Of the three MonsterVerse movies released so far, which is the best? Godzilla: King of the Monsters is the latest installment in Warner Bros. and Legendary's kaiju franchise, and takes the series to new levels of action and scale. Three of Godzilla's greatest Toho brethren, Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah, make their Western debuts in the gloriously monstrous free-for-all.
King of the Monsters is the third installment in the MonsterVerse franchise so far, acting as a direct follow-up to 2014's Godzilla with hints towards 2017's Kong: Skull Island, thus paving the way for towards next year's Godzilla Vs. Kong. Each movie has brought a different energy to the MonsterVerse, with Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Kong: Skull Island focusing more on monster action while Godzilla was a lot more pathological and moody.
With Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the MonsterVerse finally has its true King, but that title may come into contention in Godzilla vs. Kong in 2020, when Kong, the king of the primates, battles Godzilla for global supremacy. But, looking back on the movies that have built-up the MonsterVerse so far, which one is the best?
3. Kong: Skull Island
The first King Kong film since Peter Jackson's King Kong, which released in 2005, avoids re-treading the classic story in favor of a re-vamped origin that fits the mighty ape within a wider world. This contemporary interpretation has King Kong as the orphaned protector of the mysterious Skull Island, whose ecosystem is unique and filled with horrors. When a group of researchers and their military escorts arrive to try and map out the just-discovered isle, they find themselves in the middle of a turf-war between an adolescent Kong and Skullcrawlers, who are coming out from a Hollow Earth entry point.
Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, Kong: Skull Island is charming and energetic, and it has arguably the strongest MonsterVerse cast to date - Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly, and Samuel L. Jackson among them - but it doesn't have the psychology of Godzilla or the bombast of King of the Monsters. The Vietnam War parallels are well-tuned and the terror is palpable at times, but the revamped origin fails to truly live up to the original tale, and that's where this installment differs from the two Godzilla movies. And so, Kong: Skull Island is firmly in third place of the current MonsterVerse trilogy.
The 2014 Godzilla is a controversial film. Some adored the tension in the fleeting sightings of Godzilla as we felt out a world that's learning humans are far from the top of the actual food chain; others found it a tad boring and deflated. Such a split is often a sign the filmmakers took a genuine swing at doing something interesting, as is the case here.
In this modern, American version of Godzilla, director Gareth Edwards and writer Max Borenstein pay homage to the 1954 Gojira, treating the titular behemoth with equal parts reverence and horror. They take a humanistic slant, favoring the story on the ground versus trying to fill a quota on creature action. The result is something that has a mystifying edge with its glimpses at these new gods made flesh, and that tries to comment on how we view major catastrophes, both natural and man-made. Whether they succeeded depends on who's being asked, but the sheer effort alone is enough to make Godzilla the second best MonsterVerse film.
1. Godzilla: King of the Monsters
The latest chapter of the MonsterVerse, directed by Michael Dougherty, merges the two schools laid out in Godzilla and Kong: Skull Island. There's a relatively large set of characters whose drama and motivation is given appropriate time, and there's about as much Titan action as one cares to look at.
King of the Monsters has the unenviable task of introducing several characters - both human and Titan - and making all of them fit within the established universe. That's in addition to setting up Godzilla Vs. Kong and whatever other plans might be in the pipeline for this franchise. It accomplishes all of these things remarkably well. The central duality of a grieving family torn apart by the arrival of Godzilla and no less than four Titans coming together - with several others besides - for a tag-team battle is handled more than efficiently.
The climactic showdown, lengthy and dramatic as it is, is enhanced by the very real and emotionally-charged story of parents trying to do right by their children at the center. There are allusions to climate change and necessity for action, as well as religion and what really drives our best and worst intentions. And to top it all off, we have a soundtrack that weaves in classic Toho themes so fans who know the history can feel it coming off the screen.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is an unruly film that really pushes on what might be too much. Thankfully, it isn't; it's actually just the right amount, making it the best MonsterVerse movie so far.
- Godzilla vs. Kong (2020) release date: Mar 13, 2020