Well that went bad really fast. I loved Godzilla (2014), and I loved it even more on the re-watch. I thought Kong: Skull Island was a delight, and just when I assumed this universe had a system in place for telling these monster stories, they went and did a thing like this.
Everything that was good about Godzilla was completely absent from this film, almost startlingly so, as if the creators of this film actively looked at the way the previous film was crafted and chose to do the opposite.
For starters, Godzilla made the monsters, Godzilla and the MUTAs, seem gigantic, both because they delayed the reveal of their magnitude, and we never see them in their entirety. They are hazed in smoke, only part of them can fit in the camera at once, or we only see the destruction wreaked by one massive body part. And rarely was the story told from the monster’s perspective. The monster was always being perceived, through the lens of the camera, by the characters in the film, thus the monsters would be passing by in the background or complicating a human story. This style created the affect that the monsters were both large and uncontrollable, and too big for the story too contain.
Enter King of the Monsters. The first time we see Godzilla is as a tiny pinprick of a monster off in the distance, swimming towards the base. He then scoots by the window from which the humans are viewing him, frightening those in the film, but only those in the film, after all, we just saw the monster as a tiny little fish. We fit it into our lens, how massive and uncontrollable could it be?
The movie then proceeded, to not only tell a story using the monster’s perspective, this making them feel more like the computer graphics they actually are, but they even created a storyline where humans control these monsters through biorhythms. An interesting idea but devastating for a series about the menace of these monsters and how powerful nature is. And the invention worked! Sure the attempt to control nature had consequences, but the consequences were because the humans overperformed, not underestimated what they were dealing with.
Contrast this with the futile efforts of the humans in Godzilla. They were always up to something- transporting a nuke, fleeing cities, trying to lure monsters here or there, shooting missiles and bullets at the giant monsters with little to no impact at all. Their ineptitude and futility in trying to impact what was going on around them highlighted the monster’s awesome power, and it showed the impotence of humans when nature comes clawing back. Godzilla and the MUTA were not only gigantic and unaffected by humans, but they were instinctual, largely unconcerned with anything the humans did. The characters in the film just rode in the wake of their disaster, watching as things got figured out. That was the power of Dr. Serizawa’s awesome line, “Let them fight.” It was a recognition of human’s weakness and a relinquishing of control to nature’s awesome ability to correct itself.
None of this is in King of the Monsters, where humans had huge impact over these monsters. This movie claims that we write our own destiny. Sure, we screw up, but only because of the awesome heights to which our technology takes us. We released the monsters, we hatched our own, we controlled its biorhythms, we killed Godzilla and then raised him from the dead, we went into battle with Godzilla, and then lured the big thing with three heads (who even fucking cares what its name is it’s so bad) away from Godzilla and saved his life. The switch from the narrative and greatness of Godzilla is so striking it feels intentional. At the very least, it neuters Godzilla, making him some large version of what we would see in any version of Jurassic Park not directed by Spielberg.
Plus, Godzilla is not special. Oh! You thought he was a unique gigantic specimen lying in wait (no one knows where) to write nature’s wrongs? Nope, he is one of seventeen other giant monsters and we are not even really sure he is the strongest, like he won this fight, but only because Mothra and we, the all-powerful humans, helped him out, so really he could be like third or fourth best, we just supported him like a proxy war in the Middle East to ensure his victory supported our own interests. Oh, and we found where he lives, so we took that away from him. I hear there is a giant leash in the works for the next film. And that is just what’s wrong with the way the monsters are portrayed- neutered and phallic, only as good as their ability to receive human support.
And I don’t even have time to address the dialogue, which is quintessential shoehorned exposition, so bad it completely disengages the viewer from even the tiniest redeeming qualities of the film (I do love me some Kyle Chandler). Nor is this mentioning the horrible CGI of the monsters, making them seem fake on top of weak, or how sometimes skyscrapers are taller than the monsters, or how at one point Godzilla was blown up, with pieces of flesh floating to the surface of the ocean, and then he is found, completely whole, taking a nap in a place he could only have swum too. Or the nonsensical moves the characters in the film take- just absolutely incomprehensible moves- that even, with all the terrible exposition that was crammed in, the film still found no way to explain.
King of the Monsters felt like an attempt at being some weird version of a Marvel film. High tech equipment and planes, an existential crisis, a hero’s internal conflict, and a huge battle at the end, where only the strength of the indomitable human spirit could save mankind. But… and I cannot stress this strongly enough… this is not a Marvel movie, nor were the two previous films in this ‘multi-verse’ headed in that direction.
This is my first negative review on this site, but I backed myself into a corner. I wanted to do a review-down to the release of a movie I was really looking forward to, Godzilla vs Kong, but there was no way, in good conscience, I could say much of anything good about King of the Monsters. But I am going to try: I really liked when all these actors and actresses were in the other stuff they did.
Here’s to hoping Godzilla vs Kong gets this series back on track.
Check out the last installment of this series here: The Battle Of The Titans: And The Roundabout Way We Got There [Godzilla vs Kong]
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