Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)
Director: Michael Dougherty
Performers: Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Ken Watanabe, and Charles Dance
Like lots of 80s and 90s kids, I grew up with the Godzilla movies of the 60s and 70s. My parents were always big fans of science fiction, action, and monster movies, so the Godzilla films were a perfect combination for their tastes. I grew up on a steady diet of kaiju and universal movie monsters thanks to them. It was a thing for our family to root for different monsters. My mom loved King Kong, my sister loved Mothara, and I loved Rodan because of his resemblance to a pterosaur. It became a family event, watching and critiquing those films, offering commentary and observations. So, it’s really no wonder I went into the theater ready for some Godzilla action.
I, like most of my generation, had been supremely disappointed by Godzila (1998) directed by Roland Emmerich. But I had seen the newer Godzilla (2014) film and was ready for more of my favorite monsters. Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) did not disappoint. Rodan, Mothara, King Gidorah, and Godzilla all make appearances alongside lesser known monsters. As usual, the human characters have their own little drama, but let’s be real here: we’re here for the monsters. The effects were spectacular, and each monster got the care and respectful art design and direction they deserved. Each had a distinct personality, and it was a thrilling engagement from start to finish.
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
The film opens with a scene of destruction with Mark Russel (Kyle Chandler) and wife Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) searching for their dead son. The ground rumbles, and Godzilla emerges behind them in a smoky haze. Beautiful.
Cut ahead five years and Mark is an absent father who hates titans (what the humans call kaiju in this film) and wants them all dead. He gets the chance to vent this to Monarch, the organization trying to research and form peaceful relations with Titans. Then his wife and daughter are kidnapped by a mystery group while trying to research the Titans. Despite knowing humans are responsible for Godzilla’s emergence, Mark continues playing the victim while everyone nods understandingly as he continually makes the whole thing about him instead of global destruction. Can you tell I was annoyed by the character? Kyle Chandler does what he can, but there’s little redeeming value when the character wants Godzilla, the star of the film, dead. It’s hard to come back from that.
Charles Dance (Game of Thrones’ Tywin Lannister) plays a surprise role as a mercenary, and he brings a gravitas to his performance in every scene. There’s some indication he’ll thankfully be back as a villain for Godzilla vs. Kong (2020). Another great performance is from Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things’ Eleven) who made me actually care about a child in a monster movie. Really, you have to feel for her in this situation. There are no good parental choices.
There are annoying human moments of course, but I expect that in monster movies. Honestly, filmmakers, we came for monster fights, not human squabbles in a failed marriage. There are also moments where you have to really suspend scientific disbelief, but again it’s a Godzilla movie – were you looking for accuracy here? Overall, it’s a fun movie for kaiju fans, fans of monster battles, and especially fans of any of the Godzilla movies.