***Non-spoiler review*** The 2019 movie "Godzilla: King of the Monsters" is going to establish itself as a fan favorite if for no other reason it gets the kaiju right and it lets us see a lot, and I mean a lot, of the monsters! They don't drive just the action for the human characters but they have their own personal motivations that many of us will be able to relate to. I'm not saying that they are completely anthropomorphized because they are still treated as animals, but as animals whom we can recognize through our study of our own animal kingdom. That Godzilla is unabashedly the "good guy" is clear and follows from 2014's "Godzilla"; he may be an engine of destruction but it's not purposefully directed toward humanity. And he regards himself as the top tier of monsterdom, that this is his world, and that he'll protect it viciously from any pretenders to the throne. Enter old rival Ghidorah, the three-headed monster, who is a mighty and majestic rival indeed. Some of the shots that the monsters are in, all existing in a tortured physical atmosphere often brought up by Ghidorah who appears to be a king of storms, could be cut out and framed they are that gorgeous or artistically framed! I can see some who will lament that we don't get to often see the monsters in really clear shots or moments either because of the cinematographer's framing or because of the visual artist's atmospheric renderings but one still gets plenty of scenes that give us the awe and scope of these magnificent beasts. In "Godzilla: King of the Monsters" the monsters are the main reason to see the film on a BIG SCREEN and you should be prepared for titanic tussles and brawls. If the trailers have you interested then you know exactly what you'll be getting into. The human story, which really serves the monster's story, is easy to follow but you may scratch your head at a couple of the motivations for the main characters. Actresses Vera Farmiga and Millie Bobbi Brown carry most of the film but Kyle Chandler as an estranged husband and father is also a very important member of the cast. I didn't like his character as he was too one-note (angry) and he didn't convey his conflicted decisions well emotionally. So while it would have been great to see some great acting (Farmiga and Brown are pretty good) that's not the main draw for this movie so I have gone easy on this aspect. As a very long time Godzilla fan (shout out to my personal fave Godzi flick, though generally despised, "Son of Godzilla"!) this movie was an absolute treat and served up almost everything I wanted! I'll be seeing it again soon!
***Spoiler review*** I loved "Godzilla: King of the Monsters" in all of its giant monster goodness! The wealth of monster footage, monster action, and monster motivation comes across like a love letter to Godzilla and kaiju fans the world over. The monsters look fantastic and their scale is bigger than ever. The screen can rarely contain their immensity just like an eye, close up to the monster, wouldn't be able to take the whole thing in unless you were far off! There are so many visually artistically splendid moments like when Ghidorah charges himself with electricity and then unleashes a firestorm of electrical bolts that sear the sky and scorch the military from it! Ghidorah is a vicious marvel and we are treated to his menacing break out of the ice, to his flying after Monarch's planes almost sneering, and to his almost gentle explorations and manipulations to objects extremely tiny to him. Godzilla, beefy and immense also, is spry and agile. There's a blink and you'll miss it moment where he snatches Ghidorah out of the sky, slams one of the heads down, rips off one of the heads, and so much more but Ghidorah is a match for the bulldog Godzilla and to make matters worse Ghidorah has the ability to re-generate itself to some degree as it re-grows a head like a lizard would re-grow a tail (only a lot quicker). Both monsters get a great deal of screen time but the show is definitely Godzilla's. Mothra gets some beautiful moments but not nearly as much screen time while Rodan gets a lot and is especially exciting in its aerial dogfights with the military. The other Titans that we see we see only in brief glimpses in the middle and end of the film. While the movie is dark and the monsters are constantly obscured by environmental atmospherics (Mothra hatches underneath a waterfall; Rodan erupts from a volcanic prison; Godzilla is constantly wet or being rained on; etc.) the visuals are still very striking and inspiring. The human story serves the monster story but I have to admit that Kyle Chandler's character, Mark Russell, estranged from his wife and daughter after his son was killed in San Francisco in 2014 due to Godzilla's fight with the MUTO, is someone I didn't like. He is constantly angry but then his actions are in contradiction to his anger and his motivations conflicted as he wants Godzilla dead but is the one who understands Godzilla's motivations the most and helps the monster out the most. His acting was one-note but Vera Farmiga gives a nuanced performance as Emma Russell who has helped engineer the release of the monsters to save the earth by decimating humankind. Their daughter, Madison, goes along with this at first and then has a change of heart. This shift is subtle and I suspect many will miss it. Humor is injected into the movie but unfortunately often falls flat (and so much of it is spoiled in the numerous trailers that this film received). Critics of the 2014 movie who hated how Brian Cranston's character was killed off early (like that movie was supposed to be all about him?) will probably find some fault that this movie keeps most of its characters alive at least up until almost the end of the movie! I appreciated the human story but it wasn't anything special. "Godzilla: King of the Monsters" does not follow but draws greatly from the classic "Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster" which first introduced us to Ghidorah and teamed up a battling Godzilla and Rodan to take on the bigger threat of Ghidorah when Mothra as a larva was getting its butt kicked by the monster. This movie is inspired by that and other classic kaiju movies. Maybe this will create a resurgence of interest in the old Toho greats? I hope!
***Spoiler story review*** "Godzilla: King of the Monsters" follows about 5 years appropriately enough after the events of "Godzilla 2014". The secret agency Monarch, which has kept tabs on Godzilla and has established outposts around other giant creatures that they have discovered, is still largely in the dark about why these creatures still exist. The creatures, dubbed Titans, are believed to be ancient original species whom mankind has worshipped as gods down through the ages and who have fought against each other periodically for dominance. After the events of "Godzilla 2014" in the wake of the disasters in San Francisco and Fukishima something else has been discovered though: in the wake of the creatures life has flourished, vegetation has reclaimed concrete, etc. The Russell family was in San Francisco when Godzilla fought the MUTO and they suffered a tragedy in the death of a son; not able to cope with it husband/ dad Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler--constantly angry in this movie) left wife/ mother Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) who now works for Monarch and daughter Madison (Millie Bobbi Brown). Emma has developed a machine, the Orca, that can emulate sound patterns and help communicate or control the Titans, or so it is hoped. They get to test this when Mothra hatches as a giant caterpillar and freaks out in its containment field. Emma is able to subdue the Titan with the use of her machine but as she is doing so the outpost is attacked and she and her daughter are captured by a terrorist organization who wants to use the device to wake the Titans up; and so they do. What we learn is that Emma is a part of this terrorist organization and it's her plan to do so. She believes that the world is out of order due to mankind's warring and ecologically unsound ways and that the Titans will restore balance by thinning out the human herd while causing the environment to regenerate itself at an accelerated rate (if this sounds like shades of Thanos' idea that's because it essentially is--too bad for the Monsterverse that Marvel used this motivation recently). The plan goes too well as after they release Ghidorah, an alpha Titan, Ghidorah uses its communicative power/ call to raise up embedded Titans all over the world. And Godzilla won't be having any of this. While Ghidorah chases the Orca to destroy it Godzilla chases him and the two clash several times over the course of the film; Godzilla means business but Ghidorah is a fearsome foe. Meanwhile Ghidorah encounters the flying Titan Rodan and they have an aerial tussle (Rodan's scenes fighting the military in the air are completely awesome) with Rodan being overcoming and then bowing to serve Ghidorah. Meanwhile the American military have created an oxygen destroyer bomb and unleash it on Ghidorah and Godzilla but only apparently killing Godzilla. In fact he was severely injured and retreated to his underwater irradiated lair to recuperate. The Titans, called by and converging on Ghidorah, continue out their pathways of destruction while Mothra seeks to revive Godzilla in a mysterious way. Monarch too helps out by sending a nuke into his lair to speed up the absorption process and Dr. Serizawa ends up sacrificing himself to accomplish this (a call-back to the original "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" when the creator of the original Oxygen Destroyer, Dr. Serizawa, takes it to Godzilla's deep sea resting place and cuts his oxygen line and unleashes the OD to turn Godzilla into a bag of bones--Godzilla was the bad guy in his first film that amounted to a horror documentary). With Godzilla revived and jacked up he and Mothra head off to take out Ghidorah and Ghidorah's lieutenant Rodan. The four battle it out while Madison, who has had a change of heart and is no longer following mom's monstrous plans and has stolen the Orca, is saved by mom and dad and some Monarch members. Mothra overcomes Rodan but is slain by Ghidorah and Godzilla goes thermonuclear and snuffs Ghidorah out like a giant furnace would incinerate something. After this several of the monsters converge on Godzilla, who is standing on a mound like the proverbial king of the hill, and as he surveys them they bow to him. When the end credits role we get to see newspaper and on-line articles that talk about how the world has changed and gives us glimpses of what could come in the future, including an interesting note on how the monsters are now converging toward Skull Island.