Okay, admittedly I was a bit excited to see this movie. My inner Asian was on full blast. Godzilla is a staple of my childhood. I had the action figures and owned the films. The West’s first stab at this iconic monster was terrible. Matthew Broderick was in that abysmal 1998 adaptation, which is universally regarded as trash by critics and fans alike. Guys, Ferris Bueller took down the beast. Are we all on crack? How could there be any redemption?
In 2014, Godzilla was rebooted. The indestructible monster that was created as an allegory for the nuclear age was finally something that everyone envisioned when they thought "Godzilla.” It did not look like an iguana. My sister, who is in no way a fan of these films, even said that about the 1998 version; Godzilla looked anything but in that feature. The ’14 reboot had a good cast of characters, with Godzilla being featured rarely. It was like Jaws. And it worked. It was a decent film that incorporated some aspects from the Japanese series, like the military having either foolhardy or totally insane ideas that never really seem to work. Oh, and they brought back Godzilla’s radioactive breath that vaporizes all that lay before it. Again, something the ’98 version omitted.
Frankly, the movie could have been a good stand-alone. There really wasn’t much left to add. It could’ve ended. But in today’s era of franchising everything—King of the Monsters had to be released. Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah are in it, some of my favorite kaiju (monsters) from the original series. And like in the original series, Ghidorah is just a bad, bad dude. Rodan is a massive pterodactyl-like monster. Mothra is well, you know, no explanation there.
There are scores of monsters all over the world that are overseen and tracked by an organization called Monarch. The film starts with Congress debating whether Monarch should be rolled up into the Defense Department. A lot of these creatures are in some form of hibernation. Dr. Emma Russell, played by Vera Farmiga, creates some machine that allows us to communicate with them through sound waves. Her daughter is played by Millie Bobby Brown, of "Stranger Things" fame. All seems well until we find out that some eco-terrorist group wants the machine, they kill everyone at the Monarch site, where Brown and Farmiga live, and they kidnap the two. This group wants to awaken all the monsters and pretty much wipe human civilization off the face of the earth. Godzilla is the only one who can stop this chain of events, especially after King Ghidorah is awakened, having been buried under the ice in Antarctica.
So, the movie isn’t boring. It’s not good either. It’s really only for die-hard fans, and even they might find some of the film to be lacking. It tries to do a lot than just being a film about monsters fighting. There’s government intrigue, terrorism, environmentalism, and mother-daughter drama. It tries to be not just a monster movie, but on the other fronts, it just doesn’t fully develop. The film could have easily been Farmiga’s device going haywire and setting all the monsters free, with Godzilla having to fight Ghidorah who awakens—and he didn’t need to be trapped in the ice either. Heck, Ghidorah could’ve invaded Earth from where he usually comes from in the franchise: space. It’s an alien creature after all.
There are some aspects of the plot that lack explanation, like who the hell built the underwater city where Godzilla recuperates under a cloud of high radiation? It just tries to do too much too fast. The visuals are great. Rodan being contained in a volcano is a nice hat tip to the Japanese original. Yes, the oxygen destroyer has been developed. And Godzilla takes the role as a protector of the Earth; he’s been both villain and hero in the series, which has spanned 35 films.
Look, I’ll always love this franchise and the big green guy, but I can see many American audiences leaving this film confused. Monster films just don’t pan out well. The same goes for American remakes of Japanese horror films, with the only exception being The Ring in 2002. For die-hard fans, go see it in theaters. For everyone else, wait until it’s on demand. Until then, Godzilla won't be back until next year when he fights King Kong.