The crypto-zoological agency Monarch faces off against a battery of god-sized monsters, including the mighty Godzilla, who collides with Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah. (from IMDb)
In 2014, Gareth Edwards (who would later go on to direct Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) reinvented the king of monsters, Godzilla, for U.S. audiences with a dramatic new take on the character. Going for a less-is-more approach, Edwards brought some seriousness to the franchise, and opted for a more character-driven story over the usual smash-and-destruction approach these films usually take. This strength also became the film’s biggest criticism, as it ended up featuring very little of its title character. It’s unfortunate, too, because it created two significant problems: the film left fans feeling cheated… and it led, inevitably, to stuffing its sequel, Godzilla: King of the Monsters to the brim with monster action.
To achieve the bigger and more grand spectacle, the story and tone shift greatly to accomodate, and the changes don’t always work in its favor. Granted, any film revolving around Godzilla and his assorted monstrous foes is going to be relatively silly. The premise for why 17 titans make their way into Godzilla: King of the Monsters is pretty over the top, but it’s sold rather passionately by an accomplished group of actors–even if it’s more than obvious that some of them are trying a bit harder than they need to (I’m looking at you, Chandler). Still, one has to be realistic here as well and admit–admidst the weaknesses of either the 2014 film or this one–they’re both still worlds above the 1998 travesty.
Horror director Michael Dougherty (Trick ‘r Treat, Krampus) takes the reins from Edwards for the sequel, clearly aiming to up the ante with more mature content and violence. I wasn’t surprised by the film’s levels of devastation, but I was surprised by its frequent use of profanity and blasphemy (especially given the MPAA’s description of “some language”). Even Stranger Things superstar Millie Bobby Brown (making her feature film debut here) utters most of the film’s 10+ uses of the “S” word, with most of it appearing in her very first shot in the film as she burns food in a pan on the stove. It’s frivolous and adds nothing to the story or her character. Then many of the characters drop frequent uses of Jesus’s name or the two-fer, “g*dd*mn,” which just seems even more unnecessary. And by the time O’Shea Jackson Jr. spits out the film’s lone “F” word, it all feels thoughtless and gratuitous. Meanwhile, the violence itself isn’t particularly graphic or gory, but some human-on-human violence caught me by surprise. A room full of scientists are gunned down and then a man is suddenly shot in the head, but we see the latter from behind as the bullet breaks glass (so we don’t see the impact or the bloody aftermath). In a scene that soon follows, an entire building/area full of people are gunned down just off screen, and while nothing bloody is shown, we see main characters stepping over dead bodies crumpled on the floor. The monster violence itself includes creature heads being ripped off, biting, stabbing, explosions, and more–not to mention the monsters suddenly frying humans into puffs of nothingness. Godzilla: King of the Monsters earns every bit of its PG-13 rating, but the filmmakers seem to have once again forgotten about the younger audiences they’ve clearly been otherwise marketing to.
Grumpy rants about content aside, Godzilla: King of the Monsters feels like one of those movies where those putting it together decided that the finer details were irrelevant and the grand set pieces were far more important. While the strange motivations behind the characters fueling the mayhem seem kind of weak, some moments felt especially sloppy and almost dizzying, as I genuinely found it difficult to keep track of the means of transportation the main characters were taking at any given moment. One scene will have them seemingly in a base of operations, and then suddenly some–or all–of them are in a plane… or a submarine… or getting into a helicopter, then suddenly appearing elsewhere. I realize the film can only be so long, and to watch the characters switching vehicles each time would grow dull quite quickly, but by the end, it just seemed as though characters were appearing anywhere at any time just for the sake of convenience to the story. Also, there weren’t many especially likeable characters, and the ones that you might gravitate toward get a little shortchanged. I thought casting Millie following her success in Stranger Things was a rather brilliant move (especially because she’s a stellar actress), but she seems mostly wasted here. She isn’t developed very much, and it feels like the film relies more heavily on viewers’ association of her with the Stranger Things franchise than creating a fresh emotional attachment to her in this new story. I know already that she’s set to appear in next year’s Godzilla vs. Kong, and I’m concerned they haven’t given viewers much to look forward to with her character–or really any of the other human characters, for that matter.
So what’s left? Well, I suppose we really only go to see these movies for the monster action, and I do have to say that, in that respect, Dougherty does deliver. From Godzilla to Mothra, King Ghidorah, Rodan and beyond, there’s lots of creature action to satisfy those looking for some good, old fashioned, monster e monster fisticuffs. There are some surprise moments for sure, especially ones that pump up the fans (which I won’t spoil here), and those are the ones worth the price of admission for the diehards. I saw this in IMAX format and it’s really the ideal way to see this movie; I highly recommend the largest format if you do choose to see this one. The special effects are pretty solid, too. I didn’t love how much the film bathes its scenes in orange and/or blue colors, overly saturating them at times (there’s evidence of this in the trailers). I feel like it robbed the film of the more gritty, grounded look the 2014 film had, and even managed to make Godzilla look less realistic than he did five years ago.
To expand on my content reflections above, aside from the profanity, there is minimal blood shown in this film. There are a few creature dismemberments–including heads being ripped off–and in one instance, we see a gross-ish moment where a head grows out of the bloody stump on a creature’s neck. One monster is impaled in its wing by a claw, and there are endless amounts of building and vehicular destruction. A gigantic explosion takes the life of (at least) one character, while we see other victims get stepped on, crushed by debris, fall to their deaths from a great height (and disappear), or get eaten in a single bite. Aside from the aforementioned shootings off screen, nothing more than a few bloody scrapes and such creature wounds make up the rougher aspects of the graphic content. (The post-end-credits sequence–spoiler warning–shows a dismembered creature head with some scrapes and gashes all over its face, too.) Lastly, there isn’t any sexual content, but a couple references are made to the creatures mating, with the worst being the character Mark commenting that the only reason monsters would get together would be to “fight, feed, or…” and he holds his mouth for a moment in a way you’d think he might use another choice word that begins with an “F,” before he decides to say “do something more intimate” instead.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters checks off all the boxes for what’s expected from a big screen monster fest, but the end result–while satisfying by way of monster versus monster action–falls short of greatness. Its content especially holds it back from being one I’d freely recommend, while that “something special” to elevate it to the next level is just plain missing. As the third entry in Warner Bros.’ shared “MonsterVerse” (following 2014’s Godzilla and 2017’s Kong: Skull Island), I’m a little concerned for the future of this franchise, but while repeat viewings have yet to reveal whether some of these issues lessen or worsen, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is entertaining no doubt, but doesn’t quite live up to the spectacle or grandeur its title commands.
– John DiBiase (reviewed: 5/31/19)
4K UHD / Blu-Ray Special Features Review
Along with the feature film in 4K UHD, the 2D Blu-Ray disc and digital copy of Godzilla: King of the Monsters are the following Extras:
Godzilla: King of the Monsters in 4K (2:11:41) – The latest Godzilla sequel looks crisp and vibrant in 4K. It’s a crystal clear picture, and I didn’t quite realize how clear it was until viewing some of the bonus features in standard Blu-Ray format right afterward. It’s not imperative that you see this one in 4K, but it’s definitely a film that begs to be seen in high definition.
Monsters 101 (5:51) – This is broken up into four sections and breaks down each main monster — Godzilla, Mothra, Ghidorah, Rodan — with profiles on each one that lists their code names, powers, etc. The cast and crew and director talk about each titan as well. You can watch them individually or collectively with a Play All option. (There are 2 uses of the “S” word in the Ghidorah segment from scenes shown from the film.)
Evolution of the Titans (27:25) is another four-part featurette, spending more time on each of the main four titans. “Godzilla 2.0” (8:40) details the director’s obsession for the character since his childhood. He wanted to upgrade the 2014 design with bigger claws, a bigger head, and bigger spinal plates inspired by the 1954 film, which he attached to the 2014 film version. We also learn here that they did human motion capture reference for filming the monster action! (1 “bad *ss”) “Making Mothra” (7:02) is all about the beloved giant moth and reimagining her for this movie. They talk about how, in relation to the other monsters, she’s pure good. They used the praying mantis and some other insects as inspiration for her new design and sound. (1 “bad *ss”) “Creating Ghodorah” (6:24) reveals how they used 3 actors in mocap suits to act as a modern way of doing the “man in a rubber suit” method for creating a monster for the big screen. Each head has different personalities, and they highlight some details on each one. We also learn how they recorded snake sounds to create Ghidorah’s sound for the film. (1 “suck,” 1 “S” word) Finally, “Reimagining Rodan” (5:19) is about the “king of the skies.” They talk about updating his look as well as recording sounds of owls, penguins, vultures and cranes to make Rodan come to life.
Monarch in Action (33:02) – This section is broken into five parts with a Play All option. “The Yunnan Temple” (6:59) is all about Mothra and her origin, as well as the awe and wonder of her character. They said they picked the Yunnan temple to represent a cathedral to honor her. This featurette talks about her birth and death and how she has died and been brought back to life many times over the years. Millie also talks about how her character was there for her birth and her death, and how that impacted her performance. (1 “h*ll”) “Castle Bravo” (6:20) is all about the Monarch base, and we see some cool concept art as they talk about its design and what can be found there. They also talk about Mark’s relationship with Godzilla, and we finally hear from Kyle Chandler talking about his character. (1 “g*dd*mn” from a scene.) “The Antarctic Base” (6:27) is dedicated to Ghidorah and how his cold, colorless prison in Antarctica contrasts the warmth of Mothra’s home. The director talks about filming on a sound stage in Atlanta Georgia, instead of on location, and how they were able to use Epsom salt to pose as snow. We also see lots of behind-the-scenes, on-set footage of the scene being filmed. (1 “S” word from a scene.) “The Isla de Mara Volcano” (5:57) is about Rodan’s origin and how they show them filming on location in Mexico for these sequences. (1 “a” word) Finally, “The Undersea Lair” (7:20) is an awesome featurette that showcases Godzilla’s underwater lair, showing fans, for the first time ever, where Godzilla goes to hide or sleep when he’s not on land. We see a lot of digital layers for the lair’s design, peeling back how the scenes were constructed to really show us the tiniest of details. They talk a lot about the practicality of the design of the ruins–how humans built it for him long ago when people and different tribes coexisted in peace–and just really show us lots of little details we don’t see even with repeat viewings of the film. (2 “My G-d” from scenes in the movie)
Millie Bobby Brown: Force of Nature (4:09) is dedicated to the budding young Stranger Things star. They reveal here that they had used her likeness for their “previs” animation and then decided to just ask her to see if she’d do the film. (She was 13 when they filmed it and is 15 now.) This fun little featurette talks about pranking on set, working with her, and all-around having fun together while making the movie. (1 “h*ll”)
Monster Tech: Monarch Joins the Fight (8:37) profiles the different technology the organization Monarch uses in the film. The film crew talk about the Argos ship, the Orca machine, the Oxygen Destroyer (which is a nod to the very first Godzilla film — which they used to show that humans shouldn’t interfere with nature), the submersible, and its drones.
Monsters are Real (14:09) addresses the real study of cryptozoology, and human beings’ fascination with monsters for generations. This documentary talks about the mythology, Komodo dragons being our world’s real representation of dragons, the megamouth shark, and other real-life monsters.
Welcome to the MonsterVerse (3:44) – This featurette briefly touches on the two newer Godzilla films and Kong: Skull Island, which are all part of Warner Bros’ “MonsterVerse.” We see clips from all three films and hear how the organization of Monarch ties them all together. At the end, it teases Godzilla vs Kong using existing footage from the 3 existing films. (Godzilla vs Kong is a real film expected to release next year.) (There’s 1 “a” word in this featurette.)
Deleted Scenes (5:03) – There are two minor deleted scenes. “Mark’s Flashback (Extended Version)” takes place after he gets knocked out during Ghidorah’s awakening. In this extended version, he recalls Andrew’s birthday party, and then losing him in San Francisco (Which is largely the film’s opening scene with a blue screen background). Next, “Boxing Practice, Argument and Radio Room” shows Maddie sparring angrily with someone (It sounds like there’s 1 possible “F” word from her as she’s grunting and punching). Her mother comes over to talk to her, and they walk and talk down the hallway with different dialog than what’s in the final film. Maddie then locks herself in the control room where we see the deleted footage of her trying to reach Monarch that was in the first teaser trailer. Both are unnecessary scenes (and the angry, violent boxing stuff is really out of character for Maddie), but it’s nice to finally see how the radio room footage was supposed to fit in the film.
Theatrical Trailers (12:13) – There are four theatrical trailers, including the 5-minute IMAX preview which centered around Ghidorah breaking out of the ice in Antarctica.
Finally, on there’s a feature-length Commentary (2:11:41) track from director Michael Dougherty, with Zach Shields and O’Shea Jackson, Jr.
On iTunes, there’s the additional feature of Monster Moments (21:45), where you can watch specific monster-centric scenes out of context of the film (and with a Play All option). These are: “Godzilla’s Intimidation Display” (1:36), “King Ghidorah Unleashed” (2:43), “Godzilla Strikes Back” (2:42), “Rodan Erupts” (2:54), “King Ghidorah vs Rodan” (2:38), “Mothra Revealed” (1:06), “Godzilla Reborn” (0:55), “Godzilla vs King Ghidorah” (1:27), “Mothra vs Rodan” (3:29) and “Godzilla Meltdown” (2:15).
Overall, I found the special features included here really enhanced my appreciation for this movie. Sure, it’s big, silly, loud and preposterous, but it’s Godzilla; monster movies are their own genre altogether. It may not have as strong–or as human–a story as the 2014 film, but it’s far more satisfying when it comes to offering up some good monster action sequences. But this is one case where hearing the filmmakers talk about the movie–and go into much greater detail about it–actually helped the film for me.
– John DiBiase, (reviewed: 8/24/19)
Parental Guide: Content Summary
Sex/Nudity: Mark commenting that the only reason monsters would get together would be to “fight, feed, or…” and holds his mouth for a moment in a way you’d think he might use another choice word that begins with an “F,” before he decides to say “do something more intimate” instead; A comment is made about trying to figure out how a relationship between Mothra and Godzilla could work.
Vulgarity/Language: At least 1 “F” word, 11 “S” words, 6 “J-sus,” 3 “g*dd*mn,” 2 “S.O.B,” 1 “Chr-st,” 1 “b*tch,” 6 derivatives of “G-d,” 1 “a” word, 7 “h*ll,” 2 “d*mn” and Maddie gives someone the middle finger while rubbing her eye.
Alcohol/Drugs: We see some characters drinking at times, especially Dr. Rick Stanton from a flask.
Blood/Gore: Early on, we see a closeup of wolves chewing on and pulling at the meat of a dead deer. We then see this again briefly in a second shot before the wolves run away; A monster’s head is ripped off and then we see the bloody stump of its neck before another head quickly regenerates and emerges from the neck (it’s a little gross); Mark has a blood scratch on the side of his face; Emma has some blood on her nose and a little on her head
Violence: Some potential spoilers ahead: We see a brief flashback of Godzilla fighting the MUTO from the first film and lots of devastation in San Francisco; Madison panics when she burns some food she’s cooking on a stovetop; Some men enter a lab and shoot everyone in it. A man points a gun in another man’s face and shoots him, but when he does, we don’t see the impact, just the glass behind him shattering; The same group of men go into a facility and shoot everyone–mostly off screen. We then see many dead bodies on the ground as the attackers walk through; A person sets off a bomb that frees Ghidorah from the ice, causing a massive amount of ice debris that crashes down around some people, crushing some or causing them to fall to their death; We see Ghidorah emerging from the ground with the ground falling away and people disappearing. It then fires a yellow energy beam on people, vaporizing them; Godzilla emerges from the ground and the two fight–biting and hitting each other. A plane with people in it gets knocked around on the ground; Rodan emerges from a firey mountain and when he flies, we see people and cars being thrown through the air. We see a person ejecting from a vehicle and go right into Rodan’s open mouth, which he closes on them, eating them; We see other titans emerging from the ground, causing destruction–including a large spider and a mammoth type creature; A bomb goes off in an attempt to kill a couple monsters and only one is presumed dead. We then see other titan monsters wreaking havoc as they yield to the king of the monsters; A nuke is detonated in the ocean, killing at least one person; Godzilla bites the head off of a creature and spits it out. We then see the head regenerating on its own; A monster stabs a monster in the wing with its claw/stinger, making a hole. The winged monster then falls to the ground; We see the destruction of a baseball stadium as Ghidorah crashes through it and shoots blasts of energy at things; We see a person trapped under rubble and some people frantically try to free them (they do, and the person survives); A person drives a vehicle, luring a monster behind them. The vehicle explodes, throwing them to the ground. We then see a burst of fire/energy that consumes the area, presumably killing the person (but we don’t see that); We see Godzilla with the dismembered head of a monster in his mouth and he bites on it a bit before dropping it; and other monster-related violence.