Godzilla has fascinated me ever since I was a child. “Godzilla” (1998) was the very first movie I ever saw in theatres. While it definitely wasn’t an Oscar contender, it won this reviewer over. It’s no surprise that I love watching movies with giant radioactive lizards, and “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” did not disappoint.
Upon its opening weekend, I heard mixed reviews. Some people claimed it was horrible, lacking in pretty much every department. Others heralded it as great fun and a fine addition to the canon. I wholeheartedly count myself in the latter camp.
“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” picks up five years after the events of ”Godzilla” (2014) as we follow the path of a family navigating their lives after the events of the first film. Trauma has fractured this unit, leaving Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) and her daughter Maddie (Millie Bobby Brown) trying to understand these monsters and Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) hating them. Monarch, an organization who studies these Titans, as they’re called, rounds out our human cast. After all the players are introduced, it’s all about the monsters.
The brunt of criticism I see aimed at this film focuses on the character work done with the people scurrying underfoot. Compared to the sparse work done in the 2014 entry, “KotM” does a valiant effort making the audience care about the people on the screen. I was hooked, mostly because I enjoy the actors. Someone unfamiliar with them may not be as engaged but when you buy a ticket to a movie called “King of Monsters” the humans aren’t what you want to see.
What we really want to see are the monsters and “KotM” shows them to us in all their massive glory. The titular king, Godzilla, is back in full force, getting more screen time and more development than his previous outing. Little details, like his territorial display early in the film, just put a giant smile on my face. The mythology created around the Titans paints them as gods and when you see these ancient creatures towering on the big screen, it’s easy to see why.
Ghidorah, the three headed dragon aiming to usurp Godzilla’s throne, is ripped straight out of hell. Multiple times throughout the film I found him to be utterly terrifying, blazing eyes slithering through the darkness, intent on devouring everything in front of him. While the CGI is not perfect, it really is well done. Bringing to life a three headed space dragon is no easy task and my hat goes off to all the artists who worked tirelessly at making it look as good as it did.
My surprise favorite in the film was Mothra, who is portrayed gorgeously in “KotM.” Up until this point I had never seen Mothra in anything but I immediately rectified that after watching this. Together with Godzilla, Mothra and the king pose a formidable force against Ghidorah.
Fights galore happen over the course of the film and they are a sight to behold. The first fight Ghidorah has with Godzilla was incredible. I couldn’t stop smiling every time these Titans went toe to toe. And while the film can’t be all giant monster fighting, the ones we do get are very satisfying.
Interspersed between the fighting, the story we are given proves itself to be entertaining enough. These movies don’t require much when the monsters are done well but “KotM” actually does quite a bit to flesh out the world these monsters walk over. Monarch, in particular, is fleshed out a lot and shows a very fun organization whose sole purpose is to study (and sometimes fight) ancient monsters. I can’t wait to see the next entry and find out what else this organization has up its sleeve.
My biggest gripe is probably some of the more hamfisted jokes that show up in the film. I found one character in particular to be especially grating but a movie like this, especially in today’s blockbuster landscape, can’t be devoid of jokes. I chuckled here and there but also rolled my eyes at some of the stinkers. They by no means ruined the movie for me but I could’ve done without them.
Overall, “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” hits all my buttons and is the front runner of being my favorite blockbuster of the year. It throws me back in time to when I was five years old and got to see my first giant monster running across the silver screen, wreaking havoc and destruction. If that sounds like something you might like, then this will make your heart happy. On the other hand, if you share sensibilities more in line with my wife, than a glass of wine and some Top Chef is probably a better way for you to spend two hours.
That’s why I saw this alone. Too bad for my wife, since I got to eat all the popcorn myself.
4 ½ stars out of 5
“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” is currently in theatres. It is rated PG-13.
Oscar Chavez Castaneda is the Montrose Daily Press’ film critic. Find out more about him on his website, oscarchavezcastaneda.com. He will review a movie new to theaters or a new DVD release every other week.