Godzilla: King of the Monsters Review
Celebrating his 65th anniversary of terrorising Tokyo, Godzilla has now appeared in over 30 movies. Godzilla: King of the Monsters is the direct sequel to Gareth Edwards’ 2014 American reboot of the long running monster franchise. One of the main criticisms of Edwards’ movie was that we didn’t get to see the monsters enough. This is definitely not something you can accuse the sequel's director Michael Dougherty of.
Millie Bobby Brown of Stranger Things fame makes her big screen debut as Madison Russell. Her parents played by Kyle Chandler and Vera Farmiga are estranged, caused mostly by the death of their son during Godzillas’s rampage at the end of the 2014 film. This makes for an interesting dynamic and Farmiga’s story arc in particular as Dr. Emma Russell is definitely not one you would necessarily expect, especially in a summer blockbuster. Alongside her is a strong supporting cast including Bradley Whitford, Ziyi Zhang and the return of Sally Hawkins and Ken Watanabe from the previous movie. Charles Dance also puts in one of his usual solid performances as the lead 'villain'.
The human cast is less important in this type of film than the giant monsters. They’re what we’ve really come to see and Godzilla: King of the Monsters certainly delivers. Dougherty seems to have taken the previous films criticism to heart and gives plenty of monster action introducing several of Godzilla’s foes and allies from past films. King Ghidorah, Rodan and Mothra all get their moments in the spotlight. The action scenes are huge with masses of destruction, explosions and Monarch doing its best to save humanity from the rampaging Titans. There are also some great nods to the original 1954 movie with the oxygen destroyer weapon being the main one. The incorporation of Godzilla’s main theme into the score is also a really nice touch.
Not content with furthering Edwards' first film, this also serves as a sequel of sorts to Kong: Skull Island and elaborates on the shadowy monster hunting organisation Monarch which was central to that film's plot. Arguably, Kong: Skull Island is the more enjoyable film with its mix of video game and comic book imagery, and far more fun film than Godzilla: King of the Monsters which does tend to take itself a bit too seriously. However, at the end of the day we get to see a giant lizard fight a giant monkey and that’s alright with me.
Warner Home Video present Godzilla: King of the Monsters on Blu-ray in a 1080p 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The picture quality is exactly what you’d expect from a recent big budget Hollywood blockbuster.
On the commentary track Dougherty mentions the specific colour palettes used that reflect the monsters and their habitats. These tones shift as the film plays, the blues of Ghidorah giving way to the fiery reds of Rodan. Colours are always bright and clear with good deep contrast. The bioluminescent light given off by Mothra pops off the screen as does the radioactive fire that swells in Godzilla to be unleashed across the screen.
As well as the expected Dolby Digital 5.1 mix we are also treated to a full Dolby Atmos soundtrack and it is huge. The Dolby Digital is excellent and very immersive but it is the object based mix that will give all the speakers in your home theatre system a workout. Rears are active pretty much throughout the whole running time as the soundscape pans and envelopes you entirely. The subwoofer takes a pounding every time a Titan takes a thunderous step or something explodes, which tends to happen a lot in these type of movies. Suffice to say the bass is pleasingly room shaking. The height speakers really open up the soundfield. In the scene where King Ghidorah is released from his frozen prison the ice creaks and groans above you. When Godzilla confronts his nemesis for the first time his iconic roar fills the room as Akira Ifukube’s memorable theme swells in the background. Make no mistake, this is demo material. Other studios should take note, only a handful of blu-rays come with a Dolby Atmos track. I’m not sure if it’s a marketing ploy to entice people to buy 4K discs but there’s no real reason to leave them off.
Also included is an English descriptive audio track, a DTS-HD Italian track, plus Spanish, Czech, Hungarian and Polish 5.1 mixes.
Subtitle options are English, Italian, Spanish, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Hugarian, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian and Swedish.
I’m not sure why you’d watch the extras for a film you haven’t seen but be aware they are strewn with spoilers for just about every plot point and character death. You have been warned:
Monsters 101 - (Play all option)
Godzilla: Nature’s Fearsome Guardian 00:59
Mothra: Queen of the Monsters 02:01
Ghidorah: The Living Extinction Machine 01:30
Rodan: Airborne God of Fire 01:13
The filmmakers and cast talk a little about the various monsters that appear interspersed with movie footage. The whole lot is five and a half minutes in total. Hardly in-depth, this is just standard EPK filler and mostly pointless. Basically these pieces are trailers for the next extra.
Evolution of the Titans (Play all option)
Godzilla 2.0 08:38
Making Mothra 07:00
Creating Ghidorah 06:23
Reimagining Rodan 05:21
Director Michael Dougherty goes into much more detail about the monsters and their histories on screen. He talks about his redesign of Godzilla, making him taller, giving him his original back spikes and larger clawed feet. There is a nice look at the visual effects work including the motion capture filming of the monsters with side by side comparisons. It’s fun to see the trio of actors interacting together as they perform the three heads of Ghidorah. The symbiotic relationship between Godzila and Mothra is touched upon including a look at the history between them. The sound design of the Titans is also discussed, especially the incorporation of insect noises into Mother’s vocals. Interestingly, Rodan's vocalisations include a vulture called Steve. These segments are not massively in-depth but put together they provide a nice look at the films design processes.
Monarch in Action (Play all option)
The Yunnan Temple 06:58
Castle Bravo 06:18
The Antarctic Base 06:24
The Isla de Mara Volcano 05:55
The Undersea Lair 07:18
These are ostensibly looks at the different environments that were created for the movie. That do however touch upon the monsters that inhabit them without duplicating too much material from the other extras.
Millie Bobby Brown: Force of Nature 04:07
Presumably to cash in on her currently fame this is a lightweight piece highlighting Millie Bobby Brown’s performance in the film. It’s interesting to note that they used her likeness in the pre-visualisation and then just decided to see if they could get her for the role. For a 13- year-old she certainly acts far older than her years.
Monster Tech: Monarch Joins the Fight 08:34
A look at the all the different ships and equipment that Monarch has at its disposal including the Argo, its giant aircraft and the underwater base where we first encounter Godzilla. The technology is kept sort of realistic but with a slightly futuristic vibe as if it could possibly exist in a few years time.
Monsters Are Real 14:18
The filmmakers and mythology experts discuss the ideas of real life monsters and their historical origins. This is an interesting piece that delves a bit deeper into the significance of monsters and how they are used in different cultures.
Welcome to the Monsterverse 03:42
This extra looks at how Kong: Skull Island sets up Monarch and is purely included to whet your appetite for Godzilla Vs. Kong. Mostly made of of footage from Kong: Skull Island this is a pretty forgettable fluff piece.
Deleted scenes 05:01
A couple of short scenes are presented with a 2.0 stereo mix. Not really adding much to the movie the first scene is an extended flashback scene with Kyle Chandler relating to the death of his son. This is followed by a short scene showing Madison as she does a spot of boxing practice. She then has a brief argument with her mother. Again the scene doesn’t really add anything of importance. It's a shame as on the commentary track they talk frequently about scenes that were deleted and in particular they keep mentioning quite extensive reshoots that made substantial alterations to the structure of the film. It’s a missed opportunity not to include some of this material.
Theatrical Trailers (Play all option)
Over the Rainbow 02:16
Wonder Rumble 05:01
All 4 trailers are presented in a 2.0 stereo mix. There is no reason why playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow should work against a backdrop of huge fighting monsters but it absolutely does.
Michael Doughery - director and co-writer, Zach Shields - co-writer and executive producer and O’Shea Jackson Jr. - plays Chief Warrant Officer Barnes
I’m not sure why O’Shea Jackson Jr. turns up on the commentary track. His was hardly a large pivotal role in the film, perhaps he just happened to be available on the day of recording. Whatever the reason the track is actually very informative and the three participants are relaxed and friendly. A lot of information is dished out especially about how the structure of the film changed as production went on. The filmmakers also point out all the little Easter eggs that crop up which is always a nice touch. As commentary tracks go this one is well worth a listen.
All in all the extras are a mixed bag with a focus on the design and production side which is probably to be expected with a movie like Godzilla: King of the Monsters. There is some repetition of information and a few pieces feel very lightweight but the commentary track is excellent and an easy and informative listen.