King of the monsters trailer breakdown

One of the most impressive trailers unleashed during Comic-Con was the awe-inspiring first look at Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Based on everything on display in this trailer, it’s clear that director Michael Dougherty has crafted a unique and surprisingly emotional monster movie, and a follow-up that might be distancing itself from 2014’s Godzilla. Our Godzilla: King of the Monsters trailer breakdown delves into what makes this trailer so damn impressive.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters Trailer

Godzilla breakdown Millie Bobby Brown

The King of the Monsters trailer opens with Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown‘s character Madison Russell on a rooftop, on the lookout for…something. There’s instantly a dark an ominous vibe here, with a foreboding color palette. It’s clear something big…and scary…is coming. In voice over, we hear Madison’s mother Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) offer up this cheerful monologue:  “Our world is changing. The mass extinction we feared has already begun, and we are the cause.We are the infection.”

king of the monsters trailer breakdown

An unstoppable wall of smoke (or ash?) comes barreling in over the city, headed straight for Madison. She flees inside just in the nick of time.

Vera Farmiga

Dr. Russell’s monologue continues. We see her addressing a room full of very concerned looking scientists and military folks, including her husband, Mark (Kyle Chandler). “Like all living organisms,” Dr. Russell says, “the earth unleashed a fever to fight this infection…its original, and rightful rulers – the Titans.” Here’s the entire set-up for the film: earth is falling apart, and the only thing that can save it is…giant monsters? Look, this storyline is a big far-out, but the trailer sells it so well that you almost don’t stop and consider how crazy it all seems. Part of that reason is Farmiga, a phenomenal actress who can really sell the whole “Let’s wake-up a bunch of giant monsters!” thing.

This monologue scene also causes the film’s haunting, beautiful trailer music to kick-in. While Bear McCreary is providing the score for the film, the music in this trailer is an arrangement of Debussy’s Clair de lune. This is one damn classy monster movie trailer, folks!

Clair de lune

godzilla underwater

 

Ken Watanabe as Dr. Ishiro Serizawa

 

Godzilla art

As all of this monologuing is unfolding, we’re treated to shots of an underwater exploration, apparently being lead by Ken Watanabe as Dr. Ishiro Serizawa, a character from 2014’s Godzilla. During the exploration, we get a shot of some Godzilla wall-art, possibly purchased in a Etsy shop, or possible carved thousands of years ago. Who can know for sure?

O'Shea Jackson Jr. and Thomas Middelditch

This gives way to a shot of O’Shea Jackson Jr., playing a military officer associated with Monarch – the mysterious organization that monitors all these giant monsters – and Thomas Middelditch, as Sam Coleman the communications liaison between Monarch and the U.S. government. Both have looks on their faces that suggest they’re asking, “Can you believe this crazy shit?”

godzilla

“For thousands of years, these creatures have remained in hiding around the world,” Dr. Russell says, and we get our first shot of the big guy himself: Godzilla. Somewhere underwater, the plates on his back glowing. It makes for one hell of a shot, and everyone watching this is suitably impressed…

Sally Hawkins

…including Sally Hawkins, returning from the first film as Dr. Vivienne Graham. And before you start making jokes about which monster Hawkins wants to have sex with a la her character in The Shape of Water, just know that nearly everyone on the King of the Monsters Comic-Con panel this year made the same exact joke. But go ahead – get it out of your system.

King Ghidorah

Of course, Godzilla isn’t the only monster in this movie. There’s a whole bunch of big beasts ready to lay waste to landmarks. Here we see Godzilla’s “ultimate nemesis,” King Ghidorah, frozen in ice – just like Captain America. Maybe King Ghidorah will wake up and start compiling a list of pop culture he needs to catch up on. Or maybe he’ll just kill everyone. Could go either way.

Vera Farmiga and Millie Bobby Brown

Mother and daughter look on, giving a very good recreation of what has become known as the “Spielberg Face” – the face of utter awe and amazement while looking up at something. “Unless all of the Titans are found,” Dr. Russell continues, “our planet will perish, and so will we.”

Mothra

Not all the monsters in King of the Monsters are terrifying. This next shot shows Madison reaching out to a big, apparently friendly beast – Mothra. Mothra is, of course, a giant moth. She first appeared in the 1961 film Mothra, and has almost always been portrayed as heroic, unlike other kaiju. This shot is yet another Spielbergian moment, recalling the scene in Jurassic Park where Dr. Alan Grant and Lex and Tim reach out towards the Brachiosaurus. “They [the Titans] are the guarantee that life will carry on,” Dr Russell says, and you begin to get the sense that maybe, just maybe, she’s laying it on a bit thick.

Godzilla fire

Godzilla rises up out of the sea and sends forth a beacon – a big blast of his atomic breath. The music score begins to rise, and here is the moment where I realized a goddamn Godzilla movie was going to make me cry. Michael Dougherty has packed so much wonder, awe, and emotion into this damn thing that it caught me completely off guard. I wasn’t expecting an emotional movie about Godzilla.

Mothra wings

One of the most beautiful shots in the trailer – Mothra spreading her huge, luminescent wings. Major props to cinematographer Lawrence Sher and everyone on the VFX team.

Vera Farmiga

push the button

Kaboom

volcano i'm still excited

Rodan

Somewhere, Dr. Russell pushes a button that triggers an eruption on a volcano. Out of the eruption comes yet another monster – the giant pteranodon Rodan. This feels like the first indication that Dr. Russell might not be all there. The shot of the people below the volcano clutching each other in terror is a big red flag – just how far is Dr. Russell willing to go to enact this plan. Just how many people is she willing to sacrifice? Kyle Chandler’s character seems to agree, because this moment gives way to him shouting, “You are out of your goddamn mind!”

Rodan shadow 1

 

Rodan shadow 2

Another jaw-dropping moment. We witness Rodan’s shadow as the creature flies above a city. So massive is Rodan that the very force of him flying over this city is enough to lay waste to everything in sight, like an atomic blast. “I’m sorry,” Dr. Russell says, “but this is the only way!”

Outpost 32

The action begins to increase significantly here. There are shots of explosions, shots of people running, shots of cars slamming through gates. There’s also this fun little reference to The Thing. In a snowy setting, a group of soldiers run towards a building marked OUTPOST 32. In John Carpenter’s The Thing, Outpost 31 was the location all the characters were trapped in. Dougherty is smart enough to know that he couldn’t make this OUTPOST 31 again, since after all, that outpost burned down at the end of The Thing.

Godzilla Millie Bobby Brown

Family

While I loved the look of the 2014 Godzilla, I felt the film itself was lacking a key ingredient: emotion. Humanity was secondary to the movie, which was more concerned with the big monsters. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I personally needed more. It’s clear Dougherty is taking a much different approach with this film, and highlighting the film’s human characters. Here we get a shot of Brown’s character Madison looking at a photo of her family in happier times. She has a brother in this photo, and there’s no sign of him anywhere in this trailer, which suggests the character isn’t around anymore. Perhaps a family tragedy is what spurned Madison’s mother Dr. Russell to initiate this whole “wake up some killer monsters” idea.

Madison screaming

more fam

The previous moment of calm is juxtaposed with one of chaos. Madison is somewhere – her home, perhaps – screaming in terror as flashing (explosive?) light signals from somewhere off camera. The whole house shakes. We see the same photo yet again, along with another image of the missing brother character. As the camera pushes in, the framed family photo falls off its perch. A heavy-handed (but effective) way of signaling how Madison’s family as she knows it is being completely obliterated.

Pazuzu

An explosion in a cave features a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from a statue of Pazuzu. This staute is from The Exorcist, and while many people think the Devil himself is the one possessing Linda Blair’s character in that film, it’s actually the demon Pazuzu (this is made more clear in the novel). There’s probably no real significance to the appearance of the statute here – it’s just a way for Dougherty to have a callback to another horror film.

Rodan washington

Rodan flies over a ruined Washington, D.C. When asked what he thought of Rodan’s devastation, Paul Ryan replied, “I haven’t seen Rodan’s tweets yet, so I can’t comment on that.”

"You're a monster"

 

"I'm sorry"

And here it is – my favorite moment in the whole damn trailer. “You’re a monster,” Madison says, with her mother sadly replying, “I’m sorry.” There’s something so devastatingly emotional about this one brief moment – forget all the chaos, forget all the giant destructive kaiju – the real monster here might be Dr. Russell, and her daughter wants her to know it. This again highlights that Dougherty is playing up the human angle much more than Gareth Edwards did in 2014’s Godzilla, and I am here for it.

Rodan flying

Scenes come fast and furious from here. There’s a moment of something (it’s not clear what) lurking behind Madison; a shot of Zhang Ziyi’s character Dr. Chen embracing someone; an action beat of O’Shea Jackson Jr.’s character leading troops through a tunnel. It culminates with two big monster moments. First: we see Rodan utterly destroy a series of fighter jets. And then…

King Ghidorah shadows

King Ghidorah is finally seen out of the ice. The creature looms large in shadows and mist, spreading its wings. There look of this moment invokes the famous “Night on Bald Mountain” scene from Fantasia, with the winged demon raising up above a mountaintop. While there are plenty of monsters in King of the Monsters, it’s abundantly clear that King Ghidorah is being set-up as the film’s “big bad”, and this ominous shot sells that tenfold.

Long Live the King

At this point, you might be thinking: “Hey, where’s Godzilla? Isn’t this movie named after him?” Don’t worry – they didn’t forget the big guy. And to hammer that home, here’s Charles Dance, playing his character from Game of Thrones (just kidding, he’s actually playing his character from Last Action Hero), saying “Long live the king!” This sets off a barrage of imagery: Rodan flying through fiery skies; someone climbing the steps in a burning temple; fighter jets zooming through a rainy sky. It culminates with two great moments.

Millie Bobby Brown is happy about monsters

First, Millie Bobby Brown’s Madison stands among ruin and rubble, rain and wind doing serious damage to her haircut. And she’s…smiling? It’s not an overly joyful smile; more of a knowing, weary smile. What is she smiling at? The next shot provides an answer.

Godzilla is happy, too

There he is, in all his glory. Godzilla towers in a stormy sky, lightning flashing through the clouds. He lets out a roar as a series of fighter jets fly past him. These jets aren’t attacking Godzilla – instead, it looks like they’re offering him an escort. It a sense, Godzilla here is a massive monster general, sending forth his troops.

Everything about this trailer works. The tone, the music, the imagery, the emotion, the monsters. I’m almost angry I have to wait until next year to see it.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters opens on May 31, 2019.

Following the global success of “Godzilla” and “Kong: Skull Island” comes the next chapter in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ cinematic MonsterVerse, an epic action adventure that pits Godzilla against some of the most popular monsters in pop culture history. The new story follows the heroic efforts of the crypto-zoological agency Monarch as its members face off against a battery of god-sized monsters, including the mighty Godzilla, who collides with Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah. When these ancient super-species—thought to be mere myths—rise again, they all vie for supremacy, leaving humanity’s very existence hanging in the balance.

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