(SPOT.ph) Familiar to many, both fans and non-fans, as a giant monster smashing things, causing mayhem, and killing people, Godzilla and the lore behind it is rather old. Toho, a Japanese production company, released the first film in 1954 following the success of another giant monster movie, King Kong. Beyond the thrill and destruction caused by the titular monster, Godzilla discussed issues plaguing Japan at that time from a socio-political lens. Though culturally different and borne from a more modern time, Legendary Pictures' Godzilla: King of the Monsters, attempts the same, with varying levels of success.
The movie starts out with a flashback that shows the casualties left behind by Godzilla. Serving as a sequel to the first film released in 2014, the movie now explores Godzilla's origins and purpose, along with the new normal carved by those traumatized by the aftermath.
Separated from her father due to her parents' divorce after Godzilla's attack, Madison Russel (Millie Bobby Brown) communicates with her father Mark Russel (Kyle Chandler) via e-mail. Dr. Emma Russel (Vera Farmiga) takes care of her in their home in China, where her research with crypto-zoological agency Monarch is currently located to study a titan waiting to be born.
Having lost a son and refusing to lose more people in the process, Mark has developed a hatred for the monsters, but Emma believes that humans and titans like Godzilla can co-exist peacefully to maintain the natural balance of the planet. With the desire to understand these titans, Emma continues the research she and Mark originally started—the Orca, a device that harnesses the bioacoustic frequencies of the titans in order to communicate and potentially manipulate them. Though Mark has left Monarch behind, his colleagues Dr. Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) and Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) persist with the research.
With more on the line, the government intervenes and moves full force with eradicating the titans before they cause any further destruction. Those on the opposite side, like eco-terrorist Colonel Allan Jonah (Charles Dance), argue otherwise; Humans are the infection the planet needs to get rid of and the titans are merely serving their purpose of leveling the playing field after all the environmental abuse humans have caused. In his effort to restore natural order no matter the cost, he kidnaps Emma and Madison to harness the Orca's use for reawakening the other titans to cause destruction on humans.
Visually, the effects are unrivaled and for a moment, viewers fear for their lives as titans serve their wrath in forms of fire and mass destruction. Gone are the days of bad effects and graphics that one's willing suspension of disbelief has to grapple with. It serves as a visual feast for the eyes—with so many things happening all at once, all too real, and all too scary, there's no denying the film pulled out all the stops to make sure you're in for a wild ride.
But a film is more than how it looks and for something as mythical as Godzilla, it's only fair to do the entire franchise justice, which Godzilla; King of the Monsters, attempts to do in a way viewers would be able to relate to. Director Michael Dougherty, a longtime fan of the monster himself, understands the depth of Godzilla's influence to not only the characters in the film, but to the people in the real world.
"Godzilla movies are big, they’re fun, but underneath all the monster mayhem and apocalyptic destruction, these movies are allegories. That’s how the Japanese initially invented and portrayed the character, and I think it’s one of the reasons Godzilla has endured for as long as he has," Dougherty said in a press release.
"They are filled with metaphor," he added. "And though the themes have changed over the years, they all leave you with the same warning: that if you push too hard against nature, nature’s going to push back."
And it shows—these monsters are fascinating and raw in all their battle-scene glory. Despite this understanding though, some of the film's storytelling falls flat at some parts. It doesn't run short of illustrating the wrath of nature actual humans face on the daily, but it seems like the gravity of all of this is not completely felt. It is all very grand and majestic, with monsters bigger than life coming to get you, much like the grave environmental problems we face, but there is a struggle to form connections and sympathies with some events or characters.
The cast does an effective job of conveying the myriad of emotions their characters go through, with Millie Bobby Brown showing her acting prowess alongside seasoned actors and actresses. What is unfortunate though, is given the skill of the cast, the characters they played felt detached and almost not present.
Godzilla, the film and the trailer made clear, is not entirely good and not entirely bad. He is an anti-hero of sorts, aligning with the purpose of reminding humans to suit up and look at the mirror to address the problems they themselves have caused. There's really no telling where the monster lies on the spectrum of morality and that's where the viewer comes in.
You'll just have to decide yourself.
RATING: 3 out of 5 Spots
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is out in theatres now.
Photos courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures.