I’m not a really big movie-goer, but I knew that I would end up seeing Godzilla, King of the Monsters on the big screen. I am a big fan of both the serious original 1954 Gojira and the gloriously goofy 1970s Godzilla monster bashes. More significantly, I know one of the motion-capture actors who played monsters in the movie, and I like to support my people. The new Godzilla movie navigates a middle course between the two styles of kaiju movies- there are scenes of human suffering as cities have to be evacuated from ‘the Titan menace’ and there are strangely beautiful monster fights, with prehistoric menaces flinging brightly colored radiation beams at each other.
The movie definitely demands suspension of disbelief... after all, it does feature a moth larger than a jumbo jet as a main character. Put your skeptical adult brain in neutral, embrace your inner eight year old, and bask in that nostalgia, because there are tons of Easter eggs- callbacks to other kaiju movies. Zang Ziyi’s Dr Chen shows pictures of her mother and her twin sister conducting research on Infant Island, calling to mind the pixies from the classic Mothra movies. The three-headed monster is known as ’Monster Zero’ before Dr Chen identifies it as King Ghidorah by perusing old legends. An oxygen destroying missile, reminiscent of the device used to kill Godzilla in the 1954 movie, is deployed against Godzilla and Ghidorah, with unexpected results, revealing the true nature (and true danger) of Ghidorah. Even Ken Watanabe’s (as Dr Serizawa) viral ‘let them fight’ line is referenced by another character.
The plot is a mishmash of Gaia hypothesis (an ‘eco-terrorist’ villain describes the Titans as the ‘immune system meant to bring ecological balance to a world undergoing a mass extinction), military thriller (terrorists vs international monster monitoring organization), and family drama... but you’re really here for the monster battles. There are topical scenes of child separation in refugee crises, and a nod toward the need for finding a balance between humanity and nature... but you’re really here for the monster battles.
The movie does convey a sense of wonder- such scenes as the emergence of Mothra from her cocoon were gorgeous. There are moments of pathos as well- particularly when Dr Serizawa approaches a stricken Godzilla and intones ‘goodbye, old friend’ in Japanese. Watching the movie, I became an eight year-old again, which was a nice way to spend two and a half hours, in a world where real monsters dwell.