Dr. Emma Russell is pretty sure she has the world’s Titan problem figured out. When looking at things from a blended prospective of ancient myth and contemporary science, she’s convinced that her theory makes perfect sense.
You see, these giant creatures that keep popping up around the world may seem like mindless, mountain-sized monsters to the average layman. In fact one of these rampagers killed Emma’s own son and ripped her family apart as it ravaged San Francisco just a few years ago. But that tragedy drove her to pursue some intense study (as well as driving her photographer husband, Mark, to alcoholism and a separation from her), and she found that the creatures are much more than mindless.
They are, quite plainly, the Earth’s defense mechanism.
Think about it: When mankind creates too many environmental disasters, spreads too much pollution or unleashes too much destructive war, things have to be balanced out. They must be set right. So the Earth itself sends out a radioactive beastie or two to level the human playing field, to eliminate the “infection,” if you will. Once a sizable part of the human “pestilence” is done away with, then nature will reestablish balance, and things can get growing once again.
Emma, along with a few other radical environmentalists, believes the only hope for humanity’s survival is to unleash the Titans’ monstrous destruction on a worldwide scale. Sort of like ripping off a deadly Band-Aid. Sure, it’ll be difficult. But in the end, it’s the only feasible solution, Emma believes.
So Emma secretly manipulates the resources of a shadowy monster-management agency known as Monarch, not to track or monitor the creatures, but to spur their rage to a full boil. She creates a bio-acoustic audio-pulse generator called the Orca. (It was a project she and her estranged husband, Mark, began work on to communicate with whales years before.) With this device, a user can mimic the call of the Titans’ Alpha, the sound they all submit to. And thus she can drive them to do her bidding. At least that’s the goal.
But what if this brilliant scientist is wrong? What if her machinations actually cause a full-out Titan war that engulfs and destroys the world so completely that humanity might not just be purged, but forced into extinction? Who or what will save mankind from total destruction?
Can you say … Godzilla?
In spite of the bombastic destruction unleashed in this flick, there are, of course, plenty of heroics to be seen. Emma’s teen daughter, Madison, puts her life at risk in order to give the staggering human forces a chance to survive.
Madison’s father, Mark, is brought in by the Monarch team to lend his particular expertise to the human struggle. And he works diligently throughout the film to save his daughter from the clutches of monsters and human baddies.
Many other characters make sacrificial choices along the way to try to solve the monstrous maelstrom that’s been unleashed upon the Earth.
[Spoiler Warning] And as you might have expected, Emma comes to see the error of her ways, and she joins forces with the film’s human heroes to try to deal with the destruction she’s unleashed.
One of the Monarch scientist’s, Dr. Chen, is a specialist in ancient mythology. She finds numerous connections between the Titans and myths about “the first gods.” She even proclaims, “All the myths are real.” In fact, she suggests that all the ancient god myths centered around these creatures. Later, the Monarch scientists even find a subterranean cavern full of iconography depicting humans worshiping Godzilla and other Titans.
In that light, the film is littered with lots of images and symbols that link the huge creatures to religious (and potentially, even Christian) ideas of good and evil. For instance, one of the most dominant mythological beasties, the three headed, dragon-like Ghidorah, is repeatedly depicted as the ultimate form of evil. The creature is shown sitting on a mountaintop overlooking the fiery, hellish landscape of a devastated city with a huge cross in the foreground. That image could likely be interpreted a number of ways, but at the very least it contrasts a Christian symbol against a devilish dragon. And other Titans gather to “bow” before Ghidorah on this mountaintop.
But if Ghidorah represents evil, then Godzilla plays the role of the savior. The two battle repeatedly and at one point, because of human missteps, Godzilla is apparently killed while battling for humanity. (Later, Godzilla rises once more, renewed from near death, to fight for man.) Someone even goes so far as to call Godzilla “mankind’s salvation.” And when one human character makes a self-sacrificial choice, others recognize that he died to save them—another apparent echo of the Christian story.
With all of that in mind, you can find some sort of biblical parallels here if you squinted just right to do so. That said, you could just as easily see the whole thing as a Far Eastern mythological mish-mash serving a story in which ecological concerns are discussed with nearly religious fervor.
Indeed, Emma and her cohorts have a nearly “fundamentalist” belief that their radical solution to overpopulation and environmental degradation: They’ve convinced themselves that enabling the Titans to ravish humanity is an acceptable price to reset the human survivors’ relationship with the planet. (The film wants to have it both ways with regard to this perspective, appropriately suggesting that these environmental radicals’ solution is too extreme, while agreeing with the basic premise that the environment is suffering badly due to human choices.)
Elsewhere, when one scientist talks about faith, it’s faith that the environment can be saved, not faith in any kind of god (save, perhaps, Godzilla). And scientists talk repeatedly about learning to live in symbiotic harmony with the Titans, whom they believe predate humanity.
A Monarch official shows a film clip to a group of senators depicting two Titans mating, and he makes a quick quip about the creatures’ genitals being blurred out. Mark suggest that one of the Titans is approaching another Titan in search of “food, a fight or a … something more intimate.” One scientist sums up his low opinion of humanity, stating that “we are a bunch of horny, murderous carnivores.”
Mass destruction is a Godzilla movie calling card, and this entry doesn’t skimp in that area. Entire cities are destroyed. We see screaming crowds of thousands running through crumbling, enflamed city streets. Parents and children fall to the ground and are trampled over. Debris and monsters crush the crowds. The flying, pterodactyl-like Titan Rodan swoops through a city with such force that vehicles and people are sucked up and tumbled together like so many leaves in a brisk fall wind. And individuals are tossed aside and slammed into rock walls.
Titans blast scores and scores of soldiers, civilians and buildings with electrical zaps or raging fiery breath. Some victims are literally vaporized right in front of the camera’s eye or snatched up and gobbled whole. And that’s when they’re not murdered by other humans. A military outfit sweeps into a scientific base, for instance, shooting some defenseless scientists in the head at point blank range and leaving a courtyard littered with the dead.
Bombs are dropped, causing huge explosions. And a nuclear bomb is detonated to power-up a fallen Titan. Ships are capsized, planes vaporize in explosive flames. And the many different Titans are shot with bullets, seemingly thousands of times, and hit with airborne missiles and explosives.
As for Titan-on-Titan combat, there’s plenty of that, too, with various combinations of monsters (Godzilla’s got an ally in Mothra) unleashing lighting, radioactive blasts and pummeling blows about each other. Ghidorah has its heads ripped off, for instance. One creature swallows another. Ghidorah drops Godzilla from a great height. Another creature impales an enemy with a sword-like claw. And on and on it goes.
One f-word and some 10 s-words are joined by multiple uses of the words “a–,” “h—” and “b–ch.” Jesus’ name is misused at least eight times. God’s name is abused a dozen or so, including four combinations with “d–n.” Some of these profanities are jarringly uttered by the film’s teen protagonist, I might add.
Mark sadly professes to losing himself in alcohol and abandoning the rest of his family after the tragic death of his son.
Deception and betrayal play important roles for those who believe they’re saving humanity by allowing most of it to be destroyed.
Whether populated by CGI constructs, puppets or guys in rubber suits, Godzilla movies have never been a benchmark for subtlety. And so it is here. This metropolis-mulching monster masher makes superhero-movie destruction look almost dainty in comparison. (Thanos who?)
Godzilla: King of the Monsters unleashes its world-rending destructive action early and often, and it keeps building (er, tearing down) from there. The plot holes are as sizable as sky scrapers. And character choices are as sensibly nuanced as a nuclear explosion. Which is to say, this pic is pretty much exactly what you’d expect from a monster-flick franchise with a gazillion-dollar special effects budget.
What you might not expect when towing the family into the theater, however, is that uneasy feeling you get when the film tries to make you care for one or two poorly-choosing individuals while literally millions of screaming people are being quick-fried by fire-breathing beasties or crushed in the streets of one crumbling city or another.
You could also find yourself balking at the bombastic Far Eastern myth-based dogma here or the in-your-face environmental preachiness. (This used to be a film series warning us about nuclear proliferation, but nukes are a real boon in this case. Mankind’s environmental missteps, in contrast, are anathema here.) And you might be just a bit shocked by the sheer volume of God-profaning and foul dialogue that regularly peppers your kids as they munch their salty treats.
From the perspective of a 12-year-old Godzilla fan, King of the Monsters might well seem like cool, mindless, explosive fun. But this flick packs its share of content bites and bruises, too.
Whether this monster movie is your cup of tea or not, it may still offer a good opportunity for you and your family to evaluate what you believe, and why. What are the basic tenants of Christianity, and how are they different from other religions’ beliefs? Check out these Focus on the Family resources for more information:
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.