The folks behind the 2014 American film Godzilla and 2017’s Kong: Skull Island have brought forward Godzilla: King of the Monsters, a rousing monster fest that adds Gidorah, Rodan and Mothra – among others – to their ongoing interpretation of the long-popular Japanese kaiju movies.
It’s good to see these old friends and adversaries of the giant fire lizard reinvented for a new generation. This is a faster-paced and dynamic followup to the 2014 entry, which I still consider the second-best Godzilla movie I’ve ever seen. (There is a kaiju-sized spot in my heart for the 1954 Japanese classic that started all of this, Gojira.) The new film punches all the buttons required to satisfy fans not just of this genre but of summer blockbusters in general.
I’ve seen several reviews along the lines of “the human characters aren’t very well developed (or worse), but we go to kaiju movies for the giant monsters, not the people,” but I think that shortchanges the film. The family at the core of the movie, played by Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, and the amazing young actress Millie Bobby Brown, bring a distinctly human element to the fray as we see the emotional fallout from the ’14 encounter and the challenge of new menaces.
Several actors from the earlier film reprise their roles, and several new faces also do their part to make us care. This is not the Friday night fights; this is a group of human beings trying to cope with world-changing events on an epic scale. And that is what the best kaiju movies have always been about.
I do have to add that you need to do some heavy-duty suspension of disbelief. Two beings as tall as skyscrapers are scrapping on the infield at Fenway Park as our heroes search the outfield and the press box for a missing child, and nobody gets stepped on or hit by flying debris? No problem. And I lost count at how many times Godzilla showed up to slug another monster at the precise instant before the other monster was going to eat or squash one of our heroes.
(About Fenway Park and Boston in general: After seeing the carnage done to that venerable venue, I must conclude the people behind the movie are ardent New York Yankees fans. The Red Sox of the Godzilla universe won’t be playing any home games for a while.)
In the end, though, I have to agree with the reviewer who called it “probably the most insane and epic and bizarre movie we’ll see all year.” Even limiting the discussion to this year’s blockbusters, Avengers: Endgame and likely Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker have or will have more emotional depth and power, but Godzilla: King of the Monsters is definitely worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence and one of the best entries in the long series of movies about our favorite prehistoric force of nature.
(And if you’d like to experience an adventure featuring a deadly, villainous but much smaller dinosaur, Myke Phoenix: The Complete Novelettes is now on sale!)