Less People, More Monsters

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Is it just me, or is his face actually kind of adorable?

Shortly after its arrival in theatres, I had heard that some people/critics were complaining about the lack of plot Godzilla: King of the Monsters.  I have something I would like to say to those people: This is a Godzilla film.   I would be surprised if ANYONE was going to see this movie for a deep and meaningful plot.  If you’re going to see a monster movie like this, all the audience truly wants are epic monster battles.  That’s it.  We only need just enough plot to weave the fight scenes together, just enough back story for the humans so that we just how much the monster battles will affect their lives.  We need just enough personality and stereotype/cliché in those characters so that we can try to guess who will live, who will die, and who will nobly sacrifice themselves for the greater good.  I really don’t want, or expect, a whole lot of plot in a movie like this.  All I want are giant monsters getting their asses handed to them by an equally giant lizard.  I just want to be entertained.

And that’s exactly what I got out of this film.  In fact, the only times the movie seemed to drag on a little too long were during scenes that focused on the people and not the monsters.  The monsters were obviously the best part of this film, and I found that their animation had even improved since the first Godzilla film.  I also particularly enjoyed the use of colour when it came to their powers.  Although many monsters were featured in passing, the four primary ones were loosely associated with specific colours.  Ghidorah and Rodan, monsters that are a danger to humankind, were typically associated with reds and yellows.  Godzilla and Mothra, on the other hand, were the only two monsters that were associated with the colour blue as they are in a position to protect the humans.  However, these two were also associated with the colour red at key points in the film.  I found it interesting that the times when the “blue” monsters became associated with the colour red occurred when they were a direct threat to the humans.  When the larval Mothra was attacking the Monarch scientists she was bathed in red light.  And when Godzilla’s radioactive energy was too strong at was at risk of detonating, he too had a red glow.

While the monsters’ motivations were fairly simple (they don’t seem to need much motivation to start a fight), the humans’ motivations were equally simplistic.  Apart from the Russell family at the centre of this drama, none of the human characters had any significant backstories, and none of them had any deeper motivations apart from dealing with the current threat to humanity.  There was no bad acting per say, but the simple script led to many laughs; some of these laughs for me came from the comedy written directly into the story, others were from situations that just started to feel ridiculous the more they went on.  Although it was an interesting touch to frame the plot as a kind of post-divorce custody battle between Mark (Kyle Chandler) and Emma (Vera Farmiga) for their daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown), the humans in this film were fairly two-dimensional.  But in a film like this, that is not necessarily a bad thing.  The plot had a very basic “cause and effect” kind of structure: something big would happen, the humans would react, and their actions would lead to the next “something big”.  Essentially, the story of the humans framed the epic monster battles and gave the reasons behind the battles more depth.  This film is really more about the monsters than the people.

That being said, a part of this franchise is something that directly relates to humans and their past/present actions.  Mythology and environmental issues are at the heart of this film, and this encourages us to look at our more modern mythologies to determine why it is that Godzilla has returned.  The Godzilla films were essentially a reaction to the atomic bombs that were dropped in Japan during the Second World War.  In the early years of Godzilla, pop culture served as a way to examine the potential consequences of the use of nuclear weapons.  Nowadays, the threat to our way of life and to our planet has changed as we no longer fear nuclear weapons in quite the same way.  Now climate change and the destruction of our planet are the main scare, and the modern Godzilla films have piked up on this.  Godzilla (2014) and Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) depict the titular monster as a naturally radioactive creature; we did not make him with the atomic bombs – he was always like that.  And so his role on this earth has changed as well.  He is no longer a manifestation of the horrors of nuclear weapons, he is a manifestation of the consequences of our meddling in the natural world.  Humans are destroying the planet and Godzilla has appeared to set things right.  Even the villainous humans of the story are aware of this and are aware of the need for the natural world to restore order.  It is also interesting that Godzilla’s main enemy, Ghidorah, is a creature not of this earth.  I would argue that just like man-made pollution, Ghidorah does not belong in this environment and is causing drastic and devastating changes in the weather/climate.

Given the current socio-political climate, I feel as if this is one theme the film really needed to go further with.  And yes, halting the destruction of the natural world was at the heart of the motivations of the “villains” of the film, but given the fact that the film is being produced at a time when pollution and climate change are major issues, I was expecting to really be hit over the head with the message.  And I am not entirely sure I agree with having the villains be the ones to advocate for this change.  Apart from Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe), none of the “good guys” really stress the importance of having Godzilla restore order to the natural world.  Although I do appreciate that the end credit sequence featured snippets of the natural world being restored; that, and sneak peeks at what’s to come in the next monster movie in this franchise.  I am really looking forward to Godzilla vs. Kong!

(My prediction for the next movie: it will be a kind of Batman vs. Superman situation where Godzilla and Kong will start off fighting as enemies but will then join forces against a common foe who threatens to destroy the natural world.  Perhaps Mecha-King Ghidorah?)

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