When the original Hollywood-made Godzilla movie reboot premiered in 2014, it drew mixed opinions among audiences. While some praised the heightened emphasis on the human perspectives and the smattering of spectacle that the movie did deliver, there were others who lamented the fact that the titular monster barely appeared, with the destruction he causes happening almost entirely off-screen. It was a different and bold direction for a Hollywood-made Godzilla movie, but one that did at least manage to prove itself handily superior to Tristar Pictures’ disastrous attempt to bring their version of Godzilla to domestic moviegoers back in 1998. When it came time to prepare the sequel to 2014’s Godzilla reboot however, it appears that Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures aimed to appease the masses– More monsters, more carnage, and less emphasis on the human personalities.
For better or for worse, Godzilla: King of the Monsters gives paying audiences exactly what they demanded. This movie didn’t strike a chord with critics, who complained about the thin storytelling and underdeveloped characters, but there’s the rub; Who exactly is seeing a Godzilla movie for the human characters? If you’re seeing this movie, chances are, you’re seeing it for the monsters. Thus, perhaps it’s actually a smart move to get some recognizable names, give them a boilerplate script to work off of, and leave the rest to the special effects. There may not be much depth to Godzilla: King of the Monsters, but as the action-packed spectacle that many people wished its predecessor was, it certainly succeeds. The destruction is more disposable, and the depth is severely wanting, but it’s tough to extensively complain about a Godzilla movie leaning into its strengths this time, even if its efforts to evolve the Hollywood Godzilla formula are purely superficial.
Most of the original Godzilla reboot’s cast don’t return for Godzilla: King of the Monsters, with a couple of exceptions. Ken Watanabe’s Dr. Ishiro Serizawa and Sally Hawkins’ Dr. Vivienne Graham return from the previous 2014 movie, but that’s it. Instead, we get a new batch of leads for this sequel, consisting primarily of the Russell family. Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga and Millie Bobby Brown portray father, Mark, mother, Emma, and daughter, Madison, respectively, a scientist family who formerly specialized in studying and communicating with ancient and powerful lifeforms. After the Russell’s are driven apart by a tragedy related to the events of the original 2014 Godzilla reboot, Mark ends up forcibly roped back in with the forces of Monarch, the creature-monitoring organization from the previous Godzilla reboot, as well as 2017’s sophomore MonsterVerse effort, Kong: Skull Island, namely to rescue his ex-wife and daughter from a radicalized environmentalist terrorist, Alan Jonah, played by Charles Dance.
The Monarch ranks in Godzilla: King of the Monsters are filled out by an assortment of personalities, along with the returning Dr. Serizawa and Dr. Graham. You have some comic relief characters between Bradley Whitford’s Dr. Rick Stanton and Thomas Middleditch’s Sam Coleman, you have your military types between Aisha Hinds’ Colonel Diane Foster and O’Shea Jackson Jr.’s Chief Warrant Officer Barnes, you have some red shirts, and another new researcher to join Serizawa and Graham, in the form of Ziyi Zhang’s Dr. Ilene Chen. There’s not a lot of development behind any of these characters, who once again primarily exist to bear witness to the monsters, help along Godzilla, and little else. There are some light debates attempted between Mark and the other Monarch agents, specifically since Mark has a severe distaste for the ‘Titans’ that have now re-awakened across the planet, but it’s all a light dialogue drizzling over the no-holds-barred monster action that audiences no doubt came to see.
There’s certainly a rudimentary effort to have a point between the personalities, in fairness. There are parallels drawn with topical issues like climate change and overpopulation in the modern world, and how the Titans have supposedly awakened to re-balance life and nature on Earth. In the end though, it’s all nonsense and narrative pseudo-science, as you can imagine. Not much in Godzilla: King of the Monsters feels particularly grounded, and its human characters, while performed well enough and engaging to listen to, are ultimately following the Hollywood playbook of monster/disaster movie cliches. It certainly wouldn’t have gone amiss to have more developed, relatable human characters in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, but I doubt that many viewers will care that the human side of the movie seems to be an afterthought.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters carries a straightforward storyline that’s as simple as they come. With the world now infested by the newly re-awakened ‘Titans’, a band of radical environmentalists break one particular Titan loose, King Ghidorah, an ancient, deadly rival to Godzilla, who naturally begins causing a lot of trouble around the world. Faced with a malicious and deadly new destroyer, humanity has no choice but to turn to Godzilla once again, who is more than eager to take on his old enemy, in a battle for the fate of the world. There really isn’t much else beyond that, but who exactly is asking for depth beyond that, in a movie that’s all about giant monsters beating the hell out of each other?
It’s certainly not like Toho’s original run of Godzilla movies was devoid of depth. There were undeniable themes at play, and more to look into beyond the simple appeal of the monster fights. Some may indeed be disappointed that the storyline in Godzilla: King of the Monsters barely seems to register as well, instead serving as a convenient excuse for a whole lot of destruction, and the rest being intrusive details. If you’re expecting more than that, you won’t find it. Sure, a Godzilla movie that manages to equally balance real human stakes with exciting monster melees would be something truly exceptional, but if we have to choose between those two things, then Godzilla: King of the Monsters certainly bet on the right horse, at least in terms of appealing to mainstream audiences. If nothing else, the simple monster focus is the smart play, even if it doesn’t do much for the story that’s forcibly wrapping itself around all of the monster battling that most moviegoers are predictably paying to experience.
(NOTE: The spoiler section, when clicked, discusses post-credits scenes, potential connections to Kong: Skull Island, and tie-ins to future developments with Legendary Pictures’ ‘MonsterVerse’ franchise)
Outside of a credits sequence that reveals the declassification of Monarch information for the entire world, which in turn spreads new information on monsters to the public, there is no scene that directly foreshadows Godzilla vs. Kong in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and nor does Kong or Skull Island make an appearance in this sequel. Both Kong and Skull Island are mentioned numerous times by the various characters of Godzilla: King of the Monsters however, with archive footage of Kong from Kong: Skull Island also being shown at one point. An older version of Corey Hawkins’ character from Kong: Skull Island, now played by Joe Morton in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, also makes an appearance in one scene related to Mothra, a scene that also foreshadows the existence of the ‘Mothra Twins’, a staple from Toho’s original run of Godzilla movies.
Original Godzilla reboot director, Gareth Edwards doesn’t return for Godzilla: King of the Monsters, with directing duties on the sequel instead being handed over to Michael Dougherty. Dougherty is certainly an unusual choice for a Godzilla movie, since his previous body of directing work pretty much entirely comprises lower-budget horror movies, namely Krampus and Trick ‘r Treat. Regardless, it’s clear that Dougherty has an incredible passion for the Godzilla franchise, having also done a direct re-write on the script for Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Dougherty is clearly reveling in the opportunity to introduce as many classic monsters to the new Hollywood Godzilla franchise as possible, with Godzilla, King Ghidorah, Mothra and Rodan all getting plenty of opportunities to shine and tear up the scenery throughout this follow-up!
Dougherty even does his best to wring whatever emotion and humour he can out of the human characters, even if it’s ultimately to no avail. There’s an effort to try and pace the movie well, and try to make you care about the world that’s at stake around these enormous monsters, even if it feels a little feeble compared to the spectacle. Obviously though, people are coming for the monsters first and foremost, and Dougherty wisely understands this, keeping all of his most fun and inspired money shots for the moments when the monsters are exclusively occupying the cameras. The result is admittedly shallow, but genuinely pure blockbuster movie magic, as the colossal scope and fury of the monsters takes center stage, with the world itself as their battleground. I certainly wouldn’t want to spoil the many directing flourishes throughout Godzilla: King of the Monsters, but even if the human-driven moments appear to carry less enthusiasm, the many exciting monster moments very nicely compensate for this!
Godzilla: King of the Monsters boasts a loud, boisterous and triumphant soundtrack and music suite, and that likely shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. The music is actually a big highlight in this sequel in fact, particularly for moviegoers who are already established fans of Toho’s Godzilla movies. Bear McCreary’s music score in Godzilla: King of the Monsters is an excellent blend of familiar Toho Godzilla audio stylings, alongside thunderous stomps, booming choirs and the classic themes of the movie’s iconic monsters, Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah. The original compositions created specifically for this movie are also just as enjoyable, blending together into a sublime treat for the ears that feels very true to the Godzilla movie experience, while adding just enough of a Western twist to make the music feel like something both unique and reverent. This is a score that Godzilla fans will definitely want to own and listen to at their leisure, since this movie’s music truly kicks ass!
The rest of the sound mixing and audio engineering in Godzilla: King of the Monsters is similarly powerful and imposing, particularly the roars of the monsters and the destruction they wreak! IMAX theatres in particular will deliver an audio suite so immensely mighty that it will quite literally shake the theatre, practically necessitating a good pair of earplugs for those with more sensitive hearing! Even in regular theatres, the sheer detail and power behind the audio is impressive, with Godzilla: King of the Monsters ideally experienced on the big screen, where you can get the very most behind the presence and scale of the many monsters on display. Your ears might be ringing if you spring for the otherwise stellar IMAX audio though. You’ve been warned!
With more monsters and more destruction to work with, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is allowed to really unleash its visual potential, creating what’s arguably one of the most visually spectacular Godzilla experiences ever realized to date! The sheer visual prowess behind this movie is incredible to behold, with the monster designs excelling most as surprisingly lifelike and believable larger-than-life creatures, so impossibly real that they need to be seen to be believed. Seeing Godzilla himself get an appropriate amount of screentime certainly doesn’t hurt either, particularly with the especially standout visual style behind his new nemesis, King Ghidorah, a monstrous three-headed dragon with deadly electric breath! Watching these enormous monsters effortlessly lay waste to recognizable landmarks and cities continues to be a joy, as the sophomore chapter for this new Hollywood iteration of Godzilla is finally taken to a truly global scale!
My screening of Godzilla: King of the Monsters wasn’t in 3D, so I unfortunately can’t comment on the movie’s 3D presentation, though I was at least able to experience this sequel in an IMAX theatre. The IMAX cut of Godzilla: King of the Monsters is pretty fantastic as well, bumping up the staggering scale of the screen and sound even further, to take the action and monster-fueled mayhem to exceptional new technical heights! If you have the means, it’s well worth upgrading to a premium format like IMAX to get even more out of the epic monster duels throughout Godzilla: King of the Monsters, so long as you won’t be bothered by the especially cranked-up audio suite! Even in a regular digital theatre screening however, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a technical marvel and a visual stunner, living up to its subtitle as one of the most technically impressive big screen monster movies that’s ever made it to theatres at this point!
Godzilla: King of the Monsters gives mainstream moviegoing audiences what they want out of a Godzilla movie, for better or for worse. It’s a MonsterVerse sequel that proudly appeals to the masses, compensating for the frequently perceived flaws of its 2014 predecessor with unapologetic gusto. It’s a lot of noise and a lot of wreckage, and many interested parties probably wouldn’t have it any other way. Does it expand your mind? No. Does it challenge your expectations? No. Does it really need to do either of those things? Probably not.
I suppose that a pessimist could call Godzilla: King of the Monsters disposable, noisy fluff that appeals to the most primal and simplistic parts of our minds, but there’s still something to be said about it wanting to address and improve the supposed shortcomings of its predecessor. After all, people previously complained about not seeing the titular monster enough, and not seeing him spend much time fighting other monsters in the original 2014 reboot. Well, we definitely get that in this sequel, and thensome! Sure, the human characters still feel frustratingly under-developed, but as I’ve already said, who the hell is seeing a Godzilla movie for the human characters? Can one really complain in earnest about a Godzilla movie proudly embracing what domestic moviegoing audiences clearly want it to be?
In my humble opinion, complaining about the depth that Godzilla: King of the Monsters lacks is an exercise in futility and misplaced priorities. Sometimes, it’s okay to embrace noisy, destructive nonsense, even in this modern era of more sophisticated blockbusters that tend to have more to say than, “Giant monsters are cool.” In the arena of big monsters duking it out for the fate of the world however, what else really needs to be said, especially when they look and sound this great?!
- Exciting, action-packed direction with plenty of monster showcases
- Excellent, powerful soundtrack that blends classic Godzilla themes with modern flourishes
- Stunning visuals that wonderfully bring so many classic Godzilla creatures to life
- More under-developed human characters that don't truly matter
- Boilerplate storyline that barely registers
- The IMAX cut especially is VERY loud, if you're sensitive to that