Movie Review: Godzilla: King of the Monsters

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PG-13 |

Director: Michael Dougherty

by Jason Koenigsberg

The best marketing campaign for any movie from 2019 so far finally gets released, and for the first time in a long time, Godzilla shows the world that he is once again King of the multiplexes. Godzilla: King of the Monsters is exactly the type of big action spectacle audiences want and expect in their summer blockbusters. Now there are two distinct types of monster movies. There are the ones like Jaws (1975) where you hardly see the monster other than a few body parts or snippets building up tension until a big reveal at the end. And then there are the kinds that show the monsters right away front and center like the recent Kong: Skull Island (2017). This movie is more in line with the latter type of monster flick, but credit has to be given to the screenwriters and director who do a very good balancing act of never making Godzilla: King of the Monsters too much of one type or the other. There are a lot of monsters and they show them, but they also build up the monsters in the first half and do a commendable job allowing the actors to develop their characters and relationships. Some critics have complained that this movie dismisses the human elements while only focusing on the action and mass destruction. They might be missing the point because any more dialogue and perhaps they would be complaining about how this movie is centering on the characters and not the giant titans which is the main reason why audiences are buying tickets to this film in the first place. 

The movie opens up with a red sky and a lot of dark, ashy debris flying around and we see Godzilla right away in a flashback from 2014  after he has decimated most of San Francisco. Amidst all the chaos the camera focuses in on a family with a father (Kyle Chandler) and a mother (Vera Farmiga) and their two children. Their son dies during the monster attack and the younger daughter grows up to be Millie Bobbie Brown (best known from the Netflix show Stranger Things). The human aspect of the film centers on these three characters and how they each deal with loss, regret, and trying to heal after a tragedy. The film really excels with little effort at examining these three individuals, giving the audience just enough information that they can fill in the blanks and feel something when each character faces peril. The same can be said for the monsters. The main ones have been shown in all of the previews, Godzilla, King Ghidorah, Mothra, and Rodan each have slight personalities and when they get into danger there are moments that will make the viewer want to cheer or cringe. Some of these monsters are noble and some are evil. As the plot unfolds each monster develops and that determines how we should feel about them. Once again, kudos to director Michael Dougherty for making this work as a visual and emotional experience. His previous directorial efforts were as a horror specialist with films like Trick r Treat (2007) and Krampus (2015). Godzilla: King of the Monsters shows that Mr. Dougherty was ready for the big time and if this is a hit, hopefully, it will lead to more sublimely satisfying big-budget blockbusters with heart. This movie has some outstanding special effects, great fight scenes, and intricate production design of some underwater sets. 

Godzilla: King of the Monsters is not perfect. The characters spend too much time looking at screens either computer monitors, tablets or this sonar invention that can track the titan’s whereabouts. Watching people watching screens is boring no matter what. Also, the music score by Bear McCready was lacking in making some big fight scenes feel more epic. He did a great job with scoring the television series Battlestar Galactica but the terrific, Eastern-inspired music used in the Godzilla trailers is sadly missing in the final product. Plus, the movie tries to tackle climate change and how humans are responsible for the destruction of our planet more than these giant creatures but that theme has been overused in practically every movie in recent years. Thankfully they kept those moments to a minimum so Godzilla: King of the Monsters never comes across as too preachy and self-righteous. What it does come across as is sublimely entertaining. An action-packed thrill ride with suspense, humor, warmth, and a lot of fun. This is one of the best eye candy special effects extravaganzas of the summer blockbuster season.  

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