WE first saw “Godzilla” as young boy in the mid-1950s. It was a low-budget quickie but we were just awed by the immensity of this Japanese creation that became a worldwide hit and became a cash cow for its producers, Toho Films. It was an allegory on the dangers of nuclear energy to the environment and had several sequels. We even had our own local version of this monster flick, “Tokyo 1960”, produced by Cirio Santiago of Premiere Productions and starring the late Tessie Quintana and Eddie del Mar.
We got so fascinated with monster flicks where the kaijus are shown smashing things up. We also watched the other Japanese monsters produced by Toho like Mothra, Rodan and Ghidorah, the 3-headed Monster. They provide silly good escapist fun.
Now, they’re all together in Hollywood’s latest Godzilla incarnation, “Godzilla, King of the Monsters”, which comes after the last “Godzilla” movie in 2014. After seeing it, one realizes that it owes more to Transformers than to the Japanese kaijus. The movie does pay tribute to Godzilla film history and even uses music from the original Toho productions, but it has little in common with its 1954 ancestor.
The way it pummels the audience with so much violence and devastation is more reminiscent of the robot movies of Michael Bay. They just both enjoy showing scenes of destruction in detail on screen. The movie’s first half hour establishes some kind of story where both human and monster characters are introduced. The next one hour and half, though, become a flashy and very noisy special effects extravaganza with Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan and Ghidorah and various other monsters fighting each other because of climate change in this Monster Cinematic Universe.
Humankind is seriously threatened with domination and extermination. The makers of the movie obviously think that the more, the merrier, and the sheer number of mega-monsters on display on the big screen can indeed be overwhelming, especially for kiddie viewers. But for a jaded lolo like us, after a while, this new take on Godzilla becomes all muddled and tedious. You’d seriously need a score card just to keep track of who is fighting who and figure out what is exactly going on.
The reason people watch monster movies is to see skyscraper-sized behemoths beat up each other. It’s like those Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) where muscle-packed opponents smack down each other. The undercare here is Mothra vs. Rodan, and it’s not that impressive. But the main bout featuring Godzilla vs. Ghidorah in a bone-crushing death-match, is really spectacular, with three rounds and the final fight shown in its full glory.
Sadly, the human characters seem more of a hindrance in the storytelling. Too much screen time is given to the cumbersome family drama involving Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga, who you’d wish to be quickly eaten by the monsters), husband Mark (Kyle Chandler) and their daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown, 11 of “Stranger Things”). Madison has long realized that her mom has lost her marbles as a mad scientist who thinks she has an invention that can communicate with the monsters. She’s caught between her mom and her dad who just hates Godzilla’s guts and drowns himself in booze.
They’re supported by a stellar international cast, led by Japanese Ken Watanabe, Chinese Zhang Ziyi, American Bradley Whitford, British Sally Hawkins (“The Shape of Water”) and Charles Dance but they’re just utterly wasted in their one-dimensional roles. The script is devoid of humor and the direction by Michael Dougherty is just uninspired, making the whole thing actually a lot of messy nonsense.