Great books tell stories. Here’s our pick of vivid and insightful new releases for better understanding America, world events, history, science, and theology
The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) lists this past weekend’s new release, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, as the 43rd Godzilla movie. Viewers worldwide have already spent nearly $200 million watching it. Thirty years ago, only the die-hardiest fans (shouldn’t it be safe to say?) turned out for Godzilla vs. Biollante, in which, according to IMDb, “Godzilla is threatened by a mutated rosebush.” But that 1989 film, sorted by rating, is tied for No. 13 among Godzilla movies! This leads me to believe that I have no clue what Godzilla fans look for in a movie.
Still, thinking back on my childhood Saturday-afternoon, UHF-channel run-ins with Godzilla, King of the Monsters delivers what I remember from the giant-dragon genre: soldiers pitifully unloading their pea-shooter machine guns at mountain-sized monsters, and these monsters screeching at metallic decibels as they squash skyscrapers and pummel each other. Two spit lightning, and tornadic blasts of wind from another’s wings batter a city block. The monsters are full of bad weather.
Now, all the stomping comes with a story—one that quite possibly could have been improved by the invasion of a Miracle-Gro rosebush. Following a brief flashback, King of the Monsters picks up five years after Godzilla last trampled a metropolis. A group called Monarch is tasked with controlling the population of “Titans,” which includes Mothra, Rodan, and Monster Zero, a flying beast with multiple heads.
But a group of “eco-terrorists” is sabotaging the containment chambers, releasing the monsters around the globe. The reason? “Overpopulation, pollution, and war,” one saboteur says.
That saboteur (I can’t spoil his or her identity) explains that the Titans are Earth’s “natural defense mechanism,” wiping out the human “infection” the way a forest fire ostensibly cleanses as it destroys.
I was hoping for a smidgen of self-parody at some point, such as a close-up of a claw-shaped bumper sticker on the back of a saboteur’s car: “Proud owner of a rescued three-headed dragon.” But no, this film takes itself too seriously for that.
Initially, the American military pushes back against the eco-terrorists’ agenda. Also caught up in all the machinations are an estranged couple (played by Kyle Chandler and Vera Farmiga) and their teenage daughter (Millie Bobby Brown). By and by, the film sorts out the good from the bad among the militants, mom and dad, and even the monsters.
In short, it’s a vanilla Godzilla: big-budget but not groundbreaking graphics (well, in a way they were groundbreaking); stale family dramatics and flat moments of heroism; and awful, R-rated expletives that demolish the film’s PG-13 rating.
And as much as I enjoy the work of Serj Tankian (System of a Down’s lead singer) and of Bear McCreary (composer of the theme music for The Walking Dead), their collaborative remake of Blue Öyster Cult’s “Godzilla” during the end credits doesn’t improve upon the original. (Perhaps Axl Rose should’ve had a go at it?) But if you’re buying a ticket just to relive B-movie memories of chomp, romp, and stomp, stay through the end credits for a sequel-setting extra scene.