New ‘Godzilla’ is Monster Wrestlemania

It has all the Cheez Whiz-covered goodness of the original films, combined with the big Hollywood studio budget.

By George Haerle

For Grays Harbor News Group

I was probably 8 or so when I saw my first Godzilla film, which was either “Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster” or “Godzilla 1985.” Neither of them was a cinematic masterpiece. But that is not the appeal when you are 8 to 12 years old; you want to see giant rubber-suit monsters kick the hell out of each other for an hour and a half while destroying oversized models of Tokyo.

This is the perspective I would assume a good portion of today’s fans are coming from — those of us who have adored Godzilla for most of our lives, always wanting that big-budget Hollywood-funded monster mayhem, a Godzilla movie to end all Godzilla movies. And, finally, here it is.

“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” has all the Cheez Whiz-covered goodness of the original films, combined with the big Hollywood studio budget and top-notch effects. The one-dimensional human characters propel a ridiculously wacky sci-fi plot that creates a scenario in which monsters will beat the hell out of each other for the rest of the movie — making this the best and most authentic Western iteration of the legendary monster to date.

If your taste lies a little more toward movies with sensibly written plots and characters on serious business, you might end up disappointed. “King of the Monsters” is a goofy, tongue-in-cheek blast from start to finish. It leans far more in the direction of its cousin “Kong: Skull Island” than its own 2014 precursor, simply titled “Godzilla.”

The script is either pure silliness played straight or unintentional comedy. The plot involves a device used to communicate with the various giant monsters; eco-terrorists who want to save the world by unleashing all of the monsters onto it; the mythological theory of a hollow Earth; and characters that are able to zip across the globe in what seems like no time passing at all.

In short, it’s full of the ridiculous plot points 98% of all of the Japanese Godzilla films have had throughout the years. Pick five titles out of the King of the Monsters pantheon, and you can almost guarantee the plot involves aliens in bad outfits, psychic characters, time-traveling, the Thumbelina-sized Mothra-worshipping twin girls, international and corporate espionage … the list goes on and on. The clear homage also is rife with references and nods to Godzilla movie history.

But where the movie is genuinely victorious is with the monsters. When they meet on screen to throw down, the grand fight scenes put any others of their kind to shame. Their designs are fantastically updated versions of their original Toho Co. counterparts, with the three-headed dragon Ghidorah faring particularly well in both design and onscreen portrayal. He can level cities with little effort, and a good chunk of the Eastern Seaboard gets turned into post-apocalyptic rubble. Mothra and Rodan are also very well done and own what screen time they have.

However, this movie belongs to the king: Godzilla. The big lizard himself is clearly the star, rendered and created with a noble and primal ferocity, and this film very much establishes him as a good-guy protector of the planet. Fans will not be disappointed.

Vera Farmiga, Kyle Chandler and Millie Bobby Brown lead the film as a fractured family integral to the plot. Bradley Whitford (the MVP for the corny one-liner factor), Ken Watanabe, Ziyi Zhang and several other respectable actors round out the cast.

Brown and the supporting characters seem to understand what kind of movie they are in, and all seem to have a good time. Chandler and Farmiga, however, look like they didn’t get the memo — nor does it seem like they have ever seen a Godzilla film in their lives. They don’t let themselves embrace the silliness even a tiny bit. This is the biggest flaw of the film, because it seems they are the ones out of place rather than the bonkers plot or the smackdown monster fights.

If you love Godzilla movies warts and all, this might be your dream come true; every second I watched, it felt like the movie was made just for me. Within its genre of kaiju/giant monster films, “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” earns its title. It’s a fantastic step forward as one of the atomic monster’s better movies, along with Toho’s “Shin Godzilla” from a few years ago and the 1954 original that started it all. Just don’t expect anything up to the level of a Marvel film or better, because this is a “check your brain at the door” popcorn flick through and through.

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“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” is currently playing at the Riverside Cinemas, 1017 S. Boone St. in Aberdeen.

George Haerle holds a bachelor’s degree in creative writing for media and lives in Cosmopolis.