Saturday, June 8, 2019

Godzilla King of Monsters (2019) directed by Michael Dougherty

I went into this movie with zero expectations. I had not read anything about it; I hadn’t even looked at it’s Rotten Tomato score (which is suspiciously low, having checked it afterwards). I’m very unfamiliar with the previous movies. I’m sure that I watched the immediately previous, only because the couple of flashback scenes in this reminded me of it. I’ve seen, in my childhood, a couple of the older movies, but I’m not sure whether or not I’ve ever actually seen the original. I wonder if wrestling with how it fit the older movies might have caused the critics to receive this poorly. Yes, the dialog is cringe-worthy at moments. Yes, it could have benefited from going for an R rating rather than PG-13. Yes, trying to do this material as science fiction rather than fantasy is more than a little funny. Yes the motivations of Vera Farmiga’s Dr. Emma Russell seem suspect. But if you’re watching a giant monster movie for the dialog and airtight motivations you’re doing it wrong.

Having little baggage from the previous movies, I experienced it as a largely successful attempt to make an occult-free materialist version of Lovecraft’s Old Gods stories. Instead of arcane rituals we have meddling scientists. It doesn’t work as science fiction exactly, but as a metaphor for science giving us something we can’t control (IE nuclear weaponry), it works very nicely. If you pretend the science is magic, it works even better. I’ve been thinking a lot about the Weird as a category lately, which I think primed me for this. Having just wrapped up a reading of a Caitlin Kiernan short story collection helped as well.* The images of the monsters on the big screen (I’m glad I caught it in the theater!) were awe inspiring. I’ve come to terms with the fact that movies like this are largely cartoons, and the CGI is not as distracting as it might have once been.

With more thought, I’m likely to put Us by Jordan Peele or Deadwood the Movie ahead of it on the best of the year list from among the admittedly few 2019 releases I've seen so far, but I can’t say I’ve had a more enjoyable moviegoing experience this year.

Highly Recommended.

*For an R-rated mix of Lovecraftian horror and science fiction, I’d highly recommend Kiernan’s award winning short story Galapagos, her novella Agents of Dreamland, and the novel length sequel to Agents, Black Helicopters.

Edit: After reading a lot of Lovecraft, I realized that he is actually a materialist.

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