A few years ago, 2014 to be exact, Hollywood finally broke down and brought Godzilla back to the big screen. It had tried in 1998 to have the radiation spawned giant reptile roar to life and make untold millions of dollars, but it didn’t really take.
The 2014 version wasn’t exactly a huge success either, but it did make enough money to spawn a sequel five long years later (an eternity by Hollywood standards), and now we have “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” kicking his way through theaters.
One of the problems with the 2014 version was Godzilla wasn’t a major player in the movie. It seemed to take forever for him to make an appearance and then he only sporadically popped up here and there.
This is a trick Steven Spielberg played in “Jaws” in 1975, claiming the real horror was in anticipating what was coming instead of seeing it. That was fine for 1975 when CGI didn’t exist and Spielberg’s mechanical shark kept malfunctioning. In 2014, when CGI had been all but perfected, it just seemed chintzy.
You don’t have that problem here. There are no opening credits and Godzilla pops up in the first 20 seconds, marching through and destroying San Francisco. This is a flashback opening and sets the stage for parents Mark and Emma Russell lose their preteen son in the destruction, though their also preteen daughter does survive.
This sends the marriage flying apart and we join them in 2019 where father Mark is dealing with it by taking pictures of nature while mother Emma works for Monarch, an organization devoted to finding Godzilla, who has disappeared, and any other monsters that might be hiding out there.
Mark did work for Monarch some, developing a machine that might calm the monsters down, but he left and mother Emma stayed behind, also keeping daughter Madison. We d find out Monarch has found quite a few of the monsters, though Godzilla is still among the missing. Emma is working on waking up Mothra, a giant moth (it’s right there in the name), which is frozen inside a giant block of ice.
Emma thinks she has perfected Mark’s calming machine and when Mothra rumbles to life, she gets a chance to prove it. Or tries to. Before things can really get going, the facility is attacked by a terrorist group who want the monsters for, well, something. Can’t have any spoilers here.
From there you get monster fights punctuated by scientists worrying, Mark looking for his ex-wife and daughter and people arguing over whether the monsters should be allowed to live or destroyed, though it looks doubtful humanity has anything that can kill the creatures.
For the record, the monsters here are all from the Japanese Godzilla films of the 1950’s. There’s the title character, the aforementioned Mothra, Rodan, King Ghidorah (referred to here as only Monster Zero) and a bunch that aren’t given any names, but look like things straight out of nightmare central.
Monster Zero has three heads and even when Godzilla tears one off, it just grows right back, which might lead you to think of some reptiles which can lose a body part and grow it back, which might make you scared, but then you remember they’re small, but you still feel a little freaked out.
While you might zone out a little between monster fights, you can have fun playing “Where have I seen that actor before?” Father Mark is played by Kyle Chandler who has been in a lot of things, but is probably most well known from the “Friday Night Lights” TV series.
Ditto Mother Emma, played by Vera Farmigo, probably familiar to most as the mother on “Bates Motel.” And Daughter Madison, with a much different hairstyle, was Eleven in “Stranger Things.”
And the lead terrorist is played by Charles Dance, most recently well known for playing Tywin Lannister on “Game of Thrones.” And either he plays every role the same or just fell into a comfortable routine while making this movie.
There are others, but you need to have some to figure out for yourself. And in a funny note, Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah are all credit as playing themselves. And speaking of credits, there is an after credit scene, at the very end, so don’t get up and hurry out.
Is “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” a good movie? It does its job. Hollywood’s obsession with dark fight scenes gets a little irritating here, but it’s nothing to keep you away. And while it is a sequel to the 2014 movie, you don’t have to have seen that one to watch this. It’s a monster movie. You can tell who the bad guys are.
If you want to wait until it hits home video, that will work. The monsters look good on the big screen, but a big screen TV will work fine also. Knock yourself out.