The new sequel Godzilla: King of the Monsters delivers epic Kaiju fighting action, stunning visuals, and a timely message, and the big guy himself has never looked better.
A reaction to America’s catastrophic bombings of Japan at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the character of Godzilla has always been a metaphor for the horrors of nuclear weapons, and in more recent years a warning of nature eventually snapping back against the destruction humans have inflected onto the planet, and this latest incarnation leans heavily into these themes.
While his first appearance in 1954’s Gojira presented him as a destructive force with no empathy or remorse, Godzilla soon came to be presented as the hero and savior of the helpless humans in most of the more than 30 films that have followed. That is again the case with Legendary’s new interpretation, as Godzilla helps the puny humans in protecting them from new threats, which will be familiar to fans of the original Toho-produced Godzilla movies.
Directed by Michael Dougherty (Trick ‘r Treat, Krampus), King of the Monsters is both a sequel to Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Godzilla and the followup to 2017’s Kong: Skull Island, as the third film in Legendary’s “MonsterVerse”, described as an ecosystem of giant super-species, both classic and new, setting up Godzilla vs Kong for 2020. The top secret international research group Monarch is the entity that unites this particular movie universe, as it is featured prominently in all three films.
The new film adds three of Toho’s most iconic monsters from their vast library of Kaiju creatures, with Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidorah (initially teased in the post-credits scene of Skull Island) each getting phenomenal introductions and playing key roles in King of the Monsters.
As with 2014’s Godzilla, the human story line is much less compelling than that of the monsters themselves, with Kyle Chandler and Vera Farmiga playing estranged parents of Millie Bobby Brown, all of which are giant monster experts due to the parents’ work/obsession that resulted from losing their son during the events of the previous film.
The real star of the human cast is Ken Wantanabe, reprising his role from the 2014 film as Dr. Ishiro Serizawa, an iconic character that goes back to Toho’s very first Godzilla movie. Serizawa speaks most directly for the monsters (and to the audience), empathizes with them, and ultimately accepts a fate that recalls his heroic sacrifice in the 1954 original, just one of many fun references to the classic series.
The giant monsters are referred to as Titans, but this is a Kaiju movie, and Dougherty has left tons of Easter egg nods for fans of the Toho Godzilla films to discover, from the original theme music to Mothra’s fairy twin sisters, and so much more. It will easily take a number of re-watches to spot all the references, but not those of Kong and Skull Island, which are mentioned quite a few times, including during the end credits, when various news headlines hint at what we can expect when the real battle for the title of King hits theaters next year.
Godzilla is bigger and bulkier than he looked in 2014, though he moves faster and is much quicker to break out his atomic breath. If the prior film was a serious look at how the world would react if Godzilla rose from the ocean, the sequel is a glimpse of how it would look in a world where he is just one of dozens of similar creatures continually emerging around the planet, nature’s final warning to humans that we are in fact just a small part of a much larger picture.
While a king may be crowned by the end of the film, it is an ominous finale that suggests Godzilla is simply bringing balance to the world’s ecological system, and as such, he is man’s best friend, but perhaps only for now.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is currently in theaters.
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