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Godzilla: King of the Monsters

GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS is not the perfect American Godzilla movie of our dreams, nor is it one that takes a thrillingly new angle on giant monsters, like SHIN GODZILLA did in 2016. Honestly I expected to like it more than I did, being a devotee of director Michael Dougherty’s previous movie, KRAMPUS. (He’s also the guy who wrote X-MEN 2, URBAN LEGENDS: BLOOD MARY and SUPERMAN RETURNS, and then wrote and directed TRICK ‘R TREAT) But this is the first time an American version feels to me like it’s completely in the spirit of the Japanese films from Toho Studios, particularly the “Heisei period” from GODZILLA 1985 to GODZILLA VS. DESTOROYAH (1995), so we’re getting there. As a monster fan apparently more forgiving than some of my friends, I found plenty to love about it.

The biggest problem is obvious, and difficult to avoid: an overestimation of how much we care about the scheme to set the monsters loose vs. just seeing the monsters get loose. It has a ridiculously packed cast of respectable actors. Ken Watanabe (UNFORGIVEN remake) and Sally Hawkins (I FUCKED A FISH MONSTER) return as Dr. Serizawa and Dr. Graham, scientists for the giant monster response agency Monarch. They’re teamed with Zhang Ziyi (CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON) as Dr. Chen, who I was too stupid to notice is two different characters who are twins (an homage to the twins in MOTHRA). Kyle Chandler (THE WOLF OF WALL STREET) plays Dr. Mark Russell, who’s recruited by Monarch to try to find ex-MI-6 eco-terrorist Alan Jonah (Charles Dance, LAST ACTION HERO) who took Russell’s ex-wife Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga, THE DEPARTED) and their daughter (Millie Bobby Brown, Whitney Houston’s daughter I assume) and their soundwave device ORCA (named after the movie, in my opinion), which he’s using to try to activate some or all of the 17 “Titan” monsters that have been discovered around the world.

Also on the Monarch team are wisecrackers Bradley Whitford (DESTROYER [not to be confused with DESTOROYAH]) and Thomas Middleditch (ONCE UPON A TIME IN VENICE), and they work with some military people including David Strathairn (THE BOURNE LEGACY) returning as an admiral and O’Shea Jackson Jr. (INGRID GOES WEST) as a soldier who seems like most of his part was cut out. Hell, might as well also throw in small parts for CCH Pounder (FACE/OFF) as a senator and Joe Morton (T motherfuckin 2) as a scientist who I read is the same character that Corey Hawkins played in KONG: SKULL ISLAND. But really how could anyone miss that he’s that same beloved character that I definitely remember so well, as we all do.

Okay, I admit that although I liked Gareth Edwards’ GODZILLA in 2014 I’ve forgotten it so much that it was more than a week after seeing this new one that I realized Chandler and Farmiga weren’t in the first one. They just seem like the kind of people who would’ve been in it, I guess.

I enjoy Godzilla’s work despite that shit he tried to pull in my neighborhood a while back

I don’t know if you remember this, but when you started reading this review a couple days ago it was gonna be about a monster movie. I think you can see just from how long it took me to list the main human characters that there are a whole lot of opening acts to sit through before we get to the headliners: Godzilla, King of the Monsters, and the various monsters for whom he is king. But I don’t blame the filmatists for trying. I love KRAMPUS not only for the great creatures, but also because I relate to the cultural/political/class tensions between the two sides of the family that have to come together on Christmas, and I think it’s genuinely sweet to watch them bond through horror ordeal.

For a little bit it seemed like Dougherty (who wrote the screenplay with his KRAMPUS partner Zach Shields and GODZILLA/KONG writer Max Borenstein) might be doing a thing like that here, with the daughter Madison trapped between her divorced parents who have differing views on the controversial topic of “should we kill giant monsters or let them run around and destroy civilization to help the environment.” I like that Emma, Madison and Dr. Serizawa all respect the monsters as animals or dignified ancient beings and don’t believe in killing them. I always love that shit. And I like that much of this drama stems from the Russells seeing Godzilla close up (even Madison did, as a toddler), which would probly mess a family up. It’s like if you’re a priest and you get pissed on by Rawhead Rex. You don’t just go back to your normal routine. You change your whole world view.

But the movie is way too much about groups of experts looking at screens and explaining what’s going on with the monsters to get very emotionally invested in their relationships and beliefs.

(DEATH SPOILERS: There are two heroic sacrifices in this movie. One I think qualifies as terrible parenting. The other kinda offended me because why does the Japanese guy always gotta do a kamikaze thing? I know, honor and all that, but I don’t need Ken Watanabe to go out like Sonny Chiba in ACES: IRON EAGLE III. Even though I respect that he does it in, like, Atlantis or whatever.)

The movie treats its world very seriously, and isn’t afraid of being ridiculous. My favorite artistic license is that when Emma and later the admiral make speeches over video screens they apparently prepared montages for the occasion. Emma beams in via satellite to explain her plan, and her screen (not the movie itself) cuts to stock footage of the worldwide catastrophes she’s talking about. It’s like that detail I love in UNDER SIEGE 2 that Eric Dane apparently brought an Eiffel Tower backdrop with him when he hijacked the train.

I enjoy the tradition of rubber suit giant monsters attacking miniature model cities (or, let’s be honest, mostly staying out in the water or some mountains somewhere). I love that Toho has continued those techniques, now with digital elaboration. But I reject a notion I’ve heard that American Godzilla is wrong for being a digital creation. The opportunity here is an alternate take on the genre using Hollywood resources other than just the overqualified cast. I for one love seeing the increasingly realistic motion capture and animation techniques being used to depict these iconic characters with expressive faces and animalistic movements. Rodan and Mothra can really snap at people. Ghidora’s heads can strike like cobras.

And isn’t motion capture really just high tech man-in-suit? Since I am me I will make a huge deal out of the fact that martial artist T.J. Storm (BLACK COBRA, KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE, THE MARTIAL ARTS KID, ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA AND AMERICA) still plays Godzilla. He also mo-capped Collossus in DEADPOOL and the big guy in THE PREDATOR.

American Godzilla is huskier than I’m used to, but maybe that’s a tribute to Tomisaburo Wakayama as Ogami Itto. He takes the “King” in his title as literally as King Kong did in SKULL ISLAND, asserting bestial domination over all the others to become their official leader. (They come from a time before democracy was invented.) Since his arms are too short to do that with wing chun or jiujitsu he just uses radioactive powers. In the tradition of those ’90s Toho movies they come up with cool ways for him to light up from the inside and breathe searing firehose blasts of weaponized atomic reflux. Somehow Bradley Whitford knows that Godzilla’s radiation levels are getting higher and that he will explode in five minutes. I enjoy that type of preposterous exposition, but I propose that next time Godzilla should have a glowing area under his skin that blinks at an increasing rate as a countdown.

I was surprised and delighted that they were old-school-friendly enough to refer to the three headed dragon as “Monster Zero” before “King Ghidora.” They also said that he came from space, though they didn’t say Planet X or show what the people of said planet look like. I liked the theory that it makes him an invasive species, interfering with the natural order. And he just looks so vicious and cool in this incarnation. I’m really proud of Ghidora for having this moment to shine. I’ve been comparing him to Mark Dacascos in JOHN WICK CHAPTER 3.

From the trailers I was a little concerned they might treat Mothra as just another giant monster, but in fact they show her great respect. They call her “Queen of the Monsters,” they use her original theme music, they show her float in like a goddess with a blinding glow around her. But in this version she’s also very agile and capable of sticking Rodan like a pig. They also set up a Moonlighting style will-they-or-won’t-they sexual tension with Godzilla by saying they have a symbiotic relationship. I like it although as far as I could tell it made no sense at all, since we’d seen Mothra born and then living under a waterfall and knew for sure she’d never even met Godzilla when that was explained.

Anyway, when she came to save Godzilla’s ass it was cool that they played her theme, but I also would’ve accepted “You Ain’t Woman Enough To Take My Man.”

What KING OF THE MONSTERS gets most right is the ‘God’ part of Godzilla and his colleagues. They’re always treated with absolute awe, an emphasis on their gigantic size, even when it’s just baby caterpillar Mothra (who Madison gets to pet on the nose, hopefully imprinting on her for future movies – we all want to see a human riding on Mothra, right?). The attacks are seen from a human perspective, which leads to some camera shakiness, but does not prevent incredible views from a distance, like when pterodactyl-with-an-attitude Rodan perches on an erupting volcano and spreads his wings. There’s a painterly apocalyptic look to it that’s in line with KRAMPUS in its final, most nightmarish stretch.

But I hope if there’s another one it lets go of this limiting view. There’s just no way around that the best parts of the best Godzilla movies are strictly monster business – whether that’s drop kicking a foe or teaching Minya to blow smoke rings. If we can make AVATAR and WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES then surely we can make a giant version of that. It doesn’t matter that most of the original movies had alot of scientists and reporters standing around expositing – America’s gotta stop fucking around and deliver on the monster-on-monster shit in John Wickian proportions if we want this series to survive. There are a bunch of beautiful parts – Godzilla strutting in with his theme music and a squadron of jets at his back, the part at the end where PART AT THE END SPOILER Ghidora seems to have survived the fight but then you realize Godzilla fucking destroyed his body and is swallowing his last head from the neck down like a fuckin noodle. (This kinda reminded me of the end of FREDDY VS. JASON when Jason struts out carrying Freddy’s head.) And then Godzilla blows atomic breathe through him. He smokes Ghidora! He’s gonna have a serious Planet X high in the next one. But I think we could stand to have a higher volume of this greatness. I think they can do it.

I saw an interview where Dougherty said he’d like to make one about the ancient Titans fighting, no humans, but he doesn’t think the studio would let him. It’s true, they’d probly keep cutting to Sam Rockwell, Jessica Chastain, Sterling K. Brown and Zazie Beats dressed as neanderthals, pointing sticks at cave paintings of Godzilla to explain what’s happening.

What we know now is that YOU’RE NEXT/THE GUEST director Adam Wingard’s GODZILLA VS. KONG is set for March of 2020.  (At least for now. But they made it. It’s too late to stop it.) The fight described in the title sounds kind of anticlimactic after Godzilla took on Ghidora and all those other guys, but they set it up that all the monsters (including ones we didn’t get a look at, so they’ll be new) are headed for Skull Island. I think Kong is just gonna be this huge underdog because he’s gonna have to fight all of them before Godzilla. He’ll be so exhausted. If Godzilla wins it’ll be like UFC 3, when Steve Jennum went straight to the final as a substitute for Ken Shamrock who won the semifinals but withdrew due to injury.

Speaking of UFC tournament winners, what’s the point of hiring all of these acclaimed actors to play Godzilla foot ticklers when not one of them is ever gonna play a character half as cool as the greatest Godzilla human in cinematic history, Don “The Predator” Frye’s Colonel Gordon in Ryuhei Kitamura’s GODZILLA FINAL WARS?

Being smaller will also contribute to Kong’s underdog status, but I hope he’s grown some since the ’70s because my dream is that he’ll fight MechaGhidorah and put him in a full nelson where he reaches under the outside heads and over the middle one. I bet that’s what Colonel Gordon would do if he could.

I can’t lie, I watched the post-credits sequence dearly hoping it would reveal that Gamera also exists in this monsterverse. No disrespect to the King of the Monsters, but I only salute the Guardian of the Universe. I also have some admiration for the Gargantuas (I hope they can work out their sibling rivalry) and for Jet Jaguar (he has a good smile). But I guess I don’t need to see those guys as long as there’s some kind of escalation in ridiculousness. If they get a giant robot or monster cyborg in there I’ll be happy.

This entry was posted on Monday, June 10th, 2019 at 10:42 am and is filed under Monster, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

38 Responses to “Godzilla: King of the Monsters”

  1. I don’t think you were too stupid to notice that Zhang Ziyi played two characters — they did almost nothing to highlight it aside from a single shot in one scene where she has a braid, blink and you’ll miss it, when in all the others she has short hair.

  2. To be positive I’ll just say that I liked this one’s ambition and felt that its heart was in the right place.

  3. Plus: they played respectful homage to the original movies.

    Minus: too much blah blah blah.

    Perfect summer popcorn muncher. Not deep. Plenty of destruction. Absolutely preposterous plot points.

    I think the best scene was SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER Ken Watanabe’s little bonding time with the king laying injured recuperating before he, uh, nuked him, which of course, uh, revives him.

    I liked how there’s a dumb Ghidora head that the serious Ghidora head has to bite and drag like “pay attention, there’s serious business here.”

    Also any scene with Rodan, they nailed Rodan’s personality and gravitas.

  4. i may have been the only fan who was bummed when the Jet Jaguar movie Toho teased a few months back turned out to be an April’s Fool prank. As far as ridiculous kaiju go, I have a certain fondness for Gigan. The design is such a clusterfuck, it’s borderline incoherent. It’s like something a kid would dream up, which I suppose is Gigan’s appeal.

  5. As I said in Godzilla 2014 thread, I unabashedly loved this. Every creature was gorgeous. Rodan’s intro was so dope.

  6. Okay, “I FUCKED A FISH MONSTER” absolutely floored me. I’m lucky that my workspace is fairly isolated, coz I laughed my head off.

    Unfortunately I’ve been too broke to go to the movies for the last couple of weeks (still haven’t even seen Wick 3, dammit), so I dunno if I’m gonna get to this one before it checks out of theaters. I’d like to, tho, coz even its poorest reviews make it sounds like something I’d enjoy.

  7. I like how Rodan is Starscream here.

  8. I really wish I saw the same movie Skani did.

  9. Yeah, this movie is a bit of a frustrating prospect for me.

    I was hyped as fuck, totally expecting a masterpiece, but once again we get boring human characters and story and you’re telling me that they *SPOILER ALERT* kill off what was relatively the two most interesting human characters of this Godzilla series, Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins? Alrighty then.

    Sally Hawkins character’s death in particular threw me for a loop and almost turned me against the movie, what was even the point in bringing back Sally Hawkins when she dies so early in the movie? I like Sally Hawkins a lot and that pissed me off pretty good, it felt kinda cheap.

    So I was discombobulated enough by my frustrations that I wasn’t able to appreciate the giant monster action as much as I’d like, but nevertheless there’s some cool as hell shots and the movie certainly won me over by the end, you can’t fault the monster stuff, but so far KONG: SKULL ISLAND is the best of these movies because I actually gave a crap about the human characters, so it can be done and I expected better from this one.

    But oh well, at least one of these American Godzilla movies finally used the Blue Oyster Cult song and it’s a fucking awesome cover too.

  10. Me, too, Stern! Agree with Griff that KONG is better constructed and see tues human story, but this is such a beautifully bonkers monster mash that forgive it nontrivial weaknesses.

  11. “Better constructed and executed”

  12. Stacy Livitsanis

    June 10th, 2019 at 11:05 pm

    “I saw an interview where Dougherty said he’d like to make one about the ancient Titans fighting, no humans, but he doesn’t think the studio would let him.” – Like a human-free Alien vs Predator, that’s the kaiju movie I really want to see. No humans, no dialogue. How amazing would that be? People would talk about how unusual it was, how it’s so daring and unprecedented and what a crazy ride this is and can you believe we’re actually seeing this? Of course no studio is ever going to make that.

    King of the Monsters has some incredible moments, but so many of them are undercut by continuously cutting back to the boring humans instead of staying with the monsters. It scuppers momentum nearly all the way through. Ghidorah unleashing its full gold lightning that fills the sky was spasm-inducing in its awesomeness, but then it quickly returns to the humans no one cares about, kind of deflating the bonkers grandeur. In contrast, the hugely enjoyable 1996 Rebirth of Mothra has many uninterrupted minutes of Mothra vs Desu-Ghidorah action, where the humans do what humans should in a kaiju movie and shut up and watch in amazement.

  13. Didn’t Serizawa sacrifice himself with the oxygen destroyer in Gojira? He was fulfilling his namesake destiny.

    Sternshein, I saw the same movie you did. Money shots are happening in the fucking bottom left corner of the screen.

  14. Fair point, Fred. I remembered the oxygen destroyer, but forgot that he died with it. You have to admit, though, that it’s a more meaningful death in GOJIRA because he was specifically trying to prevent anyone from learning how to make this weapon he invented. Here it’s the normal “No, I’ll be the one to die, you guys go ahead” noble sacrifice.

  15. I saw a handful of Japanese Godzilla movies as a kid and the one that sticks out the clearest in my memory is GODZILLA VS SPACE GODZILLA.

    I couldn’t tell a thing about any people but I do remember the action being genuinely thrilling, well paced and the climax truly feeling like a CLIMAX.

  16. I don’t even remember Sally Hawkin’s death scene, I just noticed her absence. Also, the new Mothra design is ugly and the monster fights were poorly shot.

  17. When does Sally Hawkins die? Speaks to some of my issues with the film if I literally did not notice.

    Wasn’t keen on this, switched between “heres a dark board room” and “here’s a incomprehensible shaky fight” so did have trouble keeping my interest up. i liked some of the big arty shots, but I never felt they were well-integrated with the sequences around them – so it felt jarring – (endgame’s better but had a similar problem i think). It felt like ‘here’s a 2 second glimpse of the film you wish you were watching, amid 10 minutes at a time of mud. I think Godzilla 2014 is a good example of the opposite of that, like the halo jump sequence. Nothing in this comes close to that.

    I think stuff like the atomic breath sequence in Shin Godzilla raised the bar for films like this really, that mix of beauty and weight these films can get to if they really push it.

    Probably notable as well as possibly Bradley Whitford’s least engaged performance, ever.

  18. How is it that guys like Doughtery get big budget action movies and John Hyams basically gets Z Nation? or that Jesse Johnson only gets VOD movies made. What’s up with that?

  19. Hey, Free Dummy

    June 11th, 2019 at 10:43 am

    It is truly bizarre to me that directors who make, say, a moderately successful indie comedy, will get handed the keys to huge franchises, but these VOD guys who are making legit great action movies on tiny budgets can’t escape the ghetto. It makes a little more sense with horror guys like Dougherty, but still. I guess I know the answer, like always, is $$$$, although it still seems to me that an action dude would be a way safer bet than a Trank or a Treverrow. Prolly Hollywood execs just don’t watch those movies.

  20. Sally Hawkins had like a building or some shit fall on her in another blink and you’ll miss it moment, so that I wasn’t even sure that was her until they mentioned the character had died a few minutes later.

  21. Sally Hawkins gets eaten by Ghidorah when they’re running away in Antarctica.

    I didn’t even fully realize it had happened at first either, until I saw Ken Watanabe mourning her a few minutes later.

    Her character didn’t deserve to be killed in such an off handed way.

  22. I agree the motivations are as bad as the cinematography and editing.

  23. You know, the real shame is that somewhere swirling around somewhere in the mess of characters and anti-plot, there’s an actual interesting story here: a mom so devastated by grief and abandonment that she basically decides to just burn the world down, while her daughter slowly comes to understand just how far around the bend the only adult who’s ever been there for her has gotten. Meanwhile, the husband/father who’s weakness helped cause all this has to try and stop her, essentially by redeeming himself in the eyes of his daughter and giving her a better option than following mom over the cliff.

    Too bad the finished film seems to barely care about this storyline, which “resolves” in such a half-assed way that it doesn’t even remember to punish the villain. Too bad. I bet at one point there was a script which was actually about the story that it claims to be about, but you know how these huge-budget films go.

    On the plus side, the movie does an awesome job of giving the monsters awesome metal-album-cover poses, which forgives a lot.

  24. In the continuing honor of me not being ‘THAT fan’ and complaining about this one. I will instead share this video that we can all watch together and let warm our hearts. I present you King Ghidorah mo-cap sessions:

  25. Well, after a few months of thinking “it can’t be as bad as people are saying” (I’ve heard it’s worse than Godzilla ’98!), I’m actually kinda glad it’s as bad as they’re saying. Not because I like it when a movie fails, but because it gives me faith that general audiences can actually sometimes show taste and prefer a somewhat arty, restrained movie like Godzilla 2014 over a big loud dumb movie-by-committee like this one. (Apologies to people here who liked it)

    This seems like it was entirely made from studio notes compiling complaints about the last one (“more monster action!” “more humor!” “more developed human characters!”) and technically all that’s kinda there, but it’s also dramatically inert and uninteresting. The first one had its share of globe-hopping, but it was streamlined and simple; here we have to follow 20 different characters zipping around in futuristic Star Wars vehicles from greenscreen set to greenscreen set, mixed in with that missing aspect we all needed in a Godzilla movie, some MacGuffin-chasing (too bad the climax revolves around magic-soldering of said MacGuffin instead of magic computer hacking). The plot is yet again “we need to save the world by destroying humanity!” which is probably true but let’s have a moratorium on this plot, please. (At least the bad guys weren’t trying to control the monsters for their bio-weapons division though, amirite???)

    Gareth Edwards’ painterly eye is totally gone and replaced by Dougherty’s Emmerich-esque workmanlike approach. Sure, the monster action is filmed and edited coherently and you can basically tell what’s happening, but it’s just not exciting in the least. Everything feels empty and void-spacey – sure, the script is terrible, yes, but I still think Edwards’s direction could have made this a movie worth seeing. I can’t believe I’m saying this but I’d rather Michael Bay direct this movie. Hell, even the guy who did Pacific Rim: Uprising would have been better than this, since the action in that one was surprisingly good and he actually bothered to create likable characters.

    Speaking of which, I usually roll my eyes at the Internet’s usual “boring white guy” complaints, but yeah it just seems a little weird that this movie seemed to pride itself on adding a ton of diversity to the cast (Aisha Hinds! O’Shea Jackson Jr! Zhang Ziyi!) and then the entire first act is Kyle Chandler busting in telling them how they’re doing everything wrong and only he knows how to do it right. I fucking hate the term “mansplaining” as it usually just means “explaining”, but when Chandler mansplains for the 20th time about how everyone’s an idiot and only he knows what Godzilla’s going to do even though he’s spent the last five years off the grid and living in a log cabin somewhere, I was kinda done with this movie. I mean, in Godzilla 2014, Dr. Serazawa would actually y’know, have ideas and thoughts and contribute things to the conversation. In this one, he literally just waits for Chandler to have an idea and then tells people “No he’s right! Do it!”. And this happens three times in a row! Then later when *SPOILER* two-time Oscar Nominee Sally Hawkins dies an unceremonious, blink-and-you-miss it death, you can practically see the light bulb go off above Ken Watanabe’s head as he thinks “Well since I’m not doing anything but parroting this character we’ve never heard of, how about you get me the fuck out of this franchise”.

    I remember how excited I was for Godzilla 2 the minute Godzilla 1 ended. I couldn’t care less about Kong v. Godzilla now.

  26. And Sternshein has an excellent point – like we understand why Gareth Edwards got the Godzilla job because it’s a pretty on-the-nose choice after Monsters, but how in the world did the disappointment of Krampus and the outright bombing of Blair Witch get Dougherty and Wingard these Monsterverse gigs?? I coincidentally did think about Universal Soldier: Regeneration when I re-watched Godzilla 1; both Edwards and Hyams have a real strength in almost psychically knowing where your eye is looking at in the frame, and composing their shots to play around with that and keep you engaged (which is why the opening car chase in Regen is so damn good). Dougherty just seems content to shoot shit in the most generic way possible and Wingard has next to no experience with action or scale.

    Also not getting me excited about the next movie – Charles Dance isn’t even in it! (according to IMDB) I mean, I’ve seen bad guys get away in movies before but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one literally just forgotten about like in this one. And that end credit stinger doesn’t whet my appetite, it just makes me say “Oh I guess Kong and Godzilla are going to put aside their differences and beat up on Ghidorah some more. Great.”

  27. 100% Agree with you outside the ‘you can tell what’s going on in the monster fights.’ Still bummed by HOW MUCH I didn’t like this one. These giant monster movies are my life-blood.

  28. Still haven’t seen it, but I bought a cool T-Shirt of it a while ago, that also works as neutral Godzilla shirt, in case I should hate the movie.

  29. Never had somebody tell me I was right before.

    I love The Guest and You’re Next but action filmmaking is not his strong suit.

  30. I have nothing substantively new to say, but I did re-watch on video yesterday, and I loved it every bit as much as first time, and my kids loved it, too. So, I’ll go ahead and reiterate my contrarian talking points for those who won’t read anything more than 10 posts up in this comment thread.I also thought it looked fantastic, and I don’t see how you can watch the Rodan, Mothra, and Ghidorah scenes and contrast them unfavorably with the Edwards 2014 scenes, because I thought these were hands-down, uniformly better. This one is more fun, more fast-paced, more action. A blast.

    Not a great film in the conventional sense. The characters are under-developed, frequently hammy, their motivations change to serve hairpin turns in the plot, and they exist primarily to narrate the monster action sportscaster-style. The hollow earth underground mythology is preposterous, the science is ridiculous. All of this only endears me to the film. It’s a great watch.

    Also, I just checked and it got a B+ Cinemascore, identical to 2014.

  31. Skani – we agree on most movies, and I’m actually kinda jealous this movie works on you. I actually like that you feel these action scenes are objectively better than the first. Even though I don’t agree, I’m glad film-watching is still a subjective thing and there’s always an X factor that will make one viewer say “that wasn’t exciting/that wasn’t scary/that wasn’t sexy, etc…” while another viewer disagrees and technically nobody’s wrong. I mean, this place wouldn’t be very fun if everybody agreed all the time, right? And for the record, I don’t hate the action, I just think it’s about on par with Independence Day: Resurgence. It’s not like Olivier Megaton’s Godzilla or something, which I would have probably turned off.

    That being said, here’s some burning questions that I wouldn’t be asking if the movie’s actions and visuals worked on me: How come Serazawa was so upset that David Strathairn and Richard T. Jones were going to blow Godzilla up with a nuke in the first one and was like, “No! You can’t do it!” but then in this one he’s completely OK with detonating a nuke right in Godzilla’s face? Especially because they were so sure the blast would kill him in the first one and that was never disproven? Why even do that when they already established he was re-generating? (I know they said “it could take years” but how do they know that? Not to mention I like how Bradley Whitford has an EXACT countdown to Godzilla’s detonation at the end.)

    How come Godzilla is OK with humans destroying his ancient lair and knows it’s not an act of aggression? Speaking of which, how does Millie Bobbie Brown know Godzilla’s a good guy at the end and smile other than they need that shot in the trailer? Why was Joe Morton and Zhang Ziyi II smiling and happy about Mothra awakening instead of horrified since she killed like 10 of their coworkers at the beginning? It’s weird that the first movie is constantly about “what side is Godzilla on??” when in this movie everybody magically knows what side everybody is on, as long as it’s convenient to the plot.

    How come Vera Farmiga suddenly turned into the “You guys are going too far!” member of the bad guys? (I actually would have LOVED it if she said “I didn’t think anybody was going to get hurt!” with a straight face) I mean, I know she says something about Ghidorah is into annihilation of Earth instead of bringing back balance, but uh…what’s the difference at this point?? She released giant monsters to wreak havoc on cities and then got mad that giant monsters were wreaking havoc on cities.

    Did the Farmiga/Chandler family live in Boston or in San Francisco? Either they were just on vacation in San Francisco but also happened to be bigwigs at Monarch, the mysterious agency whose entire purpose is to track these monsters, OR they actually did live in San Francisco and just happened to move across the country to where the final battle happens this time. Who are they, John McClane? I guess said battle takes place in Boston because MBB hooked up the ORCA that she stole off a table to Fenway Park’s speakers that…somehow transmitted the signal to monsters halfway around the world? Speaking of which, why establish there’s 17 monsters and then only show like 5, and then don’t show any more than they did in the trailer? How does everyone on the internet know who Scylla or Behemoth is? Do I have to buy a tie-in comic to understand this?

    Anyways, I hate to kick a movie like this when it’s down. I’m glad you and your family liked it, and who knows, maybe if Kong v. Godzilla is really good this will be the okay middle chapter in the box set that I’ll grow to not mind like Star Trek V or the lesser Bond movies.

  32. Stern: Wrong again! I said you were right about RECOIL and BLUE TIGER and other movies!

    neal: I nod approvingly in your direction

  33. Neal, your questions about character motivations are mostly on point, and there are no good answers: See second paragraph of my most recent previous post. The only answers I can envision are answers found outside the story: Either Dougherty doesn’t care about this stuff, isn’t good at this stuff, or was compelled to cut a bunch of stuff to trim the running time and/or meet a release deadline. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a hypothetical or actual 4-hour cut (haven’t researched this), and I’d be interested to see it, but I suspect it would be a slog. There’s just too much that happens too fast and far-flung involving too many characters to jam it all into this runtime.

    On one point, I think the film says that Farmiga and Eleven moved to Boston after Friday Night Lights started hitting the bottle and living among the deer.

    Also, I think you may be onto something about Edwards possibly doing a better job of capturing motion or screen placement in his framing. I’ll have to check that out, I’m not naturally as sensitive to those things. I do think the monsters in this are way cooler and look fantastic, and I don’t really get a lot of the PACIFIC RIM-esque complaints about it being too dark or murky. A lot of the scenes are at night (not the better part of the epic Rodan intro, though), but they’re perfectly well-lit and detailed for my money. I think they look great.

    I appreciate your cordial tone. Cheers!

  34. GODZILLA VS KONG trailer is out. It doesn’t convince me they’ve moved on from the alienating presentation (garish artificial lighting and awkward framing) that made KING OF THE MONSTERS such a chore, and it’s hard to escape the feeling that this is hollow “IP”-driven exercise at its core.

    But I can’t deny it got me hyped.


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  35. I wish I would be more excited for it, but after the last two frustrating GODZILLAs and the just “Yeah, it was okay, I guess, but not really good” SKULL ISLAND, I can’t get my hopes up too much.

    Also I predict 90 minutes of screentime for the little girl and her foster mom, 30 minutes of screentime for the other characters, 15- 20 minutes of actual monster fights.

  36. I would have been happy with a couple more standalone Kong and Godz films which explored their background and mythology a little more. This looks like a JUSTICE LEAGUE-level rush to the Main Event with just 3 previous movies providing a really choppy narrative link (SKULL ISLAND with it’s 70s era setting virtually stands alone outside this monster-verse) and a lack of consistent characters to anchor the series. Not really sure why both Watanabe and Hawkins needed to be killed off in GODZILLA:KOTM and I see from the trailer they’ve brought back Kyle Chandler and daughter from that film but am willing to bet Zhang Ziyi and her twin will be conspicuously absent in GODZILLA VS KONG.

    At this point I’ll be satisfied with at least a few epic monster beatdowns, clearly edited, unobscured by fog, rain or night lighting and with zero cock-teasing cutaways mid-fight to some hapless humans running away from falling debris.

  37. I’m actually okay with them heading straight into the big duel of the monsters, since the whole mythology stuff seems pretty half-assed anyway and we don’t really need more than “This is Godzilla, here are other monsters, let them fight!”, but when they announced it, I actually wondered if SKULL ISLAND was always supposed to be part of the Godzilaverse or if the decision (and the credit scene) were made in post production. It came across to me like a young indie filmmaker throwing his vision of a comic book and video game inspired take of a classic on the screen, without any intention of crossing over into anything. Kinda like the first of the new GODZILLAs was apparently a “Hey, let’s make a serious ‘Zilla movie again”, before they decided to go the classic monster mash route.

    Sure, the respective directors say “Yeah, we knew about that from the beginning, that was the plan and we are happy to be part of it”, but maybe they just say it because they are all pretty new in the biz and don’t have the clout of an Edgar Wright, who started writing ANT-MAN before the MCU started and then got pissed when they asked him to include it into their universe.

  38. So, I braved the cinemas after a 7 month gap to see BATMAN v SUPERMAN: MONSTER EDITION (and yes, they do make up after realizing both their late girlfriends were called Mothra)

    A plodding 1st hour, but the second half makes up for it with epic action, shot clearly and crisply. In daylight! And without mist, rain or fog! How about that?

    It does largely play out like a Kong movie with Godz as a special guest star and there’s still some pesky humans ruining the buzz but this film thankfully realizes how superfluous they are to the narrative and deals with them in as perfunctory a manner as possible.

    I’d like everyone to give their health the highest priority of course, but if there’s any chance at all you could watch it in a quiet cinema in the safest manner possible, then take it. It truly needs to be seen on the big screen.

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