Micheal Dougherty’s GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS is a brilliant addition to the GODZILLA canon. Brilliant? Really? Yes, and I will explain.
First, I must complain about the fact that these monsters (sillily called Titans) are NOT people in rubber suits. This is the singular major fault of the movie.
The rubber Godzilla suit’s appeal, to me, comes from the feeling that childhood play is brought to magical life. Rubber suited Godzilla stands in for the child smashing through the complexly arranged bedroom dioramas of action figures.
Yet while the Godzilla costume is tactile, massive, heavy and its reality is felt in the action – it is slow, bulky, and overly static in its limited puppetry. All of which prove to be drawbacks for action sequences. Compare these two sequences:
The older scene has none of the fluidity of the CGI. But that fluidity can be confusing to the eye, as its animation is fudged with shadows and purposeful blurring. The older scene is clearly limited by the bulky props and the coordinated timing of strings, while the CGI scene exists in a limitless canvas where everything can be expertly fine-tuned and manipulated.
Okay. Having said all that, GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS gets just about everything right.
In every single Godzilla movie ever made, the human story line is usually tedious and secondary to the Main Event – making a humongous mess of buildings. The humans usually have too much to do and too many meetings and usually end up fretting and failing.
So plot-wise, GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS carries on that proud tradition. The movie picks up where the 2014 GODZILLA leaves off, kinda. I mean, sure it does. There is a gizmo that can calm the TITANS down because it communicates an alpha sounding tone. That gizmo proves to be the prime mover for the human action. Ultimately, it sets up the final battle as well, ushered in by a kid. There is a side quest to help Godzilla that leads to heroic sacrifice and a super cool underwater lair, which adds a half an hour to the human screen time.
But let’s get to the stars of the movie. One by one, the iconic monsters get a great deal of screen time and each manages to squeeze in some real humor and personality. One of the problems with the newer remakes is the cold, deadness to the monsters. So seeing the sneaky sneer or a the playfully impatient snap of a head, brings back the much needed charisma to the individual monsters.
Godzilla. He is bulky, muscular, and very, very large. Again, his features are more professional boxer than adorable kitty cat. Unlike in the 2014 movie, we get to see a lot of him. Plus he has two of the best entrances of his career and neither have to do with his sniffing out the humans. But it is clear that Godzilla understands the role of the humans in his world, while he may not care, he tolerates them – like pets. Godzilla is the star of the movie and makes it known each time he is on screen. Plus there are throwback references to each of the traditional eras. Unlike previous incarnations, Godzilla powers up the atomic firebreath, often and without the traditional audience-teasing puffery.
Mothra. Without her fairies to wake her and a bit underused, her redesign works well. Mothra looks more insect like, which off-sets the magical splendor of her wing span and benevolent symbolic link to Godzilla. But again, I would have loved to have seen more of the inchworm larvae state squirting cocoon spray at monster and human, alike, because her awakening is excitingly promising. Unfortunately, she does not have a lot of screen time, but I do not fault the movie, since Mothra, by her very nature, is a martyr.
Rodan is a complete dick. I mean that in the most loving way possible. As the volcanic fire monster, his anger and painfulness seem to exude from his sharp edges and squinty orange eyes. His personality is the strongest of the monsters. He spends the most time interacting with the humans, singling them out and fighting them as one would swat at sleepy house flies. Rodan gets the best “death” scene and the best mugging bow at the end. One suspects he is currently angling for his own film, as we speak.
Ghidorah. Monster Zero. The false King. Emerging every time he snakes onto the screen, Ghidorah is a marvel. First he emerges from the ice, then sheets of rain, then thunderous bolts of lightning, then billowing storm clouds, each and every entrance calculated to obscure his size and minimize targets. Monster Zero’s three heads interact like bickering siblings, shoving and snapping and teasing each other. His wingspan silouette is used to maximum effectiveness without getting in the way of the action. Instead the long snake-like necks dart around with a squirming deadly effectiveness. Ghidorah sees the humans and is interested enough to ponder them for a second or two. Lightning breath is finally scary and powerful, unlike the cartoon streaking randomness of the older films. Ghidorah’s storm is intentional and overwhelmingly placed.
Overall, this is a brilliant addition to the canon. GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS will hold up for years to come. And may be remembered as the first Godzilla movie the American’s got right.