A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Godzilla: King of the Monsters is the sequel to 2014's Godzilla; it features the same giant lizard, as well as a host of other massive monsters. Expect destruction on a massive scale: Giant swathes of land and cities full of people are wiped out by monsters who stomp through civilization heedlessly. Scores of people are killed -- crushed, eaten, dropped from great heights, hurled against walls, imprisoned in giant webs, etc. -- but there's no blood or gore, and the deaths are usually pictured from a distance. That lessens the impact, but young/sensitive viewers might still be scared. A couple of deaths are scarier, including ones in which characters sacrifice their own lives to save others. Romance/sex is almost nonexistent, save for a few references to mating monsters, and there's no drinking (one character does have a beer on his desk and refers to inviting a monster over for a beer). Cursing is infrequent, but characters do say "f--k," "s--t, "goddamn," "ass," and "bitch," generally in reference to the monsters. The movie's central theme, in which humans wish to find ways to reverse the damage we've done to our planet, is a positive one, but the method one particular scientist is working toward will only succeed if huge numbers of people die. The supporting cast has extensive diversity, but the main characters are all white, and none of them are given particularly meaty arcs. Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, and Kyle Chandler co-star.
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What's the story?
Five years after the giant lizard ran amuck in San Francisco, GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS begins as more than a dozen more of the monsters that humans call "Titans" are waking up all over the world. The U.S. government is eager to wipe them all out, but secretive monster-hunting organization Monarch believes that the ancient creatures are a crucial element of the earth's natural balance. When a new "alpha" rival to Godzilla, King Ghidorah, rises from the earth, humanity is in danger of being wiped out altogether. The only hope is Orca, the machine invented by scientists Emma and Mark Russell (Vera Farmiga and Kyle Chandler), which can communicate with the monsters. Will Godzilla be humankind's savior -- or its doom?
Is it any good?
Thunderously loud and overly long, this continuation in the Godzilla franchise does have some rousing monster fights, but it's marred by a muddled storyline and blah visuals. Which is a pity, because there are some interesting ideas at work in this particular kaiju outing. While most American Godzilla takes have flattened his story into a "big lizard arises, town goes squish" framework, King of the Monsters pulls in some of the nuance of the Japanese original, in which Godzilla's destructive force represented the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and nature gone terribly wild due to human intervention. As Emma explains in one of King's long, tedious expository scenes, our earth is soon to be uninhabitable -- but maybe, just maybe, the monsters waking up all over the world aren't meant to pound the last nail in our coffin, but instead to bring about the earth's rebirth.
It's a powerful idea for our times of climate change terror, but it doesn't land, because King ultimately is more interested in monster battles than the humans who are running away from them. Kaiju fans may get a few thrills from seeing retakes on old friends like Mothra and Rodan, but none of the monsters is pretty to look at, and they're so similar in design (save for Mothra, who occasionally unveils her shimmering wings to lovely effect) that it can be hard to tell exactly which monster is fighting which. And the human part of the plot makes it difficult to care about why. King is stuffed with absolutely top-notch actors, but they're not given much to do besides react to the battling giants. We're expected to understand that Emma has a master plan with her monster-speak McGuffin and to care about her relationship with Mark and her daughter, Madison (a wasted Millie Bobby Brown), but the emotional beats aren't there. It's just one thudding, confusing, numbing monster battle after another. And that big lug of a lizard deserves better.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how this film differs from the original 1956 Godzilla movie -- or from the versions made in 1998 and 2014. What's most compelling in each of these movies: the story or the nonstop action? Why?
Japanese Godzilla filmmakers used monster suits and miniatures to create their special effects, not CGI or stop-motion. If you've seen the original (or its imitators), which do you prefer: low-tech "practical" effects or something more realistic and high-tech? Which usually works better in movies?
Talk about Godzilla's violence and destruction. How does the impact of the massive-scale devastation seen in this type of a movie compare to more realistic violence? Do you think these kinds of movies can desensitize viewers to violence?
Why do you think Godzilla has been remade so many times? What do you think filmmakers hope to achieve by remaking a classic? How often do you prefer remakes to the original?
- In theaters: May 31, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: August 27, 2019
- Cast: Millie Bobby Brown, Sally Hawkins, Kyle Chandler
- Director: Michael Dougherty
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 132 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sequences of monster action violence and destruction, and for some language
- Last updated: September 26, 2019
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