GODZILLA KING OF THE MONSTERS (2019) Review [Spoiler Free]


Godzilla King Of The Monsters by Legendary Pictures
Directed by Michael Dougherty 
Review by Kyle Yount

It’s been almost exactly five years since Legendary Pictures’ Godzilla (2014) stomped onto screens across the globe. Five long years of which kaiju fans have been somewhat patiently waiting for the sequel.

That wait is over, and in this fan’s opinion, the wait was worth it.

Is it a perfect movie? Of course not. There are flaws, and I’ll get to those in a bit, but when I walked out of the theater after my first viewing, I was filled with was a strange mixture of relief and elation.

Bringing Godzilla back to the big screen is a tricky thing. Because the King has played so many roles over the years, who’s to say his origin can’t be rewritten or retooled as needed  — as Legendary has done in this modern series. Let’s be clear. This is not the Japanese Godzilla. Neither is this a Japanese-style Godzilla movie… and thank goodness for that, right? I don’t think that’s what I want from Legendary Pictures’ Monsterverse anyway. This is a Hollywood blockbuster film with giant monsters and while there are many, many nods to the original series and elements of the plot are even derived from the Japanese originals, Godzilla King of the Monsters is an American movie with big budget Hollywood style to it. 

GODZILLA in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. © 2019 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND LEGENDARY PICTURES PRODUCTIONS, LLC

Not just a monster move, Godzilla King of the Monsters is a science fiction movie in which the human drama is woven through the monster action, similar to what was pioneered by screenwriters like Shinichi Sekizawa in the 1960s. The basic story of this film revolves around the fractured Russell family of scientists, the mother Emma (paleo-biologist), father Mark (zoologist) and their daughter Madison are involved with Monarch, the government organization who had been keeping a lid on this whole giant monster epidemic until the Godzilla vs MUTO battles of 2014. In a misguided attempt to save the world, Dr. Russell intends to release all of the giant monsters (Titans), her plan goes awry when a particularly powerful Titan takes over the process. It’s up to Monarch and Godzilla to put these big beasts back into their place, but can they do it alone?

Overall, I really enjoyed the screenplay. I’ve seen complaints about it being ludicrous, but there are so many elements that I felt resonated with my own love for the kaiju genre.  I found myself enjoying the plot, and I never had any issues suspending my disbelief during the film. Was director Michael Dougherty cherry picking his favorite ingredients from the entirety of the Japanese kaiju kitchen in order to build the monstrous soup stock that is Godzilla King of the Monsters? It sure felt that way. It felt familiar and even though some angles aren’t explored enough or sometimes even developed, the sheer amount of fan service in this entry is impressive.

(L-R) KING GHIDORAH and GODZILLA in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. © 2019 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND LEGENDARY PICTURES PRODUCTIONS, LLC

One of the issues that I take up against modern movies is their general lack of connectable or likable characters. This is true with films from both sides of the pacific, so I’m not pointing any fingers. If I cannot sympathize or empathize with at least one main character, I cannot truly enjoy the film. The 2014 film was painful, in where I felt like the only likable character was killed off after the first act, leaving the audience to slog through the remainder of the runtime without a hero to root for, save Godzilla.

Thankfully, that didn’t happen for me in Godzilla King of the Monsters. I didn’t take issue with any of the main characters – or the actors’ portrayal of those characters. I was also happy with the choice of characters in the film, and fine with the number of characters. This is a complaint I’ve seen levied at the film by critics and fans alike and I do think that if Dougherty had cut a few small characters, our main characters could have a bit more meat on their bones…y’know, for the people that need that kinda stuff. The father figure, for instance, I’m sure has a long backstory that has been conjured up, but in the film alone, he comes across as a one-note character. He just wants to get his daughter back!

As this is a sequel to not only Godzilla (2014), but also Kong Skull Island (2017), three characters have returned: Ken Watanabe as Dr. Serizawa, Sally Hawkins as Dr. Graham and David Straitharn as Admiral Stenz from Godzilla. And while there are no actual actors from the cast of Kong Skull Island (set in the 1970s), one of those characters, Joe Morton as Dr Brooks, makes a brief appearance in this film as a much older Monarch member. The other members of  Monarch’s crew are new, serving either militaristic or scientific needs. They have a decent rapport but at times can come across a bit stiff. I never felt like I couldn’t figure out who was who and what their job was. And with some small exceptions, the characters all work well together in the story, all furthering the plot towards the end of the film. None of them are really stand out characters, but they are intrinsically linked to the story.

Like other genre films from the same studio, even, Godzilla King of the Monsters has its share of dialogue that makes for a bumpy ride. Generally these come in the form of the one-liner. Most of today’s pop-culture films are packed with them, and unfortunately this new Godzilla film suffers the same malady: One Liner Fever. During my first viewing, the audience was definitely responding to the jokes, but your experience may differ greatly; when those zingers don’t play, they can stop the film dead in its tracks. My advice for the next film’s screenwriters is to dial back the yucky-yucks about 15%. I already expect that kind of reaction to these jokes, so for the most part, I can forgive and forget. But one particular line’s irreverence had me looking around the theater like “did that just happen?”; and those kinds of moments are so easy to recall negatively. It’s the number one complaint I’ve heard from my circle. In fact, really my only problems with this film were with these one liners.


Since this is a Godzilla movie, we’ve got to talk about the special effects, right? This should surprise no one, but as a modern movie studio, Legendary Pictures leans hard into the CGI effects in this movie. No men in rubber suits, trashing buildings. And sure, I’d love to see the perfect amalgam between CGI and practical Monster effects, it’s just not going to happen. The CGI was really quite well done and if we can’t get those rubber monsters, I guess it will have to do. And while the effects alone do pack a punch, the battles are where the monster action shines. And there is a LOT of monster action – and yes, we would have loved to see more of that Action, instead of some of the claustrophobic camera angles, but the battles were incredible.

I also wanted to mention that the score to Godzilla King of the Monsters by Bear McCreary is absolutely stunning. One of my loudest complaints about the 2014 film was that the filmmakers opted to ignore Godzilla’s legacy themes. To a Godzilla fan, this is akin to a James Bond film never playing a lick of John Barry’s iconic theme for the superspy. Thankfully, McCreary’s score is breathtaking. And while I would have loved to hear the classic 1956 Rodan theme in the film. I understand that not all are as memorable as Godzilla’s (or Mothra’s for that matter).

KING GHIDORAH in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. © 2019 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND LEGENDARY PICTURES PRODUCTIONS, LLC

This movie ultimately satisfies what I want as a giant monster fan in my giant monster films: monsters versus monsters, scientists driving the human squad, the human element being connected to the monster element. This Godzilla film is definitely much more of a science-fiction picture than a horror film – not that I necessarily agree with this comparison, but director Mike Dougherty has mentioned that he likes Aliens and more than Alien. He sees Godzilla King of the Monsters as his high-action/hard-scifi answer to Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla.  For both giant monster movies and science fiction films, you need to be able to suspend your disbelief. If you cannot except the elements of this film, science fiction and monster alike, you really cannot understand how satisfying this film is on many levels to giant monster fiends. I don’t expect a poignant tale that moves audiences and enlightens them on a molecular level to also include giant monster battles. Actually, I didn’t expect much of anything from this film, but I walked away entertained with this new exploration of the Godzilla character and his CGI’d foes.

In conclusion, I absolutely loved the film overall – the story and special effects really worked for me and I actually connected with the characters, but it wasn’t without its issues (like every Godzilla film ever). It’s very clear to me that the director is a fan of the Godzilla series and Kaiju genre and it shows as Godzilla King Of The Monsters is not just a love letter to the genre but an entire collection of love notes.  Godzilla King of the Monsters surprised me in the best possible way. After the credits rolled I was ready to see it again and that was awesome in every sense of the word.

7.5  giant mon-STARS out of 10!