*. Oof. Godzilla: King of the Monsters is hard to endure. I don’t mean emotionally, since it’s a movie that made me feel nothing, but rather physically. After sitting through 130 minutes of this I felt drained. Beaten. And I don’t mean that in a good way.
*. I’m not sure I can explain the plot. There’s an organization named Monarch that has located a number of sleeping prehistoric monsters around the world. They are now named Titans because MUTOs was a branding fail. A Monarch scientist (Vera Farmiga, taking a break from chasing ghosts) has created a device that somehow signals to the Titans. It is stolen by a team of ecoterrorists who Farmiga is secretly working with.
*. Why? Well, her son was killed by Godzilla, so that’s part of what’s driving her. She also spouts the sort of villainous Green boilerplate that was literally everywhere during these years. Humans are destroying the world and there has to be a cull to restore balance. Godzilla and the other Titans (the Earth’s “original and rightful rulers”) are a kind of antibody produced by Gaia: Earth’s “natural defence system.” He’ll kill off the excess humans who can’t find their ways to Monarch shelters, destroy our cities, and the radiation he leaves behind will, somehow, spur a greening of the planet. Gotta love that radiation.
*. This is so stupid it makes me feel stupid just typing it out. After a while Farmiga figures out it’s stupid too. But by then Ghidorah, the three-headed dragon Titan, has been awoken, along with a bunch of other monsters (including Rodan and Mothra), leading to a Clash of the Titans in Boston’s Fenway Park.
*. I realize that in any Godzilla movie the story is disposable. But this isn’t just a throwaway story but a downright terrible one. On no level, and at no time, does it make any sense. Who are these ecoterrorists? Where are they getting the money to fund this private army? I guess some billionaire like Zobrist in Inferno or Valentine in Kingsman: The Secret Service or maybe it’s Thanos from Avengers: Infinity War. As I said, this genocidal Green plot was popping up everywhere.
*. To say that such messages are mixed is an understatement. Farmiga’s isn’t just stupid, she’s insane. So what does that say about the environmental movement? Matthew Rosza found some “subtle social commentary” here, but (1) there’s nothing subtle about Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and (2) what does that social commentary consist of? That environmentalists are genocidal whackos? Rosza calls Godzilla a “metaphor for the damage we are causing our planet.” So he’s sort of like global warming? That’s subtle?
*. Then there’s the weird mix of science and mythology. In the original Gojira, Godzilla was just a prehistoric creature who was awakened by nuclear testing. Which was at least something you could get on board with. Here, however, the Titans are kind of like Lovecraft’s Ancient Ones, though apparently humans have been worshipping them for a lot longer than there were humans. And maybe Ghidorah is something else entirely, having perhaps come from another planet. The Chinese doctor (Zhang Ziyi) hasn’t figured that one out yet, being too young to have seen Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964).
*. So nothing about the premise makes sense. But the rest of the script is equally bad. Mothra is introduced as being an important character in the story but is then dismissed as so much dust. I could never figure out exactly what the ORCA device was doing. The same routine of Godzilla being beaten and then coming back to life is repeated several times, until it becomes ploddingly predictable. And then there’s the dialogue.
*. I honestly couldn’t believe the words coming out of people’s mouths. Poor Ken Watanabe as Dr. Serizawa has the worst of it. “Sometimes,” he tells us, “the only way to heal our wounds is to make peace with the demons who created them.” Huh. That’s deep. It’s also something I don’t think anyone has ever said at any time. He also says this: “There are some things beyond our understanding, Mark. We must accept them and learn from them. Because these moments of crisis are also potential moments of faith. A time – when we either come together or fall apart. Nature always has a way of balancing itself. The only question is What part will we play?” Apparently that came out of a fortune cookie. Really. The writers knew it was that bad.
*. “We opened Pandora’s box, and there’s no closing it now!” Yes, I think this is how Pandora’s box usually works. “This is a dangerous path! You are meddling with forces beyond our comprehension, gambling with the lives of billions!” Whatever. There are various attempts at humour that fall flat. One guy confuses Ghidorah with gonorrhea. Hilarious.
*. OK, so let’s forget about the human story. You came to see monsters flattening cities and a kaiju battle royale. Is this part of the movie any good?
*. It’s not great. I mentioned Godzilla’s appearance only briefly in my notes on Legendary’s first kick at this can, Godzilla (2014). I don’t much care for the new look. With his very fat body and tiny head Godzilla looks like a pyramid. His pug face also seems very limited in its range of expression, basically only going from sleepy to disgruntled.
*. The fight scenes are OK. It got tiring, as it gets tiring throughout all the films of the Godzilla franchise, to see humans trying to do their part by firing off small arms at the behemoths while missiles and bombs either just bounce off them or actually make them stronger. Even the classic oxygen destroyer from Gojira just ends up killing a lot of fish. It seems as though the Titans are indestructible. Ghidorah can grow back any body parts he loses. An after-credit sequence suggests he’ll be back. Rodan seems to get killed but then a few minutes later is fine. I’ve already mentioned how Godzilla keeps coming back no matter what happens to him. Franchise filmmaking doesn’t handle death well. Marvel superheroes (almost) never die, any more than James Bond, or Jason or Michael or Freddy.
*. I guess if the monster stuff was all you came in for you likely got close to your money’s worth here. Box office was disappointing, but a sequel, Godzilla vs. Kong, had already been announced. Godzilla never die!