Godzilla: King of the Big Monster Brawling Spectacle

I’m not one to take too much stock from sites like Rotten Tomatoes. Now, more than ever, critical reviews of a film’s more traditional merits seems all the more pointless. Especially when it comes action blockbusters such as Godzilla: King of Monsters.

“Spectacle movies” have almost become their own genre, thanks to the huge leaps in computer animation. And an audience’s willingness to accept anything that’s happening on screen if you get a Japanese man to deliver it earnestly enough.

It’s a “genre” that really defies the classic criteria by which traditional criticism grades a film, which is seen in the huge disparity between the average critic score and the aggregate audience score. More and more these days though; people seem to be happy to switch their brains off and enjoy some visual chaos.

Chaos that isn’t interested in trying to make you think.

 

That isn’t quite fair

Godzilla: King of the Monsters; a direct sequel to Godzilla (2014) and set in the same universe as Kong Skull Island. It’s a movie that isn’t especially interested in telling a story, so to speak, as much as it would rather built lore. It’s not the first time I’ve found myself talking about a movie in this way, with my recent piece John Wick saying the same thing.

King of the Monsters is a movie working to create a world, as well as tell a story, as clumsily as it does the later. I feel like a shill bringing it up again, but the roots of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are there, as they’re expected to be. Every studio wants their own MCU.

And outside of Disney and Marvel Studios, I think Legendary Pictures and Warner are doing the best job right now with this franchise. Using the original Toho Godzilla movies as their source, Legendary have a huge pool of characters and stories from which to pull when creating their westernised version of the story.

Much like Marvel are doing with their comics. And like Marvel, they’re doing an incredibly faithful and earnest job adhering to the source material

 

I’m no expert but…

I am a relatively casual fan of the original, Japnese Godzilla movies. Having only seen about 10 or so of the 30+ movie franchise. But even then, I was able to pick up the numerous references to the original movies peppered throughout this movie.

The use of a weapon called an “oxygen destroyer”, the nod to the twin fairies, as well as their song being used as Mothra’s theme in the movie. There’s even an amazing rendition of the Godzilla theme used to amazing effect within the movie.

Even the plot of the movie itself is a big nod to the origins of Godzilla as a concept. Coming out of a post World War II Japan, the horror of nuclear weapons was more apparent to them than anybody.

And Godzilla was born from that, as a symbol of human technology and engineering gone awry. A cautionary tale of how we could end up destroying ourselves. For many years in the west, that message was lost on us, we just saw big monsters fighting one another.

Finally, it seems. The message that we’re kind of screwing up our planet is caught up to (most of) the rest of the world. So in a way, there’s no better time for the original message of Godzilla to come over to the west and tell the same kind of story the first movie did way back in 1954.

 

Which is why the villains are kind of problematic

Despite their methods, I kind of found myself agreeing with the villain’s motivations in this movie. They’re eco-terrorists, basically out to “Thanos” the globe’s population using Kaiju as their Infinity Gauntlet, but more so than the Mad Titan, I can kind of see where they’re coming from in this movie.

I mean, I wouldn’t want to live through it, but I can’t completely disagree with their ideology. Which makes the movie all the stranger when Charles Dance takes a graceful step back and Ghidorah becomes the actual antagonist of the movie.

The moral dilemma of the human characters and how we’re going to eventually kill ourselfs becomes moot when they reveal that Ghidorah isn’t part of the natural order. In fact he’s a three headed lightning Dragon from space. heh.

It’s crazy that this was uttered in this movie and nobody in the audience snickered or batteed an eye. They were all just all “Of course, makes perfect sense”. I love that we’re in a world where a mainstream movie audience can just accept whatever nonsense the movie throws at them. Thanks again Marvel.

Anyway, Vera Farmiga’s character’s moral quandary ends up falling flat when she ends up deciding that her family is more important to her than the future survival of the human race. I’m really getting some mixed messages from this movie in terms of what stance it wants to take.

 

It’s not important anyway

Honestly though, the human story in this movie feels like it’s all there to pad the movie out and break up the parts of the movie you actually want to see. Godzilla is the hero of this movie and he’s the character you want to see on screen.

Which is why this movie is probably getting panned by the critics. The movie prioritises its time into monster fighting and masterful visual set pieces. It’s almost as if the film is more interested in being an art piece than a piece of cinema.

But that’s the direction movies have been going for a while now. To get a little real for a moment, thanks to non stop news and social media, we’ve all become acutely aware of how crappy the world is. Movies like this, they provide the much needed escapism that has become the leading industry in the world right now.

We don’t want to be told how we’re destroying the environment, or how our governments are more interested in destroying what they don’t understand to protect their own interests. We just want to see some big animated monsters beating the crap out of one another. And in that regard, King of the Monsters delivers exactly what you want.

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