Godzilla: King of the Monsters Is a Reminder That Eco-Terrorists Make Effective Movie Villains

The eternal battle between man and megalizard continues.


Godzilla: King of the Monsters is, on the one hand, a mindless, goofy B-movie about giant lizards fighting each other while humans look on helplessly, and, on the other hand, a mystical ecological parable, in which a band of committed eco-terrorists unchain forces of destruction in order to cleanse the planet of the plague of humanity. It thus poses a question: Who is the real monster—man or megalizard?

The eco-terrorists' plan is pure nonsense, but it has the virtue of being simple and direct: Release a handful of mountain-sized beasts from the bowels of the planet, then let them stomp around murdering everything and everyone in their path. Monsters + destruction = planet saved. 

The monsters, we come to understand, are actually ancient Titans who serve as "nature's defense," which sounds suspiciously like the name of an environmental non-profit. These Titans are tasked with preserving the planet's integrity. In this case, that appears to mean wiping out much of human civilization. To make a planet-sized omelet, I suppose, you have to break a few billion eggs.

Like so many presidential campaign policy proposals, this preposterous idea is debated with a seriousness and solemnity it doesn't merit. What about all the people who will die as a result? "The mass extinction has already begun," explains one proponent of the release-the-monsters strategy, "and we are the cause." In other words, think of all the people who will die if we don't set loose the flying fire demon. 

"You're murdering the world!" cries one of the movie's pro-human heroes, agog at the deadly havoc the monsters will wreak. Thus, the movie is staged not only as a series of monster-on-monster brawls, but as an ideological battle between the rival factions of "Actually, Mass Murder By Monster Is Objectively Good," and "Are You Freaking Kidding Me?" In this way, and only this way, the film rather accurately captures the lopsided character of many real-world political debates.

King of the Monsters isn't a very good movie. The script is filled with clunky dialogue. ("Serizawa got that lizard juiced up!" exclaims Bradley Whitford, in a line that makes exactly as much sense in context.) And like so many modern blockbusters, it's larded with unconvincing computer-generated effects that would feel more at home in a video game. Finally, it's disappointing, though understandable, that the film couldn't be titled Remember the Titans.

But it does offer yet another data point supporting my friend Sonny Bunch's contention that radical environmentalists make effective movie villains because they want to make life worse for humans, in this case by allowing a bunch of CGI lizards to destroy Boston, Washington, and a host of other cities around the globe. Municipal governance is often frustrating, it's true, but the presence of a roving troop of skyscraper-sized murder lizards in major world cities, I am fairly certain, counts as worse.

The human culpability in the movie's urban destruction, however, seems to suggest an answer to the larger question it raises: Are people worse? Or are the giant monsters? As President Obama might have said: That's a false choice.

NEXT: Earth Is Nearly 520 Percent More Abundant Now Than in 1980

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  1. Very well written. People actually believe the lie of the impending apocalypse, I know a few friends here in North Carolina that actually do. It is insane to see the world as it is today and actually think it is in any real danger. Of course, if you can manage to believe that apocalypse bullshit, I suppose believing titans smashing everything we build would make things somehow better for everyone isn’t a stretch at all.

    1. We truly live in the worst of all possible times. Or so goes the narrative.

    2. Think of all the economic activity from the rebuild!
      And we can mandate solar panels and car chargers!

    3. I can at least accept that some idiots who believe the hype about global warming might think “Hey man, the planet is going to get a good amount hotter, and it’s going to kind of suck, and like mess stuff up and stuff.”

      But the ones who literally think everybody is going to die… Like every human will die and we’ll be extinct. How fucking dumb do you have to be?

  2. Municipal governance is often frustrating, it’s true, but the presence of a roving troop of skyscraper-sized murder lizards in major world cities, I am fairly certain, counts as worse.

    Peter Suderman, have you ever been to Philadelphia?

    1. Actually, they had that option in the old Sim City games.

  3. While reading the mostly horrible reviews for this movie I stumbled into the fact that there is a fairly well regarded Toho movie from a few years ago called Shin Godzilla. Apparently it’s considered to be a strong critique of government ineptitude relating to the earthquake/Fukushima disaster a few years prior. Anybody seen that one?

    1. I’ve been meaning to watch it, but you seem like a fan of this stuff, so I don’t see why you should wait.
      Here’s a copy: https://nyaa.si/view/1101371

    2. Yup. Decent Godzilla film. Would have made a very good start for a reboot, but the Japanese studio has decided to leave it as a standalone.

      Note; we are talking Godzilla films here. It’s a rather specific esthetic. If you like them, SHIN GODZILLA will be a lot of fun. If you’re the kind of viewer who wants to argue that a reptile the size of a skyscraper is absurd….well, Godzilla films aren’t for you and SHIN GODZILLA isn’t going to be the exception.

  4. The plots of Godzilla movies are generally a lame-ass framing device for what the audience is *really* there for: Giant monster battles.

    Specifically, a chance to cheer Godzilla as he messes up the other monsters.

    1. I do get that, as the only reason I have any interest in this stuff at all is because I grew up watching the old Japanese-dude-in-a-rubber-suit versions on Saturday afternoon TV. It just seems like once they have a pile of cash to spend on effects and good actors that they could make a half hearted attempt at a decent story and dialogue to go with it. I don’t give a crap about superhero movies but they’ve done a pretty good job in that respect with those in recent years.

      1. Hollywood writers last went on strike in 2012. I’m still looking for evidence they came back.

  5. Couldn’t they just call Thanos?

    1. Call Thanos? What’s his number?

      Don’t tell me, let me guess…

  6. The dichotomy presented does capture the typical left response to a perceived problem: Let’s fix a potential issue by doing something that assures something worse happening.

    1. It’s the ideology of equity and scarcity instead of equality and abundance

  7. The original Godzilla had a political environmental message. Godzilla was a prehistoric monster who was awakened or created by atomic bomb testing. The energy beams he shoots out are atomic of some kind. The Japanese of course having strong feelings about such things.

    So he was kind of a metaphor for unintended consequences when you mess with the planet.

  8. History shows again and again how nature points up the folly of men

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