Best non-Toho Godzilla film yet - spoilers.
- Godzilla: King of the Monsters review by NP
In 1998, America’s mighty film studios took on the Godzilla mantle from licensors Toho. The release was not the success it was hoped to be, and the critics, as they often do, gave it a hard time. In 2014, Legendry Entertainment made a far better-received version. In 2019 came the sequel, which proves the old adage ‘third time lucky’ to be quite true.
This is a true celebration of audience memories of Godzilla films, whichever ones they may be. Triumphant echoes to the past include purist-pleasing mentions of Godzilla ‘lore’ (if we are to call it that), none more so than vast slabs of music from the original films including, of course, Akira Ifukube’s monumental original theme. Bear McCreary ‘s music sometimes strays into unmemorable bombast, but also has moments of greatness, particularly Ghidorah’s sing-song call to his titanic minions.
I found the human characters – rarely anyone’s reason for seeing such a film – incredibly bland in 2014’s ‘Godzilla’: square-jawed vacuums racing around the carnage trying to save their insignificant family trophies from probable death c/o Big G and his city-snuffing ways. There is an element of that here, particularly towards the end, but the human characters are a lot more real, a lot better acted and therefore much easier to care about. Debonair Charles Dance lends his steely-eyed insidiousness to the much less virtuous Jonah Alan. (If, like me, you wondered what happened to him towards the end, stick around after the credits have rolled.) Sally Hawkins is also very good as the PJ Harvey-esque Dr, Vivienne Graham, and Millie Bobby Brown not only makes sure her character, young Madison, steers clear of the brattish tendencies that sometimes afflicts heroic film juveniles, but that she is also very real and appealing.
And yet the monsters are who we really come to see. And ‘King of the Monsters’ does not disappoint. We see plenty of them, and this time, the camera doesn’t cut away every time a fight breaks out. Ghidorah is one heck of a nasty piece of work, albeit with a nifty, icky way of regenerating on of his three heads if need be. Rodan is great fun, all beak and swooping wings. Mothra is genuinely beautiful, and possesses a sense of ethereality that earlier films often strove for, but didn’t always achieve (there’s even a brief mention of her guiding human twins, although mercifully we’re speared actually seeing them).
As for the main man, the big lad, the star performer, Godzilla – he’s been battered in fights before, but always come back fighting. Here, he requires a little help. Does this undermine him as The King? Not really. His regenerative powers are revealed, but if left to the natural cause of things, the world might have come to an end. So he is given a push (albeit one requiring a massive cost), no more than that. And there is something air-punchingly great about his returns from the brink. Such moments have been great in the past but here, with some extraordinary effects at play and with such a horrible and seemingly unstoppable opponent, it is difficult not to feel elated. Watching this on the big screen with a bunch of strangers, I felt like cheering. And when the sparingly used atomic breath makes an appearance, it’s impossible not to feel elated.
My score for this is 9 out of 10. ‘King of Monsters’ hardly puts a step wrong. We’re not waiting 45 minutes for the first bout of monster action, and after the fights are over, we don’t have tedious minutes of sickly human ‘bonding’ to sit through. Looking through the rolling ends credits, you can understand why it has taken five years to plan and make this meticulous masterpiece. You’d need an atomic heart not to enjoy it.
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