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Friday, May 31, 2019

Godzilla: King of the Monsters



Roland Emmerich's Godzilla 1998 is still the worst American-made Godzilla movie, but Michael Dougherty's Godzilla: King of the Monsters makes a hearty bid for that crown. Unlike Emmerich, the new Godzilla gets the monsters right, at least, but both films are populated with humans that deserve to go extinct. While Emmerich leaned towards bottom-feeding 1990s sitcom archetypes for his characters, Dougherty's film is populated by complete idiots who think they're smart but no, they're complete idiots. Here is the human cast of Godzilla: King of the Monsters: Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler), Norman Bates' Mom (Vera Farmiga), the Kid Who Does Whatever She Wants (Millie Bobby Brown), Godzilla's Biggest Fan (Ken Watanabe), the Lady Who Likes Sea Monsters And Is Killed Offscreen (Sally Hawkins), A Clown (Thomas Middleditch), A Clown Who Voted For Obama (Bradley Whitford), Ice Cube's Kid (O'Shea Jackson, Jr.), the Asian Lady No One Knows Is Twins - Or Do They? (Zhang Ziyi), and Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance). Except for Tywin, they all work for Monarch, a secret organization with unlimited resources that collects giant monsters (now called Titans) like Pokemon - gotta catch them all! Monarch's mission statement is "Discovery and Defense in a Time of Monsters" but their real playbook is "Let Godzilla Do Whatever He Wants. Godzilla Is Always Right" because, apparently, he is.

After the attack on San Francisco in the 2014 Godzilla that killed Norman Bates (Honolulu was destroyed in that film too, but no matter), Norman Bates' Mom invented Orca, a sonar device that can 'talk' to the monsters and calm them down, apparently. Like Homer Simpson, she stages a phony kidnapping by Tywin Lannister and his unnamed mercenary group to get to the Monarch Antarctica outpost. There rests Ghidorah, the giant three-headed dragon, and for some reason, Bates' Mom thinks releasing him and then all of the other Titans is the best way to save the planet from climate change. She reveals her innermost thoughts to her ex-husband Coach Taylor and the rest of Monarch in a preposterous speech and after hearing it, the Kid realizes her mom is fucking nuts. In this movie, the monsters and their radiation are the planet's natural line of defense. Bates' Mom spouts some weird hippie shit about humans and monsters living together in harmony (amidst the ruins of our smashed civilization?) and it's not even clear whether she believes it or not. No matter, because it doesn't take long for her to realize she's an idiot, but it does take her a lot longer than it took me.

Once Ghidorah is released and Godzilla is unable to stop him, the dragon is revealed to be an alpha among the monsters that rivals Godzilla himself. The other Titans start waking up to meet the new boss, who's not the same as the old boss. There are at least 17 other monsters in this movie and we see a lot of them but the Big Four are Godzilla, Ghidorah, Mothra, and Rodan. All of the monsters start wrecking cities all around the world but Monarch has a plan: let Godzilla handle it. The US Military has a different plan - kill them all - and it's a good plan but they also fuck it up. Admiral David Strathairn announces the military has a new weapon: an oxygen destroyer missile that can kill anything that breathes oxygen within a two-mile radius. They fire it at Godzilla and Ghidorah in the ocean; it doesn't work on Ghidorah because it's an alien dragon, but it doesn't kill Godzilla either. But the oxygen missile does kill millions of fish, despite the fact that fish don't breathe oxygen. This is that kind of movie.

Oxygen destroyers are stupid anyway because along with a giant undersea base and a super jet, Monarch has nuclear weapons, which they apparently have authority to use whenever they want without clearing it with anyone. In their nuclear sub, Monarch chase Godzilla and find out the Hollow Earth theory pitched in the vastly superior Kong: Skull Island is correct: there are massive tunnels beneath the surface connecting the whole planet and that's how Godzilla gets around. In fact, there's even an ancient Godzilla City deep, deep under the sea. Godzilla went back to take a nap and recharge but Monarch decides he's taking too long so they decide to launch a nuke at him to speed things up. When they realize they have to literally hand deliver the warhead to Godzilla - a one-way trip - Ken Watanabe volunteers and no one tries to talk him out of it. Bradley Whitford says he'll miss it when Ken says "Let them fight!" even though he wasn't in the last movie the one time Ken said it. No matter, Watanabe brings the nuke to Godzilla and says "Goodbye, old friend" as if they're old friends and Godzilla knows or cares who he is. And another thing: he's deep in the Earth's core, where it must be blazing hot, but Watanabe just removes his gloves and helmet and he's fine. It's the same when everyone is in Antarctica (average temperature - 49 degrees Celsius or -120 degrees Fahrenheit for us dumb Americans) but they all walk around with no hats and their heads fully exposed. Not to mention the radiation of the monsters and the nukes - everyone in this movie should have radiation poisoning, cancer, or worse but they can't help touching the monsters like the teenage girl did the Brachiosaur in Jurassic Park.

Back to the Kid, who gives her mom a big FU by stealing the Orca. This kid just takes the device, which is left unguarded, and strolls out of a secret bunker crawling with armed mercenaries and then walks miles on foot to Fenway Park in the middle of a Boston under emergency evacuation. Her crazy mom, Tywin, and the mercenaries don't realize the Kid is gone until she's already at Fenway blasting the Orca on their loudspeakers, which the Titans can apparently hear no matter where in the world they are. The Orca draws Ghidorah, who was hanging out in Washington D.C. for some reason, to Boston, and yet, this lightning-shooting three-headed dragon the size of the Hancock Tower can't kill one stupid kid. Monarch arrives with Godzilla, and Mothra and Rodan also join in the fatal four-way match, but the movie is much more concerned with Coach Taylor and his crazy wife finding their dumb kid, who went home to her townhouse because it's "safe" there, I guess? (It isn't.) Meanwhile, Godzilla is supercharged with nuclear radiation and Bradley Whitford announces he'll go thermonuclear in 12 minutes, then six minutes, but it takes a lot longer than that for Godzilla to blow. By then, Norman Bates' Mom driving a Humvee has led Ghidorah on a merry chase around Boston while the rest of Monarch escape in an airplane where they leave the rear hatch wide open the whole time, giving them a nice aerial view of Godzilla's nuclear explosion destroying Boston and killing Ghidorah. But it's fine because you can just be a few thousand feet away from a nuclear detonation and no worries, you're all okay.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters is so immensely stupid that the monsters bowing to Godzilla at the end - Rodan, a giant pterodactyl, even knows how to genuflect and practically does a curtsy - almost seems normal. In the end, Monarch is exposed as a Keystone Cops operation that's even more dangerous and out-of-control than the monsters and it's an outfit where a drunk ex-football coach and his boneheaded teenage daughter can just do whatever the hell they want and this one family is more of a threat to the safety of the world than the Titans are. So, sure, let Godzilla be king of the world because Godzilla knows best, but as for me, let me off this crazy fucking planet.