Review: Godzilla: The King of Monsters (2019)
Updated: Aug 10, 2020
Spectacle without fun.
Hollywood has always enjoyed and entertained its audiences by bringing humanity to the brink of destruction. Lately, most blockbusters have started stressing how it would be best for the planet if everyone on it dies and let nature take its own course.
One of the key moments of this trend for me was Captain America in Avengers; Endgame passing casual comments about how silent and quaint the world sounds after Thanos had done away with the majority of the population. This trend finds another extension in Godzilla: The King of Monsters.
It tries to successfully build a case that we as a species deserve to die and hence let nature take its course in eradicating us. Because this sounds like the main agenda of the film, it is voiced by Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga), who becomes a villain just to lecture a group of scientists who are trying to preserve “the titans” as some of them are “here to protect us”. She unleashes all the monsters through the sonar device she has created from captivity under Monarch, an organization dedicated to keeping them in check. The reasoning she offers is how we humans are actually the infection and the titans are the fever that nature has unleashed to bring a balance.
Remember that this film came out in 2019. In the light of the ongoing pandemic, this sounds uncannily portentous. But the ‘conspiracy theorists’ on youtube will have a lot more to comment on this aspect of the film than I ever can, of course.
What I can comment on, however, is that these new expressions of Hollywood's disdain towards people who pay to sustain them has found a new ground to normalize: the nuclear bomb.
There is no recent film I remember where the idea of a nuclear explosion is treated with such lightness and with almost zero consideration. There is an underwater one where our heroes barely escape in a submarine. They find it completely normal to come out on only moments later. Then Godzilla, which is revived from the nuclear bomb turns radioactive itself and “explodes” several times – all the while Emma Russell, her husband Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler), and their daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) have a rescue-cum-teary reunion nearby. Nuclear bombs are not that bad! See, nothing happened to that cute little girl from Stranger Things.
And by the way, what kind of ignorant fucks would have their only Japanese character Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe, wasted once again) have him sacrifice himself by a nuclear bomb so that Godzilla can revive itself? If you cannot see the twisted cluster-fuck of irony here then you should probably stop reading this.
Gojira holds special resonance for the Japanese due to the nuclear fallout of USA attacking them. The monster found expression in the horror and tragedy that the nation suffered for generations. It offered catharsis, as much as a film can, to a people reeling under such an attack.
For USA, it was Pearl Harbor well avenged.
For Hollywood, it is an opportunity to flex its CGI muscles and wallow in the kind of destruction that they like to indulge in and escalate each summer. Just like the Pentagon likes to test out its newly acquired weapons on some small country, the moguls in Hollywood want to take their new set of cool effects for a ride out by knitting them into the flimsiest of plots.
But what can I say? The effects are cool, indeed. It is a spectacle that we are not supposed to take our eyes off of. In fact, this film can be a visual essay in stopping and watching as each danger approaches. Panicked crowds, scientists, soldiers, families – all stop and look before each new monster is fully revealed and only then start running.
When the monsters are fighting it out, the money shots as someone would call them, the film achieves a kind of abstract cacophonous modern art of sound and fury. It is almost beautiful and I caught myself wondering what will a film like this play as if it were completely devoid of human beings altogether.
There it is. I am convinced, Hollywood.
Available on Amazon Prime Video.