REVIEW: GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS (2019)

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GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS (2019)

Sequel takes place five years after the events of Godzilla 2014 with Godzilla keeping a low profile and being monitored diligently by the Monarch organization. Other creatures, or “Titans” have been discovered across the globe and the military wants them all destroyed, while Monarch believes they represent a balance in nature. Eco-terrorist Colonel Alan Jonah (Charles Dance) feels the Titans should all be freed to restore that balance and plans to steal the Orca…a device capable of communicating with, and possibly controlling the monsters…to accomplish this. He kidnaps Orca creator Dr. Emma Russell (Verga Farmiga), her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) and her invention and thus sends Monarch and Emma’s estranged husband Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) in hot pursuit. But Jonah gets more than he bargained for, when he uses it to release the three-headed space monster Ghidorah from his icy prison and the beast challenges Godzilla for the title of King of the Monsters. Add in the Queen of the Monsters Mothra and the fire demon Rodan and earth soon becomes a monster sized war zone.

Trick r Treat director Michael Dougherty takes over from Gareth Edwards and seems to have a far better grasp of the material. He also does script duties along with Zach Shields, from a story by they and Max Borenstein. What we get is far closer to a Toho Godzilla film than the 2014 flick and one that is a lot more fun. Sure the plot is a bit goofy, but no goofier than an alien race building a robot Godzilla or a creature created completely from pollution. It’s filled not only with tons of fun references to Godzilla flicks of the past, but we get all the traditional story elements like devious villains, stalwart scientists, brave military types and a smarter than the adults kid. Not only are all the tropes proudly paraded out for those familiar with the series, but it has some of the most spectacular monster battles ever presented, as Godzilla, Ghidorah, Rodan and Mothra all converge to duke it out and destroy everything in their paths. The final showdown in the city of Boston is absolutely amazing and Yankee fans might even get a giggle over Godzilla and Ghidorah throwing down in the middle of Fenway Park. It’s also a true popcorn blockbuster, so even those not too familiar with the Big G and his 65 year history, can still enjoy the flick on a purely entertainment spectacle level and monstrously entertaining it is. Not to mention, the film’s final image is something every Godzilla fan has wanted to see from day one. On a technical level, the SPFX are amazing, the monsters are truly titanic and majestic and their destruction is on a totally massive scale. The score by Bear McCreary is far more fitting than Alexandre Desplat’s ho-hum score for Zilla 2014 and delightfully mixes in some of Akira Ifukube’s classic Godzilla themes to add a nice touch of nostalgia to the film.

The cast are good and all of them get the material. They play it seriously…but not too seriously. Leads Farminga, Chandler, Brown and Dance all do well in essaying their roles. Vera Farming as the scientist with a personal reason to get involved, is solid and helps us understand her decisions, even when they are the wrong ones. Chandler is fun as the father and husband trying to get his estranged family back. He’s a good lead and his old fashioned character fits this kind of movie well. Charles Dance is impeccable as ever as the villainous Alan Jonah, who like Thanos, thinks he is doing the right thing by trying to unleash these creatures. Millie Bobby Brown is especially endearing as Madison and in many ways is the emotional center of the flick. The supporting cast are all good, too, especially Ken Watanabe returning as Dr. Ishirō Serizawa and Zhang Ziyi playing Dr. Ilene Chen, a character who pays tribute to a familiar Mothra trope in a very fun and clever way. A good cast that even give some very corny dialogue a little dramatic weight.

Overall, this was a really fun and action packed sequel to a film widely criticized for skimping on the monster action. It has monster battles to spare, but still gives us some people time along with a very Toho-esque storyline. Michael Dougherty keeps the 132 minute flick moving very fast and pays loving tribute to the classic Godzilla flicks in some fun and very clever ways. Stay through the credits for not only an end credits scene, but for some amusing interwoven news items that echo what is to come. A gargantuan blast of a good time!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) King of the Monsters.

 

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GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS GETS KAIJU CHARACTER POSTERS!

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GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS GETS KAIJU CHARACTER POSTERS!

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A new trailer recently landed for the highly anticipated Godzilla sequel, now we get character posters for all the creatures featured! Michael Dougherty’s Godzilla : King of the Monsters arrives in theaters on May 21st, 2019!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: GODZILLA vs. KING GHIDORAH and GODZILLA vs. MECHAGODZILLA

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My Godzilla retrospect continues with this week’s double feature putting together two of my favorite of the 90s Hensei Godzilla series. Although the enjoyable Godzilla vs. Mothra comes before our second feature chronologically, I paired these two because Mechagodzilla is a direct sequel with technology from the Mecha-King Ghidorah used to construct the Mechagodzilla robot and, obviously, they both feature Godzilla battling a mechanized opponent…

 

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GODZILLA vs. KING GHIDORAH  (1991)

This might be my favorite of the 90s Hensei Godzilla series. Kazuki Omori returned to write and direct and once again he takes the traditional elements and goes outside the box with them. Sure the plot borrows very heavily from The Terminator, but like Godzilla vs. Biollante that preceded it, Omori shakes things up a bit like showing us Godzilla in dinosaur form for the first time and pimping-out the classic King Ghidorah as a cyborg for the epic battle finale. The story has a strange ship appearing over Japan. It is revealed that it is a time machine carrying three emissaries (Chuck Wilson, Richard Berger and Anna Nakagawa) from the future who claim to be from the 23rd century. They also come with dire news that in the future Godzilla will destroy Japan utterly and they have come to change that. Their plan is to go back to 1944 where Japanese troops claim to have seen a dinosaur on a pacific island, that they are certain would become Godzilla ten years later during the hydrogen bomb tests there. With Godzilla researcher Terasawa (Kosuke Toyohara), Professor Mazaki (Katsuhiko Sasaki) and psychic Miki Seagusa (Megumi Odaka) they go back in time and accomplish their mission. But modern day Japan has been deceived. The emissaries from the 23rd century have removed the Godzillasaurus, but replaced it with three of their own creatures who fuse together into the mighty King Ghidorah when the hydrogen bomb hits. Their plan is not to save Japan, but to use the three headed dragon under their control to destroy it, to keep it from becoming the ruling nation in the future. But the futurians have miscalculated in two areas. One, their own Emmy (Nakagawa) is Japanese and rebels when realizing the true depth of their wicked plan…and the other, that fate sometimes will have it’s way regardless and Godzilla is created anyway and by more powerful, modern nuclear energy. The new Godzilla is larger, stronger and far more vicious and it has two objectives in mind…lay waste to Japan and destroy King Ghidorah, who is trespassing on his turf.

Back in the day, G vs. KG caused some controversy here in the States as it was viewed as anti-American with it’s scene of the Godzillasaurus slaughtering a platoon of American troops in the 1944 set sequence, but sparing the entrenched Japanese soldiers…and the fact that two of the three futurians are Westerners out to destroy Japan. Personally, I think the most offensive thing the film contains is a really awful Steven Spielberg reference which is meant to be funny. Omori shows some growth as a director here with the film having some fun scenes and some very intense monster battles, his direction seems more relaxed on his sophomore film. There is still a little sloppiness here and there, but that also could be a result of an ambitious script and a low budget. He has a lot of fun with his Terminator borrowed story and the movie is a lot more energetic than Biollante. The two main battles between Godzilla and his triple-headed opponent are some of the best Godzilla battles in this modern series with some real intensity as Godzilla first fights the villainous Ghidorah as an anti-hero, then Omori cleverly switches the sides as Godzilla starts to destroy Japan and Emmy reconstructs King Ghidorah as a mechanized cyborg in the future and returns to 1992 Japan to stop Godzilla, who is now become the villain. It’s a fun switcheroo and Kawakita’s excellent (for these kind of films anyway) model and visual FX well represent the destruction and carnage. The cast are also much livelier and better directed this time especially American actor Robert Scott Field who appears to be having a blast as Android M-11, who Emmy reprograms to be an ally when she turns on her comrades. Another reason to love this movie is classic Godzilla composer Akira Ifukube returned to do the score after a 16 years absence and his work is as powerful as ever.

Cyborgs, robots, douche bags from the future, time travel, bad Steven Spielberg puns, some well orchestrated wholesale destruction and two epic monster throw-downs…what more could you want from a Godzilla flick? Sure it has flaws, Godzilla takes almost an hour to show up, the plot, with it’s time travel elements, is even more far-fetched than usual, but this is a series about a giant radioactive monster, so the ludicrous ship sailed a long time ago. It’s a lot of fun and was refreshingly bold in toying with the series conventions and adding some new twists, even if they were borrowed from other movies. It gave us one of the most powerful and cool looking Godzilla incarnations in the entire series and gave him not one but two knock-down drag-out fights with what might be his greatest opponent…And Anna Nakagawa was totally adorable and crush-worthy. One of my all-time favorites and a lot of fun.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 Godzillas.

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GODZILLA vs. MECHAGODZILLA (1993)

This, Godzilla’s 20th adventure seems to skip over the events of the more fantasy oriented Godzilla vs. Mothra and opens with scientists examining the mechanical head of the Mecha-King Ghidorah from Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah and using the future technology to make anti-Godzilla weaponry. One, a flying battleship called the Garuda and the other, a robotic replica of Godzilla himself loaded with weapons and protected by diamond encrusted armor. The plan is simple…next time Godzilla attacks, destroy him. And that time may come soon as the discovery of an infant Godzilla on a remote island is certain to lure the adult into a trap, but the appearance of a giant Pteranodon dubbed Rodan, may complicate things somewhat as it seems to have adopted the baby Godzilla as it’s own. Can Japan survive if Rodan, Godzilla and Mechagodzilla meet to fight it out at the same time?

Written by Wataru Mimura and directed by Godzilla vs. Mothra director Takao Okawara, this entry’s plot is less convoluted and the style more down to earth than when Omori wrote and directed. While I liked Omori for thinking outside the Godzilla box, Okawara is more traditional in his approach and that is fine too. The film is filled with action and has some of the biggest battles and destruction scenes in the series. Except for some of the Rodan effects, Kawakita and crew are at the top of their game as Godzilla and his mechanical double go head to head in the middle of a large city .The destruction is on a massive scale, but Okawara doesn’t forget his numerous characters who are caught in the middle. The film goes back to a slightly more serious tone after the lighter Mothra, but not quite as somber or dire as King Ghidorah or Biollante. I wasn’t all that happy with them adding Baby Godzilla to the mix. I always disliked the character and the Disney-ish silliness it brought to the series, but his design is less cartoon-ish (thought that would sadly change in the next film, Spacegodzilla) and it is handled as best it could, considering. Rodan is also a slight disappointment as he seems a bit too small to be considered a worthy opponent to either Godzilla or Mechagodzilla, but he holds his own when facing both and does have character. Mechagodzilla has the least interesting design in the character’s history, but makes up for it with some real destructive firepower and some truly spectacular battle scenes with Godzilla and Rodan. Again the FX are quite impressive here for this kind of movie. The human cast is fine and seem to be having fun with the material, though they treat it with respect and none go over the top. Psychic cutie Miki Seagusa (Megumi Odaka) returns for her third go around and Masahiro Takashima makes a likable hero in pilot Kazuma Aoki. Kenpachiro Satsuma appears for the fifth time as Godzilla and does another great job making him fierce and formidable. Akira Ifukube agains scores and it is one of his best in the 40 years he has been associated with the series. But it is the epic battles that really fuel this fun time and the film has a lot more Godzilla then the last three flicks, as it should be.

Overall, this is one action packed flick and it’s flaws can be overlooked by the sheer spectacle of the battles and the top notch SPFX that they are realized with. Okawara gives the film a somewhat faster pace, too and it helps that Godzilla shows up early and only disappears for short periods of time before returning and causing more carnage. I love that he is still an anti-hero here and despite the fact that Mechagodzilla is being piloted on the side of good…though he does represent man’s arrogance…we still want to see Godzilla make junk out of him. A fun and very action heavy installment in the 90s series.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 Godzillas.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: GODZILLA, MOTHRA, KING GHIDORAH-GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK (2012)

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GODZILLA, MOTHRA, KING GHIDORAH-GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK (2001)

With continual talk of Legendary’s upcoming Godzilla reboot, I thought I’d take a look back at one of the more interesting entries in this decades long running series.

Normally I would not consider most of the Godzilla films horror, except for maybe the 1954 original…but even that seems more like science fiction. If any Godzilla film could be categorized as horror, this 2001 stand alone entry in the long running series definitely would. GMK portrays Godzilla not only as a radioactive monster, but a vengeful demon whose rage is driven by the angry spirits of all the dead killed in the Pacific during WW2. A creature who enjoys killing and does so often. At one point he actually appears to find and finally kill a young woman who survived one of it’s earlier attacks. With demonic white eyes and elongated fangs he is truly a soulless monster and we watch as he slaughters innocent civilians and his guardian monster foes, equally with no mercy. Even in the original classic from 1954 he was treated as a destructive force like a hurricane or earthquake, but director Shusuke Kaneko (director of the awesome Gamera series of the 90s) brings us a Godzilla who is pure evil, one of the most savage and vicious Godzillas ever.

The story presents a Japan that hasn’t seen Godzilla since 1954, but it’s body was never found and the island nation has been forever vigilant watching for signs of the creature’s return…and with the disappearance of a nuclear sub, that return may have come. As Japan braces for the worst, other monsters appear, too. Yuri, (Chiharu Niiyama) a reporter for a paranormal show, begins to investigate and finds that Godzilla’a return to terrorize Japan has been foreseen and the only hope is from three guardian monsters, Mothra, Baragon and King Ghidorah…the first time in the series that the three headed gold dragon is a good guy…who will rise to defend the land. Caught in the middle of Godzilla’s path of destruction and his inevitable showdown with the monster guardians, is not only Yuri, who tries to cover the nightmare unfolding, but her military father Taizo (Ryūdō Uzaki) who has to somehow stop the rampaging leviathan from flattening his beloved homeland.

Kaneko gives this Godzilla flick a more supernatural tone and a more mythic background. To simplify, Kaneko’s Godzilla is a demon evoked by mankind’s evils and his three opponents are monster deities come to save the Japanese people from the demonic force created from their own misdeeds. The SPFX in this entry are quite good with CGI used to enhance the FX sequences and not become them. Godzilla and his foes are still men in suits or animatronics, except for a few shots, one with a resurrected King Ghidorah being obvious CGI. The battle sequences are fast paced with the early-on battle between Godzilla and Baragon being especially intense and vicious. The much smaller Baragon tenaciously attacking the far larger and stronger Godzilla, like a gigantic reptilian pit bull, is one of the film’s best sequences. Sadly, that is one thing that I consider one of the film’s missteps. Godzilla is so much larger than his opponents, there seems to be no hope that they can win. True, he is the bad guy here and sure needs to appear unstoppable, but he comes across as a big bully and his opponents never seem to have much of a chance. We know from the start that if he is to be stopped, it will be by some other means. Still, the battles are spectacular and Kaneko’s visual style is striking here as always. A shot of Mothra attacking Godzilla while her wings are on fire is a perfect example of Kaneko’s command of his camera lens. The human characters are well acted and are likable and Kaneko’s Japan is a more down to earth Japan than we are used to seeing in Godzilla films. There are no laser cannons, or giant robots to come to Japan’s defense, just traditional military hardware and that makes it far more dramatic to see how little they have to work with when facing the radioactive fury that Godzilla unleashes on Japan. The film is further enhanced by a great electronic score by Gamera composer Kow Otani which moodily suits the story and visuals.

All in all, GMK is a unique stand alone entry in the Godzilla series that is very entertaining and gives a talented filmmaker a chance to give the classic character a fresh perspective. Not everything works. His opponents are a little too outmatched from the start, King Ghidorah is one of the worst incarnations of the character in terms of it’s design with it’s short necks and floppy wings and the Mothra marionette lacks the usual fur and thus looks a bit plastic. Otherwise the FX are top notch for this type of flick and we are given one of the most fierce incarnations of Godzilla since he first waded on shore in 1954.  Definitely one of the better of the Millennium series Godzilla films that ended in 2004 with the final Japanese entry, Godzilla Final Wars.

Rated 3 (out of 4) battling behemoths!

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