GODZILLA KING OF THE MONSTERS
(**)

"...the ultimate embodiment of cheap American cultural appropriation..."

The Folly of Man

(060119)  Godzilla is one of the most successful film franchises ever. The main character (the Japanese version of his name, Kojira means gorilla whale) has appeared in over 35 films and even an animated TV series.

The irradiated dinosaur character is also one of the most identifiable ever Japanese exports. There is even a great South Park episode in which they introduce a mechanical Godzilla version of Barbara Streisand titled Mecha Streisand. One of the greatest Japanese directors, Akira Kurasawa himself wanted to make a Godzilla film, but he sadly died before he got the chance.

That is not the say that all of the actual films are masterpieces. The first uncut Japanese film titled Godzilla (1954) is mandatory viewing for all serious sci fi/monster movie fans. Godzilla vs the Thing (1964) which was called Mothra vs Godzilla in Japan as well as the excellent remake, Godzilla vs Mothra (1992) are also solid, respectable efforts. There were also great scenes in Destroy All Monsters (1969), and the recent Shin Godzilla (2016). I also loved the hilarious kung fu using lion creature, King Caesar in Godzilla vs. Mecha Godzilla (1974) which might have inspired Fin Fang Foomís use of martial arts in Marvel comics. Even the worst and most laughable films in the series like Son of Godzilla (1968), Godzilla vs. King Kong (1963), and Godzilla vs the Smog Monster (1972) work well as camp or as childrenís films.

The rest are hit and miss, but many of them have a goofy charm which is sadly missing in the new ultra serious take on the character with its heavy handed save the world from overpopulation message.

The movie starts out ok with the introductions and reintroductions of the monsters (they are called titans here like the old Greek beings), but it never really takes off. Obviously the film makers spent much more energy and creativity on the marketing than making the actual film.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters is neither a very good film nor is it an unmitigated disaster like the embarrassingly bad 1998 American Godzilla (Roland Emmerich should be very ashamed.)

The by the numbers direction and ho hum screenplay are by Michael Dougherty, who did a much better job on the latest film titled Godzilla (2018), but this film is superior to his lackluster holiday horror film, Krampus. The problem is that the script of The Godzilla King of the Monsters has a stitched together feel to it, and there are no really surprising plot twists or elements. Iíve seen it all before.

The film amounts to a compilation of highlights and scenes from previous often better films. A monster dying to give Godzilla its energy was previously used in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla 2 (1993). The scene of Rodan emerging from a volcano was recycled from Rodan the Flying Monster (1959). A doctor sacrificing his life to kill a monster comes from the original Godzilla (1954), and the scene sort of happens again with a different character later in the film.

The outline of the plot closely resembles the original Ghidorah the Three Headed Monster (1965) and the quasi remake, Monster Zero (1966). As a tribute to the earlier film, Ghidrah the Three Headed Monster is even referred to as Monster Zero. We meet several monsters, and in the beginning we donít know who is for or against mankind. Eventually the good monsters team up against the bad one or ones. Unfortunately, the film denies us the pleasure of seeing all the monsters together teaming up against Ghidorah (which should have been the big payoff for the whole film), and both Mothra (the giant moth/caterpillar associated with femininity) and Rodan (a pterodan with a fiery body) are mostly squandered. The film only has one great Mothra scene in which the insect comes out of its cocoon like a shiny goddess. Her appearance is accompanied by a celestial/heavenly sounding choir. But if Mothra is queen of the monsters as a character suggests then why doesnít she get to do anything except escape captivity? Also, where are the magical twin fairies? You canít have a good Mothra storyline without the fairies.

The film has a decent enough cast but they cannot elevate the paper thin characterization. Kyle Chandler (from Early Edition and Home Front) was the co-inventor of a device that helps communicate with the monsters. He hates the Titans because he thinks Godzilla was responsible for his sonís death, and his subsequent alcoholism and his divorce.

His ex-wife played by Vera Farmiga is a brilliant scientist/extreme environmental activist who is kidnapped by eco-terrorists (or so it seems) who want to force her to unleash the Titans to trim down the human population.

The filmís depiction of the troubled ex coupleís relationship is not that much more sophisticated than the character dynamics in Sharknado (which at least succeeds as good trash.)

The other largely forgettable characters are played by Sally (Shape of Water) Hawkins, Ken (
Letters From Iwo Jima) Watanabe, and Zhang (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) Ziyi. It is kind of unfortunate that even in a Godzilla film, the Asian characters have to be reduced to stereotypical scientist roles.

I did get a kick out of the filmís use of the original Godzillaís heroic battle theme, and it was great to actually hear a version of Blue Oyster Cultís Godzilla song (although it is a techno cover by System of A Down member, Seri Tankian) .Also the underwhelming ending does fulfill the truth in the title of the movie surprisingly well.

But if the original Godzilla creature is a symbol for a destructive nuclear America, this whole film can be seem as the ultimate embodiment of cheap American cultural appropriation and /or the United States cutting down all other cultures like wheat.

I am not saying that you should avoid this film if you are a hard core Kaiju fan, but for the casual viewer, there are many, many better choices available. But you might want to rent it or hit a bargain showing. That is what I did.
 

Directed by:   Michael Dougherty
Written by:   Screenplay by Michael Dougherty & Zach Shields, from a story by Max Borenstein, Dougherty & Shields. Based on the characters created by Toho Studios.
Starring:    Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown
Released:    053119
Length:    131 minutes
Rating:    Rated PG-13 for sequences of monster action violence and destruction, and for some language

For more writings by Vittorio Carli go to www.artinterviews.org
and www.chicagopoetry.org plus look for his recent book Tape Worm Salad with Olive Oil for Extra Flavor

Come see his next poetry show at the Art Colony on Saturday, June 8 from 5-7, 2019 at 2630 W. Fletcher. Just southeast of Belmont/Elston/ California.
 

GODZILLA KING OF THE MONSTERS © 2019 Warner Brothers Pictures
Review © 2019 Alternate Reality, Inc.