How 'King of Monsters' Looks to Deliver the Definitive Godzilla

The monster becomes the protagonist for the first time in a Western interpretation of the character.

It appears that Warner Bros. and Legendary took Dr. Ishiro Serizawa’s line “let them fight” from Godzilla (2014) to heart. The new trailer for Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which follows the stunning teaser debut from this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, promises monster mayhem like never before.

Directed by Michael Dougherty, who previously tackled monsters of a much smaller variety in Trick 'r Treat (2007) and Krampus (2015), Godzilla: King of the Monsters not only reintroduces the titular kaiju, but also favorites like Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidorah from Toho’s beloved franchise. It’s been four years since Gareth Edwards rebooted Godzilla, establishing the Monsterverse that will ultimately see King Kong from Kong: Skull Island (2017) collide with Godzilla in 2020’s epic-slug fest, Godzilla vs. Kong. But before that, we have King of the Monsters, which is promising to be just as much of a main event as any battle Kong could stir up for our reptilian icon.

While the teaser focused heavily on the human characters, giving us only glimpses of the monsters, this trailer places the attention squarely on the titans. We see Rodan emerging from a volcano, a scorpion-like creature emerging from the sand who may be the Sasori Monster that was planned for Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992), and another, possibly shelled creature that could be Gamera emerging from a mountain. It appears that King of the Monsters may have even more kaiju than previously anticipated. This would fit with what fans of the Japanese films have seen over the decades, where Godzilla is only one of an entire island of monsters. The first film pit Godzilla against new creatures, the MUTOS, but King of the Monsters is returning the classic cadre of allies and rogues. While that’s great for us moviegoers, it clearly doesn’t seem to be working in favor for the characters on screen.

Sam Coleman (Thomas Middleditch) draws division lines between the titans, some of whom are here to protect humanity (Godzilla and Mothra) while others may seek to destroy it (Rodan and Ghidorah). While senators laugh at the idea of seeking to control Godzilla like a pet, Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) states definitively that humanity would be the pet in this situation. While the plot has largely been kept under wraps, we do know the organization Monarch will push these monsters into battle, which causes a rift between Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) and her mother (Vera Farmiga). It stands to reason that Monarch’s intentions may not be quite as honorable as they were in the previous film, and based on Dougherty’s filmography, people are often deserving of punishment they receive. As nature seeks to re-balance itself through the titans, it seems that one of the questions the film will ask is whether Godzilla, and the planet, are truly better off with humanity being saved.

Dougherty is offering a different perspective in King of the Monsters than Edwards’ film did. While humans will be central to the story, the perspective largely seems to come from Godzilla himself. Where Edwards often framed the battles from the human eye, a reminder of how small our place in the great scheme of nature is, Dougherty goes for the wide lens, capturing these titans and their battles like paintings, mythological stories captured with the frames of film. Godzilla (2014) took a lot of inspiration from Jaws (1975), not only in the Spielbergian character relationships but in how little we got to see Godzilla in full. We felt his presence throughout, but Godzilla himself didn’t receive a whole lot of screen time, a factor that proved to be divisive. The trailer for King of the Monsters holds the promise of seeing a lot more Godzilla action, with the giant lizard himself being the film’s true lead, rather than any one human character. Godzilla as the protagonist is nothing new within the Japanese films, but it will be interesting to see how it works here, given the very different sensibilities of Western audiences and Eastern ones.

While Warner Bros. and Legendary have not announced their plans for Godzilla beyond King of the Monsters and Godzilla vs. Kong, the amount of titans the trailer promises suggests that this will be the definitive statement on Godzilla. That’s not to say the character doesn’t have a future in Hollywood beyond these next two films; quite the opposite, in fact. But as the 35th Godzilla film, Godzilla: King of the Monsters looks set to deliver on everything about the character that has made him such a surviving icon over the years.