Release: Friday, May 31, 2019
Written by: Zach Shields; Michael Dougherty
Directed by: Michael Dougherty
Starring: Kyle Chandler; Vera Farmiga; Millie Bobby Brown; Bradley Whitford; Sally Hawkins; Charles Dance; Thomas Middleditch; David Straitharn; Ken Watanabe; Zhang Ziyi; O’Shea Jackson Jr.; Aisha Hinds
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
The sequel to Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla (2014) is undeniably a different beast, dispensing with its predecessor’s drip-fed action and methodical pacing for more direct, adrenaline-spiking payoff. Edwards had his chance to thrill us and apparently he botched it so in steps Michael Dougherty, the dude who gave us the anti-Santa horror-comedy Krampus. He offers himself up to fans as a most humbled servant, giving the world’s most famous kaiju a few new friends to hang out with, effectively creating a much bigger spectacle that puts primal, brutal showdowns front-and-center.
King of the Monsters may not make any move bolder than killing off its presumed main characters within the first fifteen minutes, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have big things in store. Over the course of an indulgent two-and-a-half hours Dougherty sends us on a visually spectacular journey from the plush greens of the Yunnan rainforest to the blinding white of the Antarctic Circle, establishing the monstrous battles for supremacy against a backdrop of environmental apocalypse and human hubris — precisely the kind of thematic posturing you’d expect from a movie about a creature born of the nuclear age.
From an action standpoint King of the Monsters absolutely lives up to its title, presenting a series of city-leveling confrontations as an epic territorial dispute wherein we lowly humans are caught on both sides of an ideological divide: Do we attempt to force our hand or do we let Mother Nature run her course? The film features several of the classic Toho creations and captures them using all the bells and whistles of breathtaking modern CGI. Behold the luminescent beauty and grace of Mothra as she unfurls her wings; the screaming intensity of the volcanic-born predator Rodan; the sickening size and freaky three-headedness of “Monster Zero” (King Ghidorah, if you prefer) — the latter serving as the film’s primary villain and fulfilling his classic role as arch-nemesis of Godzilla.
King of the Monsters inherits its predecessor’s human problem but that component of the story is slightly more involving this time around, even if the characterization is again pretty generic. But let’s be reasonable here, it’s nothing if not par the summer blockbuster course and it’s certainly not pre-2000 Godzilla, where Roland Emmerich had us all on pins and needles wondering whether anyone would actually pronounce Matthew Broderick’s character’s name correctly. An ecoterrorist named Alan Jonah (Charles Dance) despairs at the overpopulation crisis and humanity’s wanton disregard for their environment and so endeavors to return the planet to a “more natural” state. On a collision course with his special brand of crazy are the Russells, a science-minded family who have helped the secretive government agency Monarch develop technology used to measure the activity of the many known “titans” across the globe, technology Mr. Jonah seeks for his own nefarious agenda.
Stranger Things‘ Millie Bobby Brown may only be 15 years old but in her big-screen début she stands out among her more experienced co-stars, particularly a tired-looking Kyle Chandler and an uncharacteristically unconvincing Vera Farmiga who play her parents now separated after the loss of their younger child. At least their anti-kaiju stance advances the modern narrative in a way that’s believable. They are remnants of a world that didn’t quite know how to negotiate a 390-foot-tall, upright-walking reptile who also spits nuclear radiation. A world that didn’t really understand what his relationship was to us, what his purpose was.
Brown’s Madison convincingly bridges those eras. She doesn’t share her parents’ hatred for the big guy. Her compassion proves an evolution of understanding. With her mother held hostage physically and ideologically by Mr. Jonah she emerges as one of the few voices of reason in a world gone mad. Well it’s her and Ken Watanabe, who reprises his role as Monarch scientist Dr. Ishiro Serizawa. As one of the elite few Japanese actors who got to take part in these big American event films, it’s about damn time he gets more of a say in these matters, his arc not only emotionally resonant but vital to the story.
King of the Monsters is an old-school-feeling, globe
trotting smashing adventure that prioritizes big time fun over mood and pathos — kinda the opposite of Godzilla of five years ago. Not that that movie wasn’t entertaining, of course. I miss the discipline Edwards showed in building up to that incredible, vertical-panning shot that gave us our first good look at the main star. I miss that raw power of adrenaline. The sequel, however, offers its own excitement. The action is revved up to more crowd-pleasing levels, while the sheer amount of effort poured into the creature design and indeed the fights justifies the price of admission, whether that’s the sound engineers edging Godzilla’s roar closer to the original 1954 sound, or Dougherty urging his visual effects team, led by Guillaume Rocheron, to really imbue the creatures with their innate animal-like behaviors and physical traits — Ghidorah memorable for not just having three heads but those heads each moving independently like cobras waiting to strike.
King Ghidorah, and indeed King of the Monsters overall, makes a fairly strong case for bigger (and more) being better. It left me eagerly awaiting what comes next and in my opinion that’s what a good movie, a good second chapter, should do.
Moral of the Story: If you haven’t seen this movie yet, don’t be a Charles Dunce like me and miss the end credits! (Is this movie still even playing theatrically?)
Running Time: 132 mins.
Quoted: “Goodbye, old friend.”
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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com
I wasn’t a fan, but I enjoyed your take. It’s nice to read a positive review from someone who is passionate about this film.
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Yeah I’m really all for these kinds of things man. It still baffles me why these movies gather together such famous casts only to do not much with them. I’m really keen to see Shin Godzilla and see how that compares to these American versions.
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Hmmm. I think we’re not on the same page for this one. Doesn’t sound like my thing at all. Glad you got something out of it, I was going to go see it but it disappeared from the cinema close to me pretty damned fast. I wonder if its on the net…
Well, scores ain’t what they used to be. Back in the 1970s/1980s they were cool and often sounded varied- ST:TMP, Blade Runner, Taxi Driver, The Thing, Conan, Star Wars, TESB, crikey the list is endless. These days? Hardly worth a mention most of the time. Partly why films are worse now. I can’t remember a single notable theme in any Marvel movie for instance, which is frankly deplorable. Imagine if they had John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner composing thise scores. There ain’t nothing close to a Superman march or Raiders march or Darth Vader’s theme in any of the Marvel films.
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I think there are some grand motifs in the MCU. The 360 degree swooping shot around the team when they first officially “assembled” remains among my favorite moments, and it’s paired with that super triumphant score. But yeah, I couldnt tell you anything that set the Ant Man score apart or those for Thor or Captain Marvel for example. Gone are the days of the instant classic John Williams scores, that much is certain
Hmm, suddenly this sounds better than I’d heard, and I was really looking forward to this (Kong: Skull Island was great) until some bad reviews turned me off. Looks like it’s on my Blu-ray pre-order list then, as it quickly disappeared from cinemas here, squeezed out by the assembly line of summer blockbusters.
How was the music by the way? The score was by Bear McCreary, who I’ve been a big fan of since the BSG reboot, and this seems to be his biggest high-profile film project.
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If you got along with Skull Island this one’s got you taken care of too. It’s good old fashioned silly fun. Not so campy as it is reverent of the past and in some ways it gets overly serious, like the last film did. But man these things have been so much fun. The creature designs and the overall CGI has really pulled me in — and this time the fight sequences really are given some personality that’s fun to watch.
Scores are seriously something I need to do a better job of paying attention to. Lol it’s pretty bad. They’re a fundamental part of a movie. I don’t remember this one much at all — so I guess that says something. But then again, for me the score has to really be something special for me to remember. (Things like Blade Runner for example.)
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