Godzilla: King of the Monsters was one of the big winners of San Diego Comic-Con 2018, but the film itself may be even smarter and more complex than the revealed footage suggested. Director Michael Dougherty's 2019 sequel promises a massive escalation to the world introduced by Godzilla 2014, including three more main event monsters joining the fray: Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidorah. However, despite the world-smashing imagery of the trailer, there's a lot more going on in Godzilla 2 than merely letting the monsters fight with a handwaved connection to real-world global issues.
Godzilla movies have usually been parables; for instance, the original 1954 appearance of the atomic fire-breathing lizard was a metaphor for Japan's post-World War II fears of nuclear weapons in the years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The 2014 Godzilla laid the foundation for Warner Bros. MonsterVerse by introducing Godzilla as a protector of the planet who rises to put down other M.U.T.O.'s - massive unidentified terrestrial organisms - that emerge from their slumber beneath the Earth. The M.U.T.O.'s attack on a Japanese nuclear plant echoed classic Godzilla, but the reboot went much further to build the MonsterVerse.
A key element to the new mythos is Monarch, an international agency formed after World War II with the mission to track and catalog the M.U.T.O.s. Represented in present day by Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Dr. Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins), Monarch also introduced the "Hollow Earth Theory" that the creatures have been residing in massive caverns beneath the surface for millennia. The Hollow Earth Theory was the reason that there were monsters invading Kong's South Pacific island home in Kong: Skull Island. Set in 1973, Skull Island detailed Monarch's first encounter with the giant ape, and saw two of its main characters recruited into Monarch by the end - one of whom, James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), may have survived to the present of Godzilla 2 and could now be played by Charles Dance.
"Let them fight!" was the memorable tagline of Godzilla 2014, and with even more monsters in the mix, King of the Monsters looks like it's simply taking the spectacle of creature super brawls to the next level. And while that will certainly be the case, the trailer for King of the Monsters hints at much deeper themes and a more intricate story than fans may expect.
- This Page: Godzilla: King of the Monsters' Real Story Wasn't In The Trailer
- Page 2: Godzilla 2 Is A Remake Of Ghidorah: The Three-Headed Monster
Godzilla: King of the Monsters' Real Story Wasn't In The Trailer
The trailer for Godzilla 2 introduced new characters to the mythos, and one of the key players is Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga), a paleobotanist who provides voiceover narration establishing the new premise. Godzilla 2014 showed cities as we recognize them like Honolulu and San Francisco suddenly invaded by giant monsters. King of the Monsters shows that since then, the world has changed for the worse. It seems that "the mass extinction" humanity has always feared has begun and the only way to right the natural order is to unleash the Earth's "original and rightful rulers, the Titans", which is a new name for the monsters, replacing the original classification, M.U.T.O. The twist is that humans are the infection that caused our own doom, and the Titans are "the fever to fight the infection." This is already heady stuff, but the film's real story will not be quite so simple.
Dr. Russell delivers a monologue that sounds suspiciously like a manifesto in the trailer, which is seen by members of Monarch, including her ex-husband Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) and their daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown). However, per set reports, Emma is actually doing so under duress as she's been kidnapped by a mysterious organization whose credo blames humanity for the state of the world and believes unleashing the Titans is the only way to set the natural order of the planet to rights. Emma is valuable because she has developed a means to communicate and potentially control the creatures "using their bioacoustics on a sonar level." So there's a second organization trying to set the Titans loose, but it's Monarch that knows each Titan's secret location, as seen in the movie's viral website, Monarch Sciences.
How This Hidden Story Changes Godzilla 2
With so many moving pieces and thematic elements, Godzilla: King of the Monsters isn't just about Godzilla rising from the ocean again to take on a few classic enemies from past Toho films. Warner Bros. found success with that basic premise in 2014, and they could have possibly gotten away with retreading it and providing even more monster-on-monster action that fans crave - especially with favorites like Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah in the mix - but to their credit, the creative minds behind the MonsterVerse seem to have bigger ideas in the works.
Although the bulk of the first film followed the exploits of a soldier played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, most of the humans in Godzilla 2014 were largely relegated to standing on the sidelines as the M.U.T.O.s smashed each other. King of the Monsters creates a counterpart to Monarch in the mysterious cabal that kidnaps Dr. Russell and plots to let all of the Titans loose. What shape the planet will be in after the Titans are finished clashing - and how it sets up the next film, Godzilla Vs. Kong in 2020 - is anyone's guess, but from the global destruction teased in the trailer, it's safe to say the world will never be the same.
Overall, the stakes for Godzilla 2 and the MonsterVerse as a whole are now greater than ever, but there's a real-world parable involved regarding the threat of climate change to our own planet and species. (Farmiga referred to Godzilla 2 as "a film about saving the environment.") And in the real world, for better or for worse, there are no Titans who can go to war and somehow repair the natural order of the environment, so it seems like fans will go to their local theater to be entertained by rock-em-sock-em monster action and may emerge with some thoughtful ideas about the very real dangers facing us now.
- Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) release date: May 31, 2019
- Godzilla vs. Kong (2020) release date: Mar 13, 2020