leading down to where Godzilla lay in recovery. Similarly, when she gives her life for Godzilla she turns into dust and is absorbed by Godzilla Super Metroid style. Allowing him to survive the Burning Godzilla transformation. All of which, somewhat could be seen as references or possibly foreshadowing to Mothra being an actual goddess.
Rodan is the third Toho Kaiju to join the fold. Rodan we don’t get to see much personality from, unfortunately. After his awakening he’s sent into a frenzy by the Orca then is the first to submit to King Ghidorah. Showing off how once defeated by an Alpha, they become part of their pack essentially. We do get to see that Rodan is far more birdlike in his head movements. Visually, he keeps the sort of charred and flaming look throughout his appearances. It’s not quite Fire Rodan yet, but it’s a nice touch. Waking up from a volcano much like in the several of his past appearances is also a nice callback too.
King Ghidorah is the final Toho Kaiju to be featured in this film. He’s larger than Godzilla, stronger than him (initially), and has a lot of nice little visual touches. Just flying creates hurricanes and thunderstorms ominously. His necks now glowing yellow before unleashing his gravity beams in a dark mirror of Godzilla’s bright blue. In the past, we were told that King Ghidorah’s heads each had their own personalities. But for the first time, we really get a good visual depiction of it. The center head is the leader and would consistently stay held the highest. Even being defiant while on the brink of death. Never for a moment showing fear. The right head shows the most intelligent and the left is the most kill-happy. Going out of its way to kill humans and need to be put back in its place by the other heads. After losing one of these heads, King Ghidorah is even capable of regenerating it like a Hydra. The clearest indicator and the big reveal that he’s actually an Alien.
This becomes important as it explains why Emma’s plan went to hell so fast. They wanted to return the natural order with a new Alpha, but King Ghidorah isn’t part of the natural order. In a bit of a mixed move, this is all the Alien origin is used for. Given the immediate threat, it makes sense nobody focuses too much on the Alien Titan. But it kinda feels like it was left in the air as more a way of saying “Gigan, Organ, and Space Godzilla are free game now”.
Just because the Toho Kaiju are done doesn’t mean we don’t get some originals. We specifically get 3 1/2. Methuselah (who was believed to be but took inspiration from Anguirus), Scylla (who was believed to be but took inspiration from Kumonga), Behemoth (who looks like a mammoth/gorilla hybrid), and another female MUTO. We also get A LOT of references to Kong but overall, the other Titans are just cameos at best. No Kaiju Royal Rumbles this time.
Tons of fanservice for the older Toho films were sprinkled throughout the film for anyone who was a veteran fan. Some because they were just awesome and others as plot points. Zhang Ziyi plays Dr. Ilene & Ling Chen, twins who are from a family of twins that live on Infant Island and tell the legend of Mothra. They may not sing or be tiny, but Mothra’s Shobijin and her original home live on. During Godzilla’s second fight with King Ghidorah (which reveals that the King is an Alien), he’s nearly killed by the Oxygen Destroyer. The same weapon that killed him in the original Godzilla and would later create the Kaiju, Destroyah. Speaking of Destroyah, Burning Godzilla returns for the first time since that film. Though thanks to Mothra’s sacrifice, he survives this time. Her sacrifice to power-up another Kaiju was (ironically) originally done to help King Ghidorah against Godzilla in “Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack”. The designs of Methuselah & Scylla call back to Anguirus & Kumonga who sadly couldn’t appear. Dr. Serizawa once more sacrifices his life and dies in front of Godzilla. Though this time, it was to save him rather than to prevent the Oxygen Destroyer from ever appearing again. King Ghidorah once more comes from outer space though it’s unknown this time if he was mind controlled or sent here by Aliens. His name of Monster Zero (The title given to him by the Alien Xiliens) also returns. For a brief scene, he even flies in his original stretched out head flailing pose (in slow motion so it doesn’t look nearly as silly). Finally, besides the obvious set up for Godzilla vs Kong out next year. The post-credit scene sets up Mecha-King Ghidorah.
The Human portion is lacking while the Titan portion is amazing. They really wanted to make it for the fans of classic Godzilla. For better or worse, it causes some oddness but it’s still an enjoyable ride for a majority of it. It works well as a stand-alone film without you actually needing to see Godzilla (2014) or Kong: Skull Island, though seeing them both help. Seeing the old Toho films also helps immensely so without that background you’ll miss all the little points of interest. The story could be better and a bit more focused in places but it’s far from being an unwatchable dumpster fire of a plot. Worst case scenario, you can enjoy the spectacle of rampant Monster-on-Monster action.