Godzilla: King of the Monsters
by Dennis Campbell
After a five-year hiatus the Kaiju we have grown to love returned to silver screen in a film that showcases just how ferocious Godzilla can be when called upon.
Picking up during the climatic battle of the previous film, 2014’s Godzilla, we are quickly introduced to our main characters Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) and Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) as they search the rubble for their youngest child, Andrew. After a few minutes of searching the film jumps forward five-years and we see Dr. Emma Russell is now studying other Kaiju throughout the world. In the subsequent five-years she has invented a machine called the Orca which emits a pulse that can calm a Kaiju. Along the way is Dr. Emma Russell’s daughter, Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) who helps her mother control the Kaiju. It turns out that she is doing this for nefarious reasons as the main villain of the movie, Alan Jonah (Charles Dance) hopes to unleash all the monsters of the world and build from the ashes they cause. In response Dr. Mark Russell does his best to prevent each Kaiju from being released. On the side, Godzilla does his best to maintain his position as the dominant Kaiju.
Action movies are generally not my forte, but in this case, I found myself thoroughly enjoying what was on screen. A major criticism of the 2014 film is that the film focused too much on the human characters and barely included any Godzilla or other Kaiju. The common defense for this was that the film was trying to replicate what the original film was about. Personally, I feel that argument is misguided. I have long believed that the 1954 Godzilla is a film about the dangers of nuclear war, not some giant lizard. Considering that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were less than a decade prior, I feel that is a very fair assessment. Given that belief, the idea of not showing Godzilla because that is what the original did misses the mark in my opinion. Luckily, King of the Monsters seems to have learned from this mistake and puts the human characters on the back burner. There is very little character development and to say any of them have a complete arc would be generous. Rather, I would say the only characters that have a completed arc are the two main Kaiju’s, Godzilla and King Ghidorah. Also, another positive is that the movie respected how large these creatures are supposed to be. Even compared to large bases that are holding them, the Kaiju dwarf everything in sight. I personally love that just for Godzilla to come out of the ocean a tsunami is caused. The effects in the film are terrific as well. There is one scene where a giant fire bird swoops down over a village in Mexico and everything below it is instantly incinerated. At several points throughout the film I was almost convinced that the film crew had used real footage of disasters and spliced them into the film. What was even more impressive were the fight scenes. There were three between Godzilla and Ghidorah with a few other minor Kaiju fights sprinkled in throughout. In each case, it seemed as though the world could not withstand the amount of punishment being dealt to it. It was as if the ground was going to crack and swallow everything in sight.
When it comes to acting, that the best performance came from Millie Brown. She has done fine work in the past. Perhaps her most recognizable role was in Stranger Things as Eleven, for which she received Emmy nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. The scene which sealed my opinion on her came when Dr. Emma Russell chooses to go all in on the plan to release every Kaiju. Madison tries to convince her not to do it, but despite her pleas the Orca is activated, and the monsters are unleashed. As this happens, a single tear falls down Madison’s face as her eyes close in shock. While everyone in the film does a solid job in terms of acting, Millie Brown is the only one who goes above and beyond.
In terms of negatives there is only one that I can think of and it does not detract from the overall quality of the film. There is a comic relief character who, in my opinion does not land any of his jokes. It may just be that his humor was not my type and others will enjoy it, but in any respect his impact on the film was minimal.