Godzilla: King of the Monsters: The Beast Rises Again

(Lots of Spoilers)

I first watched Godzilla movies as a child on Saturday mornings. They were kind of fun and never scary. Even then, the beast was the savior of Tokyo. Other creatures appeared, spitting rays or fire, flying or not, to challenge the King. After a few ruined buildings, Godzilla triumphed and the other monster died or slinked off to where he came from. One of my favorites was Rodan although I vaguely remember a flying turtle as well.

I even have a Godzilla (Gojira in Japan) doll that I bought in Tokyo staring down at me from a high shelf in my office. So, it is no small thing when I say I hated the 2019 move, Godzilla: King of the Monsters. The terribleness could be summed up into two phrases: stupid plot and unbelievable characters.Godzilla poster

Plot and Spoilers

This sequel to Godzilla (2014) starts with a family broken apart after their son was killed by actions from the big beast in the first movie. Now several years later, Dad (Kyle Chandler) is a recovering alcoholic, while Mom (Vera Farmiga) and daughter (Strange Thing’s Millie Bobby Brown) are part of a secret research organization called Monarch. Monarch’s monster experts and scientists go before a government organization, arguing to keep Godzilla, and the other recovered monsters alive rather than let the military kill them. After all, any life form should be cherished.

At one Monarch location, the mom, Dr. Emma Russell created a sound generator that “talks to” and somewhat controls the big guys. Within the first 20 minutes of the movie, it is in the hands of an ecoterrorist group who kills everyone else in Russell’s team. These terrorists, seemingly kidnapping the doctor and her daughter, then proceed to go to each Monarch research site and wake up the other monsters, including the newly discovered space alien, King Ghidorah. They don’t try to control the creatures; they just whip them up into a fury.

The pacifist scientists show up to stop the awakening of Ghidorah and rescue Emma and her daughter. They fail, the beast battle begins, and Dad, Mark Russell realizes his wife is one of the leaders of the ecoterrorists. The pacifists then do a complete 180 on their no-kill opinion. Ghidorah’s alien DNA makes for a perfect excuse to kill him. Local life is precious but visitors can be killed. Never mind the fact that both beasts are killing civilization in their epic battles.

Amazingly, this is where the plot becomes (more) stupid.

Beast Battles

If you’ve ever seen the Jurassic Park or World movies, then you know the US government organization discussed the idea of keeping the dinosaurs alive or just killing them. These beasts were not that large and contained for the most part on an island. Letting them live was a pretty easy decision until a volcano killed the island.

Monster posterYet Godzilla, Rodan, and the rest are huge. It is hard to get a scale, but let’s say they are the size of at least a 10- to 15-story building. They aren’t looking where they walk any more than we check for ants before we put our feet down. They swim, fly, and land where ever they want, without thought to the destruction they cause. Therefore, the idea of keeping them alive because “all living things deserve a change,” is idiotic. The one factor made clear by the movie’s scientists was we would be at best pets, at worst aperitifs. And humans are pretty selfish. I don’t see us giving up our world dominance (and best buildings) to worship animals. I wanted to throw things or scream “what the hell!” when the characters began calling them gods. This was not out of a sense of religious righteousness. Humanity had gone beyond worshiping large, leathery beasts with animal brains.

Human Stupidity

The second terrible plot situation occurred when the ecoterrorists decide we should activate all the monsters and wipe humanity off the globe. (Spoiler Alert!) Emma Russell, the mom, turns out to be one of the leaders of the ecoterrorists and it is her tech waking all the monsters up. The husband, Mark Russell, wants Godzilla dead but joins the “Peace, Love, Monsters” group in order to rescue his wife and daughter. When he realizes Emma is the main terrorist, he is overwhelmed by her betrayal.

The film highlights Mom’s dumb reasoning. She wants to let the creatures kill all of humanity because they killed her son. What? Wouldn’t you want to put down that beast instead? Nope. Mom states that we’ve woken up the monsters with our abuse of the world so we deserve to die as she watches a Mexican village get destroyed by Rodan’s awakening. The movie did not convince me that Emma’s twisted motivation, based on her dead son, was strong enough to want total human annihilation. She also believes the radiation the monsters give off will heal the planet by promoting new growth. Obviously, Dr. Emma failed physics, or at least the movie writers did.

Madison, to save people, steals the voice box and uses it to draw Godzilla to Boston. Both parents swoop in to rescue her. Seems pointless if Mommy Monster wants everyone to die anyway. In the end, Emma makes sure Madison and Mark are on a transport getting out of the big fight’s killing zone before she steals the communication device to draw King Ghidorah away from a down-and-dying Godzilla. We are supposed to get weepy at this point because of her sacrifice and the family’s angst at leaving her behind. Instead, all I felt was the bitch deserved to die because she caused more deaths than any war criminal. Ghidorah snacked her up.

These are just a few of the problems with this movie. The animal animation was pretty good, keeping strongly to the tradition of these monster movies. The focus on “humans killing our world” felt like a weak attempt at making a political statement, but it was drowned out by the critter action scenes.

Headlines and graphics during the final credits implied the next film would be Godzilla versus King Kong as a sequel to Kong: Skull Island. I probably won’t see it because I enjoyed the 2017 Kong movie. They will ruin it with a sequel.

In short, Godzilla: King of the Monsters isn’t even worth the half price movie ticket. Although the ending hinted at making more, I hope the producers simply stop. The unrelated 1998 Godzilla with Matthew Broderick was wonderful because it retained a certain lighthearted feel interspersed with the creature scenes. These recent ones take themselves too seriously with plots going beyond not believable and deep into truly terrible.

 

Captain Marvel is good but less than marvelous.

I caught the latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain Marvel, this weekend. It runs along the same quality as most of the origin stories: not terrible but not as great as Thor or Iron-man. What disappointed me most in the flick was that Brie Larson, who played Carol Danvers, failed to live up the feminist film hero. Since this movie was one of very few female superhero-based ideas, the story should have equated her with Wonder Woman in terms of icon status. It did not.Cap Marvel

The movie starts on a distant planet where the Kree rule. Carol Danvers, simply known as Vers at this time, wakes from an Earth-related dream and deals with it by training with her Kree mentor (Jude Law). He teaches her to fight and control (i.e. suppress) her abilities. Her power comes from energy jets that blast from her fists, but she is also mastering martial arts so she can fight without using her special ability. As the movie progresses, we learn that Vers, who considers herself an amnesiac Kree, is really an Earthling survivor of an incredible energy explosion. Hence the origin of her power.

The Plot

The story was engaging. We saw the amnesiac go through the emotional discovery of her past as the real Carol Danvers emerges. Several wicked plot twists have her questioning everything she knew. In the end, she learns her closest companions have lied to her for six years. She alone must learn the truth of who is the enemy and the victims. One of the best feminist scenes in the film was when her male enemy is yelling “come on! Let’s fight! No powers!” (not a direct quote). She pops a power blast into him that sends him spiraling across a field and into a rock. When she stands over him, she states, “I don’t have to prove anything to you.” Something most women should say to men who challenge their worth.

Part of the disconnect for me was in the setting. I thought I was going to see an Earth-hero movie. When the movie started and stayed for a while in the Guardians of the Galaxy setting, I then had expected some of the lighthearted banter that Guardians had perfected. Not in this film. The audience saw familiar faces and strong enough references to know this was set before the first Guardians film. Even though the director added some of the same pop-music feel, it didn’t come off successfully. This movie was simply a dark view of the galaxy.

The Characters

In addition, Brie Larson never took Vers’ or Captain Marvel’s emotions out of grim fuming mode. We saw fuming-but-unsure and fuming-but-confident but very little else. For example, when she was at the crisis point of the plot, fighting for her life, we saw no strain or focused emotional depth to show us that she was maturing from doubtful soldier to rebel powerhouse. I suspect this is a director’s decision and not the actress’s doing, yet it made the character less likeable. Although her best friend states that Carol Danvers is “funny”, the director never proved it to us. This is unfortunate since the plot had plenty of opportunities for small comic highlights for her.

In addition, she didn’t come off as heroesque and certainly not as a “defender of the Earth.” What I mean is that Larson doesn’t have the physical look that audiences (or at least that I) have come to associate with comic book movies. After all, Captain America, Wolverine (yes, I know he isn’t part of the MCU), Thor, Iron-Man in his suit, Superman, and even Wonder Woman all come off as visually larger than life. Even Black Widow, though average size, carries an aura of more-than-everyday-hero attitude. These heroic proportions are at the very heart of comic book art. True, Spider-Man and the Flash aren’t necessarily tall and brawny, but their characters and powers  dictate they be young and wiry, rather than beefy. Larson is shorter than many people in the movie and even in costume doesn’t look all that heroic without her glow.

Other Origin Stories

Captain Marvel is also a thin origin tale for Nick Fury, played by Samuel Jackson with a computer-enhanced young-looking face. We learn about his early days in S.H.I.E.L.D. and where the idea of the Avengers Initiative comes from. Jackson’s ability to deliver great lines and infuse humor is one of the best aspects of this movie. The one problem with young Nick Fury is that, although he looks in his early thirties, the body’s use in action scenes still screams a 71-year-old man. I love Sammy, but his ability to move swiftly and deal with fighting looked off.

Ladies, check it out.

Despite the negative review, I suggest fans of the Avenger comic movies go see Captain Marvel for completeness. She will figure prominently in Avengers: Endgame as indicated by the sneak preview at the end of the Captain Marvel movie. In fact, that is the only reason I think this movie was made. The resolution of the Thanos problem should not look like a cheap magician’s hat trick. Plus, I want ladies to see it to encourage more use of women in top hero roles. The days of the damsel in distress are over. They flocked to Wonder Woman for that reason. Captain Marvel, even flawed, should inspire the same rallying cry.

One final note. The producers or director had fun putting in light references to other great movies. Just for fun, see how many other films and comic books shout-outs you can catch. The producers created a wonderful homage to Stan Lee in the opening credits, and they dropped in some other nods to great movies as well. Here are some hints: References to previous versions of the captain, Men in Black, Independence Day, and Top Gun.