Director Michael Dougherty has created an instant classic.
A few of reasons why it’s the Avengers of big scary monster movies (i.e. Kaiju): Mothra, Rodan, Godzilla, and King Ghidorah on screen for the first time since the cheesy Toho productions of the 1960s and 70s.
King of the Monsters has easily been the most anticipated movie here.
Is it connected to the last Godzilla? You bet: The previous film had the iconic thunder lizard saving humanity – and San Francisco – from a couple of giant insect-y creatures. This time around, the cryptozoological organization Monarch has found other “Titans” cropping up around the globe, and the humans have to figure out which side they’re on in the middle of apocalyptic destruction. It’s safe to say, though, sticking with Godzilla is probably pretty smart. “He’s truly mythic almost in that Joseph Campbell sense,” says director Michael Dougherty of the noted author’s writing about the “hero’s journey.”
Why should we care about the humans? The storyline with Farmiga’s and Brown’s characters is “hugely important,” Dougherty says, and veers away from other popcorn movies featuring “lots of characters with daddy issues.” (Looking at you, Iron Man and Batman.) “You don’t see too much on the mother/daughter side of the spectrum. When you introduce maternal struggles into science fiction, it shifts things ever so slightly, so they do become a little bit more poignant and emotional.” Brown notes that “human interaction” is just as important as the giant monsters for Dougherty. “He has this vision and passion and rode with it.”
Is there a deeper message to be had? Godzilla movies have always been about more than the monster mashes. Back in the day, he was an enormous metaphor for the atomic age, and in King of Monsters, the issue du jour – just like in real life – is climate change. “Godzilla is here, in my own personal view, to come and say, ‘Look around, look what you’re doing and stop it. Fix what you’ve done here,’ ” Chandler says. “You can see why the franchise would last forever because there’s always a period in some decade where we’re screwing something up.”
Dougherty captures Godzilla’s moral compass in a way that captivated a 5 year-old me watching such classics as Godzilla versus the Smog Monster.
The Smog Monster was a literal manifestation of human pollution come to life to kill humanity.
OZY magazine said of Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster (aka Gojira tai Hedorâ). Depending on your perception, the 1971 picture was either the insulting nadir of the series and one of the worst movies ever made, or the film that breathed a final, fleeting bit of strange and surreal life into a (at that time) 17-year-old franchise.
“I just love the idea of 10-year-old kids seeing their first Godzilla,” Chandler told USA Today. Dougherty’s nephew flew to L.A. for the premiere, and the director found him playing with Godzilla and Ghidorah toys and making stop-motion battles with his mom’s iPhone. “I was so touched by that because it’s a modern-day version of what I did when I was a kid using a giant Betamax family camcorder.”
Of all the legendary Japanese beasts in the new film “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” from Warner Bros., Mothra is perhaps the unlikeliest of terrors. There’s Godzilla, of course, a T. rex-like creature with atomic breath, and Rodan, a turbocharged pterodactyl. King Ghidorah, the villain of the piece, is an enormous dragon with batlike wings and three flame-throwing heads.
Mothra? At the beginning of the picture, she’s a newly hatched caterpillar.
What Mothra might lack in apparent fierceness, however, she more than makes up for in fans, at least in her native Japan. Since her first appearance in the Toho Studios film “Mothra” in 1961, the supersized moth has appeared in 16 movies, including the 1964 classic “Mothra vs. Godzilla” (the first cinematic meeting of the two titans) and the 2001 “Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack.
“Mothra has always been a force for good, communicating with us puny humans through a telepathic link with two even punier beings, the foot-tall Shobijin, twin female fairies played in the original 1961 film by the Japanese pop duo the Peanuts. Unlike the capricious Godzilla, who goes from stomping Japan to bits in one movie to protecting it in another, Mothra is always a heroine, saving Japan from reptilian hotheads like Godzilla and protecting the cave-dwelling residents of Infant Island, who worship her as a goddess.”
Dougherty, who is out and gay, co-wrote X-Men 2, and Superman Returns for director Bryan Singer. He is also known for writing and directing the cult horror film Trick ‘r Treat. He also directed, co-wrote, and co-produced the horror/comedy Krampus (2015).
Watch the final trailer to Godzilla King of the Monsters below. In theaters everywhere tomorrow.