Godzilla - King Of WHICH monsters? - Review [Spoiler free]
Fans have been yearning for a Godzilla film which puts monster fights in the forefront... is this it?
If you've read any post of mine or have followed my creative side in any capacity, you'll be well aware that I'm very fond of giant Japanese things; Mecha, Kaiju, Breas... Ignore that last one. So Godzilla: King of the monsters was a definite watch for me being the second western take on Japans iconic monster.
Godzilla: KotM, mainly follows an organisation called Monarch that has been monitoring and following news of the Kaiju, or titans as they have dubbed them. I won't delve into how but eventually we're introduced to the "titans" Mothra, Rodan and Ghidorah bringing them to a western production for the very first time.
I'll get straight to the point, I preferred Godzilla 2014 as a movie, not as a monster movie but as what I'd like to call a true Godzilla movie (there's a pun there), it had tension, it had peril, it had loss: all things I think are necessary in any rendition of Godzilla, don't get me wrong there were many places it really fell short; taking more cues for Godzillas personality from the hero than the destroyer was one in my opinion, the actual screen-time of the main character himself (Godzilla) and the lack of real world counterpart disasters were all complaints I initially brought forward. KotM also failed in all these departments and more. As a spectacle, it was a marvel to look at and defeated it's predecessor hands down when it came to monster screen-time, but as a piece of media that's supposed to keep me intrigued for two hours and pondering for more hours to come, I think the studio could have done much better. I realise that my opinion is one of two sides of the fan base of these movies. One side goes in for a monster spectacle; if you do you'll probably find this movie rather enjoyable bar the sub-par plot. However if you're like me you go into Godzilla movies expecting less of a monster bout and more of a disaster movie with hints of political satire. The best two Godzilla movies in my opinion by far are the original 1954 Godzilla movie directed by Ishiro Honda, and 2016's Shin Godzilla direct by Shinji Higuchi and Hideaki Anno. Both use Godzilla to represent real world events and treat him more like a disaster than something, dare I say it, cool. This is even represented in the design of Godzilla himself, don't get me wrong, Legendary Pictures take on Godzilla is cool but I've always been a fan of how Toho's Godzilla has always looked more like an amalgamation of other creatures and definitely some kind of mutant, Shin Godzilla looking almost repulsive in all his forms. Albeit I agree one could argue that this is due to his completely different origin between the movies.
Without going into spoiler territory the plot for this movie is laughable, many of the character motivations make no sense, there are clear scenes where you can see plot armour is keeping characters alive and throughout the movie you never really get the feeling that we, humanity, are in peril. At a point in the movie you come to realise we literally aren't in any danger from these "Titans" and it's literally our own hubris (or that of a specific, badly written terrorist organisation) that could be our downfall. However even when the stakes of the movie are high there's never a sense of dread or that the protagonists being unsuccessful will result in catastrophic global disaster. Frankly I think the addition of this Terrorist group is one of the worst choices of this movie, having a human antagonist undermines the threat posed by the titans. None of this is helped by the dialogue, many of the lines are clearly written for more comedic effect or the usual Hollywood cliche. This feeling is only worsened by the few instances of a serious tone being completely overshadowed by a poor delivery, one of the best performances in this movie is that of Millie B Brown, and this isn't any slight against her, she's a great actress but considering she's sharing the screen with some much more seasoned actors I wouldn't have expected this to be the case. It's seems very common in these types of movies that Hollywood misses what could make these movies great, sure it's wonderful to have a fun romp like Pacific Rim, but when you're dealing with a beloved IP such as Godzilla or say Transformers, you need a lot more of an understanding of the property and willingness to take it more seriously than a simple means to profit.
I won't spend the entirety of this article shitting on this movie (kind of, you'll see what I mean), the visuals are pretty good, the "titan" designs are cool. There are many scenes in this movie I wish I could have paused and made a poster of, however, I think these scenes as wonderful as they are to look at, only highlight my previous points about the lack of peril. One of Godzilla 2014's shortcomings was the screen-time given to Godzilla and the Mutos. However now that I've seen KotM, I fully understand and respect the decision to do so. It made Godzilla seem a lot more threatening and the final fight seem that much more like a major spectacle, a one in a lifetime sight. Also the actual angling portrayed the King to be significantly larger in scale that in it's sequel. I couldn't help but notice that a lot of the shots in this movie were from equal eye level to, or sometimes even above Godzilla, this removes the idea of us looking up at a colossal beast and forces us to rely on landmarks and such as reference points, I felt this made Godzilla and in turn all the titans, feel much smaller that they're implied to be. This was also not helped by how visually clear the titans were, it wasn't uncommon in this movie to see a large percentage of a titan AND human on screen at the same time, every time I did, I questioned the distance between the two and usually couldn't make sense of it; either that humans too big, the titans too small or they haven't done nearly as good a job at representing the distance between the two as they did in Godzilla 2014. Overall I feel that a lot of the camerawork, if you can call it that when it's completely CG, didn't really emphasise whose perspective we were sharing in the movie. Are we, the audience, supposed to be humans? Or titans? Or was the movie simply expected not to be taken seriously enough to expect it's viewers to want to be immersed?
Before I bring this to a conclusion I will point out one thing I really did enjoy about the movie; the score; Bear McCreary's remixes of the classic Godzilla theme, however I've been a fan of McCreary since I heard his opening to Black Sails, so perhaps that was to be expected, though it would have been nice to see more original work and less remixes of the Godzilla theme, I already know that theme is awesome. The score truly shines at a point in the movie where Godzilla emerges from the ocean, as he does the "rebirth" theme plays and it matches perfectly, the hero arises, but then there's a shift in the song and what's going on on screen and I loved every moment of it until... I can't spoil it, you'll have to watch it for yourself and you'll know what moment I'm talking about (Unless you want to read to the bottom and I'll explain it there).
So, to conclude, this movie is a "wait until it comes to a streaming service like Netfilx" watch, I definitely wouldn't buy it on any medium and I kind of regret paying a cinema ticket to see it. If you enjoyed say, Pacific Rim: Uprising, then you might find this movie enjoyable too but personally, I'd say go watch Shin Godzilla, the Netflix animated Godzilla trilogy or even Godzilla 2014. All three in my opinion portray a different take on the Kauji in a much more interesting light that your typical Hollywood popcorn flick.
But that's just my two cents, I hope you enjoyed my opinion and I've shed a light and helped you decide whether it's worth running to see (although this is rather late),
Better than TriStars 1998 "Zilla"
Worse than Legendary Pictures 2014 Godzilla
Now that scene I was talking about that got me "gassed". After Monarch, an organisation following and monitoring the Titan activity, revives Godzilla with a nuclear device, the King pops out of the water and the "heroic March" part of the original theme plays, he charges up and releases a beam of energy to the sky. The whole scene sets a kind of "Hero is here" theme, however once Godzilla has finished his beam he turns and notices Monarch atop a submarine nearby, as they catch his attention the beginning "Monster arrival" part of his theme plays and he starts to walk towards them. I loved every moment of this and was thinking in my head, finally! The Godzilla part of this movie has started. But then in true Hollywood fashion he stops in front of them as if to say hello and then turns to make his way toward Ghidorah. Now I know that there have been many a Toho film where Godzilla is friend to humanity but I and many others would agree this was more to make the icon more kid friendly, this is not the Godzilla I want to see, I want to see a Godzilla who has no regard for the insignificant humans underfoot as long as he proves that he is king in his fights against other monsters.