At the top of the food chain with “Godzilla: King of the Monsters”
Updated: Jun 21, 2021
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
Godzilla and Ghidorah fight to the death in "Godzilla: King of the Monsters." “Something that was really important to me in bringing these characters to life was to stay true to the original Toho films.” — Michael Dougherty, director/co-writer
“GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2019; PG-13 for sequences of monster action violence and destruction, and for some profanity; streaming via Amazon Video/Prime, FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), Apple (4K), Movies Anywhere (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: Commentary by Director/Co-writer Michael Dougherty, Co-writer/Producer Zach Shields and Actor O’Shea Jackson Jr.
HAIL, hail – the gang’s all here! The kaiju, that is: Mothra, Rodan, Ghidorah and city-stompin’ favorite, Godzilla, first called Gojira, who burst onto the screen in 1954 in a film by Ishirō Honda.
“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” is part sequel to the 2014 “Godzilla” starring Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe, who reprises his role as Dr. Ishirō Serizawa, and “Kong: Skull Island” (2017) with Tom Hiddleston and Samuel L. Jackson. It’s a prequel to “Godzilla vs. Kong” due in 2020.
“I really wanted to make a Godzilla film that lives up to the legacy that inspired it.” — Michael Dougherty, director/co-writer
As the franchise plot goes, Godzilla showed up five years earlier. Since then, the clandestine Monarch organization has found more “Titan” creatures. Paleobiologist Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga, “The Conjuring” franchise), has invented the Orca, a broadcasting device that uses biofrequencies to communicate with the beasts. With her teen daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown, “Stranger Things”) she watches the Mothra larva hatch from a gigantic egg. Mother and daughter are then kidnapped by Alan Jonah (Charles Dance) leader of an eco-terrorist group. Mothra vanishes, disappearing under a waterfall, to begin the next phase of her transformation.
(1) Paleobiologist Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) escapes Godzilla's first rampage with her daughter, Madison. (2 & 3) Five years later at a secret Monarch lab, Emma and Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) watch Mothra hatch from an egg. (4) Alan Jonah (Charles Dance) leader of an ecoterrorist group, kidnaps Emma and Madison.
Monarch’s Dr. Serizawa contacts Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler), a former employee and Emma’s ex-husband about the kidnapping. Russell left Monarch after the previous Godzilla/nuclear disaster, in which his young son died. He wants all the Titan creatures destroyed, unlike his wife who feels humans and Titans can learn to live together. In an effort to save Madison and Emma, Mark reluctantly agrees to help.
Meanwhile, Emma seems less concerned about her abduction. She awakens Ghidorah from his icy Antarctic prison under Jonah's orders. Soon after, Rodan bursts free from a volcano in Mexico. Other monsters follow, rampaging across the planet. Alpha predator Godzilla takes on Ghidorah. Mothra becomes her beautifully winged self and his ally.
”Ghidorah is Godzilla’s nemesis. He is the Joker to Godzilla’s Batman.” — Michael Dougherty, director/co-writer
Like Mark, the U.S. military wants to kill all the creatures, but their plans aren’t working out. Monarch scientists discover that, according to legend, the monsters appear when the planet is so damaged, they must restore the balance. So, it’s an extinction-level reset? Hmm … Emma begins to have second thoughts about awakening these new Titans, but how to stop them?
There are a lot of good actors in “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” but the characters are mostly stereotypes. Points go to Dougherty and Shields for blending exposition and plot with creatures and battles. Viewers are here for the monsters, and writer/director Michael Dougherty of “Trick ‘r Treat” and “Krampus” delivers, with co-writer Zach Shields.
(1) A Monarch MV-22 Osprey arrives to pick up former employee Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) to help search for them. He is Emma's ex-husband and Madison's father. (2) Mark bickers with Sam Coleman (Thomas Middleditch), head of Monarch Sciences. (3) Ken Watanabe returns as scientist Dr. Ishirō Serizawa, He first appeared in "Godzilla," 2014. (4 & 5) Mark attempts to kill Mothra, but she escapes.
“What is not to love about a nuclear, atomic-breathing, megawatt monster?” — Vera Farmiga, Paleobiologist Dr. Emma Russell
Warner Brothers delivers an excellent picture in 2160p and 1080p (2.39:1 aspect ratio). Digitally shot on Arri Alexa cameras with Panavision Primo, Nikon Nikkor and Arri Alexa Mini lenses, this is one of the most well-lit “Godzilla” films to date. That said, the creatures still mostly fight in dark backgrounds. It helps preserve the illusion. Mastered in 2K because of expensive CGI effects, the film was upgraded to 4K, with strong HDR (HDR10+, Dolby Vision) toning. The excellent range of color tones provides stronger, more revealing contrast, especially in darker scenes.
The Blu-ray looks very good, but the UltraHD disc clearly shows the most detail, contrast and nuanced color levels. Extras explain some of the amazing detail that went into re-creating the monsters in their latest incarnation. Dougherty’s Godzilla design uses the same back-spikes seen in the original 1954 film. “He is way bigger … He’s all muscle,” says O’Shea Jackson Jr., who plays Chief Warrant Officer Barnes.
“We looked at … references of crocodile and lizard and all sorts of predators. And then we looked at people … if Godzilla faces off another monster, you want this moment to feel like it’s a gunslinger moment. There’s a look, there’s an attitude. He’s a bit of a brawler, right?” — Guillaume Rocheron, VFX Supervisor
Mothra is more than a moth, says Visual Development Supervisor Matt Allsopp. She uses traits from several different insects like the praying mantis. She has longer legs, claws and a stinger, which we see in UltraHD. The FX crew used bioluminescence to help make her wings look "majestic and angelic." Her shifting colors communicate her emotions.
“Mothra is probably the second most recognizable character from the Toho Monsterverse. She’s the only female monster, and she has always been a force of good.” — Michael Dougherty, director/co-writer
(1 & 2) Three-headed dragon Ghidorah escapes from his icy prison in Antarctica. (3) Dr. Ilene Chen (Zhang Ziyi) makes connections between mythology and the living monsters. (4) The battle-hardened leader of Monarch's G-Team, Colonel Diane Foster (Aisha Hinds) with Dr. Chen and Mark Russell.
Zach Shield, co-writer/executive producer, says, “There’s something very prehistoric about [Rodan]. He’s the one, to me, that most feels like a dinosaur.” Seen during daylight, his color palette is burgundy/red. He adapted to living inside a volcano by growing an outer shell of lava spewing volcanic rock. Vultures, eagles and hawks inspired the body; owls, penguins and a vulture named Steve formed the vocals. “My favorite addition [is] my mom, who has a group of cranes that visit her in Florida … So she is constantly sending me video clips,” Dougherty says. The cranes “clicks” were also added to Rodan’s cries.
Based on the hydra of Greek mythology, Ghidorah’s facial and body features are born from sleek Japanese dragons. Each of the three heads is different, with its own personality. Each one has a different roar. Three different men play Ghidorah as a team in motion capture. Hissing rattlesnakes were used to create his sound-base.
Both the Ultra 4K and Blu-ray discs have Dolby Atmos and default Dolby TrueHD 7.1 channel soundtracks. The best news is the fine balance; dialogue comes through clearly, even as effects – lightning bolts, heavy rain, roars and screams, cracking ice, explosions and gunfire – thunder throughout the room. Even so, it doesn’t overwhelm speakers or viewers, with unnecessary sonic booms. Thank you, Warner Brothers!
As noted above, sound engineers used a variety of creatures to create the monsters’ different voices. For example, Mothra has a unique soundscape, a mix of different insects that sounds more like whale song and raptors than snarling lizards and gators. Her vocalizations change as she transforms from egg to larvae to caterpillar to a moth-like Titan. “We listened to … crickets that were slowed down exponentially, to the point where, when you hear them, it almost sounded like an angelic chorus,” Dougherty says. “She uses sound as a method of communication even more than the other creatures do.”
Original music was composed by Bear McCreary, who penned themes for “The Walking Dead” and “Black Sails.”
(1 & 2) Rodan pursues military targets after his escape from the Isla de Mara volcano. (3) Emma and Jonah watch the Titan's destruction. (4) Mothra emerges from her cocoon. The film's creatures were made by blending motion-capture performance and CGI.
There are over 108 minutes of extras on Warner Brothers’ presentation; 240 if you count in the feature-length commentary. That’s a lot, and plenty of fun as director, filmmakers, cast and crew supply interviews, anecdotes, and tech detail. Both fans and newcomers should enjoy them.
Find trailers, deleted and extended scenes, and a “Welcome to the Monsterverse,” an introduction showing how “Godzilla,” 2014, and “Kong: Skull Island” segues into “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.”
“Monsters 101” is a brief, multi-part featurette on the film’s lead Titans. “Evolution of the Titans” is a longer multi-part feature with an emphasis on the detail that went into the Toho monster reboot, while the five-part “Monarch in Action” takes a look at concept art, storyboards, pre-visualation clips, behind-scenes info, cast and crew comments, and the five location spots: Godzilla’s undersea sanctuary, the Isla de Mara volcano, the Yunnan Temple, Castle Bravo and the Antarctic Base.
“Millie Bobby Brown: Force of Nature” is an interview with the film’s young British star. “Monster Tech: Monarch Joins the Fight” highlights the movie’s military tech. There are incredible aircraft, land and underwater bases, subs, and weapons. “It only made sense that when facing the potential threat of giant monsters, humans would do what they do best, which is build bigger weapons, and bigger vehicles to confront that threat,” Dougherty says. “Monsters Are Real” explores Monarch’s mission, adding scholarly input on the impact of creature legends..
“There’s no point in a sequel unless you go deeper, harder, stronger, bigger.” — Vera Farmiga, Paleobiologist Dr. Emma Russell
Godzilla geeks Michael Dougherty and Zach Shields do exactly what they planned: Bring a Toho inspired update of the world of monsters to the big screen. Great job, guys!
— Kay Reynolds
(1) Destruction is world wide as more and more Titans emerge. (2 & 3) Mark Russell watches as Ghidorah takes to the sky. (4) Emma Russell is overwhelmed. Will all human-kind now be exterminated?
(1) Now fully formed, Mothra, Queen of Monsters, arrives to help Godzilla. “Mothra has always represented Mother Nature … the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.” — Michael Dougherty, director/co-writer (2) Mark, Emma and Madison watch the three Titans battle for dominance. (3) Ghidorah, the Living Extinction Machine, is the largest superspecies ever discovered. (4) King Godzilla roars in triumph.