America, for all of its seeming love for the kaiju subgenre has always had a problem giving Godzilla anything to do past its origin story. We can suspend disbelief enough for the monster’s creation, but have little faith in its longevity. In fact, the western counterpart to Godzilla has always been a one-trick pony surrounding the creature’s emergence, then imminent defeat. This hit-it-and-quit-it mentality has been present since Kong and although we have seen many iterations, they have universally failed to really advance the mythology.
The follow-up to 2014’s Godzilla from Legendary Pictures breaks that mold, discards it and charges forward. There may, in fact, be a lot of criticism for KOTM ambitious decision to fit as much as they have in one film, but it is decidedly nothing short of exactly what the franchise deserves.
Newcomers to the franchise Vera Farmiga, Millie Brown and Kyle Chandler play a family torn apart by the events of the first film. After losing their son in the catastrophes heralding the arrival of the titans, the couple’s research “the Orca”, a device that mimics soundwaves produced by the alpha of any species was abandoned, only to be revived by the mother and her daughter now estranged from the father. Believing that earth can only be saved by unleashing the titans, Dr. Russell (Farmiga) teams with militant radicalist Jonah Alan (Charles Dance) to free the dormant titans located around the world, brining about a new age.
THIS DOES NOT GO AS PLANNED.
The one difference that you’ll see between this new film and its predecessor is that 2019’s KOTM WANTS to give you the equivalent of an American Toho film and it does so while reveling in the goofy over the top barrage of wanton destruction. It is unapologetic in introducing many of the new themes that Godzilla fans have already embraced throughout the years: alien Titans, a history of man and Titan team-up, lost civilizations… and maybe, just maybe psychic twins. Although I wouldn’t say this is a kitchen sink of Godzilla films (Final Wars might hold that title) it definitely packs enough “what-ifs” to keep fans excited about the future of the series.
With more than a handful of subplots to keep the film busy the movie makes sure not to lose the emotional gravitas of the first entry. The family disfunction that lies at the heart of the sequel plays a crucial part in not only its outcome BUT it hints at a recurring theme throughout the film; relationships, no matter what size, are narratives that have to be cultivated, maintained and nurtured. This is brought surprisingly well to the forefront from the film’s undercurrent by Stranger Thing’s alum Millie Bobbie-Brown, torn from her own decisions by the mistakes of her parents. Familiar characters also return with some arcs being brought a close while others are expanded still.
KOTM is an exercise of a sequel not just expanding upon its premise but opening the audience up to an entire universe that was only previously hinted at. The word “Kong” incidentally is thrown around liberally letting us know that the franchise’s intentions are anything but shy. Plot elements such as the inclusion of Kong as a titan AND the fact that his existence is now widely known pepper the action set-pieces that are quite frankly breathtaking. The titans paint every frame with spectacle and the scale of their battles are both beautiful and terrifying.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters might be too much of a fanciful turn for many viewers but for fans, it is a delight to the eyes and this reviewer’s inner child was applauding by the final scenes of the multi-monster melee at the film’s climax. RECOMMENDED.