The latest Godzilla movie, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, has now spent four weekends at the box office. As we are now well past any normal grace period for avoiding spoilers, the staff of Toho Kingdom is giving their full thoughts on the latest movie. As expected, stuff will not be held back, so if you haven’t seen the film and are still looking to avoid spoilers, this article isn’t for you. So without further ado, the staff’s impressions after seeing the film.
I was excited to see GKOTM. I went out of my way to go see it in IMAX on the Friday the film was released in Shinjuku with a nearly full theater because I wanted to get the audience buzz and excitement (unfortunately, there wasn’t much). I had along with me a homemade Godzilla hat my mom had made for me. I had read the graphic novel, listened to the soundtrack, and even started reading the novel version. I was primed for a good time.
But much to my shock, I did not have a good time. Quite the opposite. Please understand, I usually like crazy and silly monster movies. I even liked Rampage and Pacific Rim: Uprising, and I thought Godzilla: Final Wars (2004) was a lot of fun. The reviews for GKOTM were bad, but I still figured I would just have a good time with the movie.
Yet when all was said and done I hated this movie–and I have never hated a Godzilla movie before. Certainly I didn’t hate the film because it had lots of monster scenes–I love monsters. Certainly not because I thought it needed more human scenes–it had plenty. But from start to finish I felt like the movie was undermining its own tension, that despite sometimes fantastic effects the film felt slipshod and rushed, that nothing really seemed to gel. I don’t say this to make anyone angry, but just… that’s how the film felt to me.
Sure, one can complain about the human characters, how Kyle Chandler’s character always seemed to know exactly what to do (I figured he was still receiving tomorrow’s newspaper today), how ineffectual the military was even against a small group of terrorists, the groan worthy lines, or the way that the characters often say or do things that make no sense, etc, etc. I liked the conceit of having the family drama in the middle of the monster attack, but it is VERY hard to understand or buy into a character who, after losing her child, decides it’s a good idea to destroy all of civilization and allow for the deaths of millions and billions of people. And whose daughter initially goes along with this plan (she admittedly didn’t fully understand the plan, but she had a general idea of how giant monsters would be released to change the world, and it’s made clearer in the novel). And then we are just supposed to accept when she and her daughter think, oh, maybe killing millions of people might NOT be the best way to handle their personal emotional problems. But I often felt like there were many plot elements that just were barely put together, not just the characters, but events and monsters as well. I could go on and on.
Even the monster action felt uninteresting to me. King Ghidorah looks cool… but he runs away from his first fight, and is losing the second until Godzilla gets hit by the Oxygen Destroyer, which is now just a green bomb for some reason. Over and over again, almost every time KG is about to attack, another monster appears to stop him at the last moment. It becomes like a bad drinking game, and happened so often that I was waiting for it to happen. KG is our big bad, but he comes across as a big wuss! Godzilla, meanwhile, is “killed,” but not really, and in his nearly-dead state he swims far away to a regeneration room to heal. Our heroes find him there, and decide to nuke him to charge him up faster (you know… the same method they were using to KILL Godzilla and the MUTOs in the previous film is now used to bring Godzilla back to life), and even though drones are conked out just by approaching Godzilla due to the high radiation, an old man (the least capable person on the whole ship for the mission) volunteers to go alone with barely a peep of protest, then handily manages to deliver the missile payload instead, and he feels good enough even after taking off his mask right next to Godzilla that he has the energy to caress the monster’s face instead of instantly dying. To me, Serizawa’s sacrifice just felt forced and ridiculous. (I was hoping he would emerge from the explosion as a giant monster ala a certain Dreamcast video game, but alas.)
And the last fight… wasn’t interesting to me. The fight tended to be quick snippets rather than a sustained battle sequence. It felt like a string of money shots interspersed with humans yelling and carrying on rather than a fight building upon itself. Also, the monsters just kept developing new powers whenever they needed them, with little build up. KG has the power to regenerate, but we don’t really see him use it during the fight. Mothra fights Rodan and suddenly has a giant stinger that she uses to kill Rodan… who then comes back to life to grovel at Godzilla’s feet later anyway, further undermining the stakes of the battle because monsters can just resurrect at will. KG suddenly in one really short scene has the ability to suck energy out of Godzilla, and nearly sucks him dry somehow. Godzilla, after nearly getting sucked dry, suddenly goes thermonuclear and implodes, but is completely fine afterwards and enjoys a nice KG-brand cigar. For what it’s worth, it is implied in the film that Godzilla’s transformation into fire Godzilla is facilitated by Mothra’s death, though this, too, follows the same problem as above—a monster conveniently manifesting just the power it needs in just one scene to make things work out. It’s a total deus ex machina move, made all the more confusing because the movie already set up fire Godzilla via the effects of the Serizawa bomb underwater and the fact that the image of fire Godzilla hearkens back (for fans) to Godzilla dying in Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995). It’s confusing and, to me, poorly done, and it all felt like flash and bang without any real excitement or tension. It also kind of feels like Hollywood saying, “our Godzilla is better than yours because he can survive the Oxygen Destroyer AND blowing himself up—and he is bigger than Shin Godzilla, too, so there!” (I have read the novelization, which makes a lot of aspects of the plot clearer… but the novel makes no explicit connection between Mothra’s demise and Godzilla going Super Saiyan.)
I left the theater confused and shocked at how much I disliked the film. Upon reflection, there were things I liked, such as the references to the original Rodan (1956) and the music and the monster designs (especially Rodan), and particular scenes, such as Mothra webbing Ghidorah. I liked seeing the extra Titans, though I wish there had been more of them. But as for the movie as a whole, I left feeling like it was a huge missed opportunity. I wished that the action could have more real tension and excitement and build-up. I wished that the story could’ve had more clever twists and fewer (to me) lousy one-liners. To me, the whole affair came across as a slapped-together monstrosity with a heavy sprinkling of what seemed to me almost ironic, haphazard fan-service.
And I say all this with great regret because I absolutely wanted to enjoy the film and embrace it like so many fans have apparently done. But I just couldn’t do it. Even though I have found many of the “dumbest” Godzilla movies in the past were also my favorites, and they often had similarly nonsensical plots. But for me, they also had a straightforward charm that this film lacked. I mean, I enjoyed the anime trilogy more than I did GKOTM.
I don’t say any of this to discount your opinion if you loved the movie. If you did, that’s great. And I really want to thank the director and the makers of the film for all their hard work, and I really wish them all the best. I don’t want to write this to be hateful or anything of the sort. These were just my impressions, my honest emotional reaction. They could change upon further viewings.
Maybe someday I can revisit the movie and just enjoy it for what it is, but for whatever reason, this time I just couldn’t. To those who could, I am glad you did, but… I just didn’t, for the reasons listed above and others. It’s tough to say it, but at least after one viewing, I have to give GKOTM a big thumbs down.
I’m not sure how much I can elaborate on that quote in the lower left corner without over explaining.
From director Michael Dougherty comes the anticipated Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), the long awaited sequel to Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla (2014) and connected to Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ Kong: Skull Island (2017) in the greater universe of films known as the MonsterVerse. So how does it hold up?
In my first and only viewing, combined with the weeks that have passed since then, I find myself mixed about it. I’ll be one to fully admit that the trailer hype may have set up something of a false expectation to what the film actually is. Even with that in mind, it doesn’t mean that the film should be excused for its flaws, no matter how much fan service is thrown in.
Aside from false expectations, it still feels like it’s missing something. To me, all the right ingredients are in place that could rival that of an Avengers movie in terms of scope and scale. I feel, at least for the theatrical edit, it boiled down to sloppy execution. The breakneck pace combined with the human-focused sequences in the middle of the monster action I think are two of the biggest sins that hamper the spectacle it’s trying to go for. And the contrivance of the human story just to get the ball rolling or to act as set pieces for action sequences takes away any tension it could have had. While I didn’t mind our leads playing the Russell family, some aspects to their character and character arcs could’ve been handled much better for a truly emotional story about a broken family in the aftermath of discovering monsters.
The fan service I think is also a major contributor here… Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty I’m truly appreciative of. The score from Bear McCreary is utterly gorgeous and to hear the Godzilla and Mothra themes modernized is truly a treat in of itself. Even the reinvention of the Burning Godzilla concept in the form of Fire Godzilla is also a surprise return, let alone in an American production. Kudos to the team for that. But I feel the excessive amount of the fan service hinders it as well and all could’ve been either removed or replaced with something that doesn’t need to be explicitly stated. The Oxygen Destroyer I think is a prime example of what I mean, only being haphazardly used as a one-time plot device to render Godzilla useless with none of the build up to justify its spot there.
As a whole, I still got a nice bit of enjoyment out of the film. Even if it’s a little bit forced, I think Dr. Serizawa’s sacrifice was one of the more emotional moments of the film. But a lot of it is undercut by the pacing and the editing (sans the Serizawa scene, which I felt was handled really well), and leaves much to be desired. My only hope is for the alleged Director’s Cut that has 40-something minutes of footage could clear up the issues I have currently.
And now, for the kick of the curb and for perspective’s sake, this is my personal ranking between all stories in the MonsterVerse canon, so that’ll include the comics.
- Kong: Skull Island (2017)
- Godzilla (2014)
- Skull Island: The Birth of Kong (2017)
- Godzilla: Aftershock (2019)
- Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)
- Godzilla Awakening (2014)
Going off that list, it becomes abundantly clear I find KOTM to be the weakest of the MonsterVerse movies. It’s a bit of a shame, because I want to have good reason to place it higher. But compared to the two movies that came before, despite their flaws, they’re still much better constructed movies; even the comic book tie-ins (for the most part) told more structured and coherent stories.
And who knows? Maybe a second viewing of KOTM may change my stance on it. As it currently stands, I’m mixed about this long-awaited sequel and hope the next entry doesn’t disappoint. I await with mild curiosity how Adam Wingard and crew handle the even more anticipated crossover event.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a dream come true. Seeing Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidorah on the big screen in a new film is something I’d been dreaming about since 2004 and in some ways never expected to see.
So seeing these old friends onscreen was terrific but what about the film itself? I have some issues with it. I loved the human cast although I thought some characters were poorly used in particular Dr. Vivian Graham. Many people have mentioned that the story isn’t particularly new or deep. It’s nowhere near as deep or nuanced as Gojira 1954 or GMK. However is that a bad thing? I agree the story could have used more depth but I don’t think a Godzilla film that errs on the side of pure entertainment more than a deep philosophical approach is a bad thing. This is what makes Godzilla such an enduring icon. He can be many things and his movies can be infinitely diverse in tone. Looking at KOTM in that perspective does the film work? ABSOLUTELY! This movie is the closest Godzilla movie to match the energy and soul of the classic Showa films like Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964) or Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965) more so than the last attempt to do so with Godzilla Final Wars. The greatest achievement of Godzilla 2014 was making its version of Godzilla FEEL like the Godzilla character we know and love. KOTM only improves on Legendary’s success as Godzilla’s power is only matched by his personality. The film makers knew that Godzilla isn’t a monster but a CHARACTER and they treat him as such. KOTM also revitalizes the characters of King Ghidorah, Mothra, and Rodan like never before. So much personality has been reintroduced to these characters that I loved so much. Rodan is a truly frightening sight in mid air and his volcanic entrance was amazing. I was afraid that the lack of her two priestesses would remove the humanity and hope of Mothra as a character but I couldn’t be more wrong. The fact she has become so popular across the internet from Facebook posts to fan art or memes is testament to her character and appearance in the film. King Ghidorah is perfectly terrifying in a way unseen in any Godzilla film since Invasion of Astro-Monster. His is truly an apocalyptic presence in the film. The choice to have a separate motion capture actor for each head was inspired and gave him a new depth of character never seen in the character before.
The visuals are breath taking. The scope of the fights and destruction are beyond what I expected from the film going in and I couldn’t have enjoyed them more. The visuals are only matched by the sound design and soundtrack. To hear the classic Ifukube themes on the big screen in an American production was beautiful and moving. McCreary’s original score work is just as good blending these themes in with his own original compositions in a perfect mix.
While not ground breaking I thought the human cast and characters were more than serviceable. I enjoyed just about every performance and each character regardless of their depth or lack thereof.
As a Godzilla fan I truly feel blessed to be alive now. It’s hard for me to think of a better time for the Godzilla character. For those who wanted more from KOTM’s story or something new from this movie can enjoy the Anime Trilogy for creating something never seen before with the character. If you want more political subtext in your Godzilla films then Shin Godzilla is one of the greatest examples of Godzilla as political commentary. If you were disappointed in Shin Godzilla (2016) or The Anime Trilogy for their lack of action then you have King of The Monsters to turn too. Each new Godzilla releases complements the last by taking separate directions for the character. I believe that Godzilla King of the Monsters is on the way to being one of my favorite Godzilla movies and a wonderful introduction for the main stream audiences to this tremendous character.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) is a thermonuclear-sized gift to monster cinema. The monsters may be the stars, but we are the beneficiaries of their cataclysmic feuds. Generally, monsters are portrayed as being mindless forces of destruction, meant only to challenge the humans caught in their wake. It is nice to see that trope elegantly subverted here; in this film, monster and human are equal.
Godzilla has never been better. The aesthetics of his design evoke a delicate balance of power, savagery, and grace, casting him as a majestic god while simultaneously humanizing him. This film and its predecessor rekindled my long-lost appreciation for Godzilla as a good guy; I loved Godzilla’s hero journey in this story. Mothra is truly a divine monster, and every scene she’s in is awe-inspiring. Give this Mothra a solo movie. Rodan is nearly perfect, with a design that could very well be my favorite. I loved his molten feather-like scales and how sparks of ember shot out of his wings whenever he took flight. My single regret is they didn’t let him keep his classic roar. Out of all of the monsters, King Ghidorah arguably benefits the most. Despite being Godzilla’s archenemy and one of the most dangerous kaiju around, Ghidorah has never scared me — until now, that is. Each Ghidorah has a unique personality that makes every scene he’s in memorable. I must say, the part where he regenerated one of his severed heads like the hydra of old? Yeah, I’m still picking my jaw up from the floor.
Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) and Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) are compelling, each bringing dignity to their respective roles. Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) was endearing, and I hope she continues to evolve as a person in future installments. In a film teeming with amazing scenes, Serizawa’s heartfelt goodbye to Godzilla is without question my favorite. For me, it’s an inspiring scene. Serizawa, while holding his father’s watch from Hiroshima, faces his inner demons by turning the very same weapon that has haunted his people for generations into a life-saving instrument. Beautiful.
Unfortunately, some of the human characters were generic, namely the human antagonist: Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga). Her genocidal plan—delivered in an excruciatingly long villainous monologue—and the onus placed on us to sympathize with her plight made it all but impossible for me to forgive her, which is a shame because Vera is an outstanding actress. Some of the humor felt forced and was unnecessary (i.e., “I record everything, man,” and “Gonorrhea?” was eye-rolling). Ultimately, more time spent on developing the principal human cast would have significantly benefited the film. Monster scenes are great, but compelling human drama in these kinds-of-films is a necessity. No story has ever suffered for giving us relatable human characters to follow.
All good films have a music composer orchestrating the emotional journey of its characters. Bear McCreary’s soundtrack awakened the emotional Titan within. Bear’s homages to the legendary works of Akira Ifukube and Yuji Koseki brought a smile to my face. Every time Godzilla’s iconic theme boomed, I felt like I was discovering Godzilla for the first time. Bear’s rendition of Mothra’s Song was perfect. It’s a beautiful melody to listen to by itself. I thought the beatings of the drums juxtaposed with Godzilla leading his human allies into battle was beyond impressive. Who wouldn’t follow Godzilla into battle? Just make sure you let him go first.
Michael Dougherty is no stranger to directing creature features (e.g., Trick ‘r Treat and Krampus). Here, his Godzilla-loving credentials are on full display. There are a few discrepancies I have with the film, like how I think Emma’s villainous monologue speech should’ve been left on the cutting room floor, or how the Oxygen Destroyer was shoehorned in as a convenient plot device. Don’t get me wrong; it was a cool scene and, as a fan, I was smiling ear-to-ear. However, when you incorporate the Oxygen Destroyer for only a few minutes, it comes across as a missed opportunity. Nitpicks aside, I’m satisfied with what Mike and his crew set out to achieve, and I hope he returns to the kaiju genre.
At the end of the day I cared about the characters—both human and monster alike—and I know I’ll be enjoying Godzilla: King of the Monsters for many years to come. Long live the King!
With what I would consider one of the best trailers of 2018, Godzilla: King of the Monsters finally roared into theaters in May of 2019. After waiting nearly 2 weeks to see it with a friend, I can definitively say Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a mixed bag that I enjoyed. A collection of some jaw-dropping set pieces that barely overcomes elements as endearing as nails on a chalkboard.
To get the worst out of the way, the family in the film begin as sympathetic characters, but by its end, I wished for Ghidorah to disintegrate them all where they stood. Not to say their acting is atrocious, as all give solid performances, but Kyle Chandler as Mark Russell, Millie Bobby Brown as Madison Russell and Vera Farmiga as Emma Russell can’t overcome one opponent in the film, the script. Motivations change on a dime, characters are looked to for advice even though experts fill every square inch of the screen and every moment the family appeared I felt myself despising the movie more and more. Aaron Taylor Johnson’s character of Ford Brody in Godzilla may have proven dull, but I did not actively wish for his death by the film’s conclusion by comparison. The other side characters proved more engaging with Charles Dance as Alan Jonah and Ken Watanabe as Dr. Ishiro Serizawa being my personal highlights, the latter receiving a wonderful sendoff scene with Godzilla.
Speaking of Godzilla, wow does he shine in this movie whenever he appears. Mothra, Ghidorah and Rodan have also never come to life in such a spectacular fashion with Rodan’s awakening in particular stealing the movie for me. Whether its Mothra illuminating the horizon or Ghidorah battling Rodan high above the clouds, these moments put a genuine smile on my face in the theater and are easily the highlights of the film. I’d even argue some of the action is the best in the three movies of the Legendary series, but for every peak that the film achieves, the characters take you to a valley you wish went undiscovered.
I could nitpick other elements like the unexplained use of the Oxygen Destroyer, or praise certain details like Ghidorah’s personalities or McCarthy’s fantastic score, but what I’m left with at the end of the day is a film at odds with itself. A film I’d praise and tear apart in the same sentence. Do the positives outweigh the negatives? Yes, and its easily superior to the Anime Trilogy or Shin Godzilla, but for someone who wanted a film to stand side by side with the classics of Godzilla, I can say what we got is a flawed, good Godzilla movie, just not a great one.
Having enjoyed the cinematic entries in the MonsterVerse to date, my anticipation and excitement for this latest film was pretty high after the 2018 Comic Con trailer. Many months later, those expectations were brought back down to earth as the review embargo lifted and the movie took a critical thumping. So I went into the theater with excitement, but with expectations I thought were in line for what I was about to see.
Sadly the movie didn’t meet those lower expectations, and instead was a film I would give 2 or 2.5 stars out of 5 to. In fact, I found the latest MonsterVerse entry much more forgettable than anticipated, although not nearly to the degree that the Anime trilogy suffers from. I think my biggest complaint with the production was just a lack of highlights. I loved King Ghidorah carrying Godzilla into the sky and also the brief moment when Mothra and Godzilla teamed up against King Ghidorah… but that’s kind of it. Sadly there just isn’t a lot of moments where I go: “oh yeah, I want to see that again”. This is in contrast to the earlier films, where I was thrilled by the build up the first time Godzilla used his atomic ray in 2014 or the tense sequence on the bridge with the MUTO. Similarly in Kong: Skull Island (2017), the final battle itself was packed with great moments. I was not expecting this lack of highlights at all, as the trailer did a great job at showcasing Rodan’s arrival from the volcano or King Ghidorah emerging from the clouds, yet in the final product these sequences just didn’t carry the same gravitas. Not sure if that’s pacing or just general editing, but I wasn’t wowed like I was expecting to be.
As for the human cast… couldn’t care less for them. When Emma Russell unveils her big plan to let the titans rule the earth, returning it to glory, I was ready for the film to develop her as the villain. Instead? She heel turns pretty much immediately to regret her actions due to her daughter and, it would seem, not thinking the plan all the way through. It’s the kind of turn of events that gives the viewer new found respect for Emmy Kano from Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991), whose badly handled confusion over the Futurians’ plan was at least executed better than this. Speaking of poorly executed, the death of Vivienne Graham was a joke, and it felt like someone looked over the film and said “crap, we kind of glossed over this… let’s throw her face on a computer monitor and note she is deceased just so it’s clear she is dead.”
Overall, I don’t want to dive too much into the film, as to avoid a full review, but I can say this did temper my excitement for Godzilla vs. Kong a bit… hopefully the trailers for that turn things around. On the plus side, at least Rodan lived to see another day… which did bring a smile to my face, even if it was in a role that sees him more as a lackey.
Have your own impressions related to the film? Feel free to sound off in the comments.