O’Shea Jackson Jr. plays a military man of action in “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” but the lifelong Godzilla fan really would have taken any role, even as a janitor picking up after the big guy’s stomped all over the place.
“You don’t say no to Godzilla. He’s had my back forever. It’s about time I returned the favor,” says Jackson, who plays chief warrant officer Jackson Barnes in the big-budget sequel (in theaters Friday).
The 2014 “Godzilla” film brought the giant reptile back into pop culture in a major way, and the follow-up might as well be the Avengers of giant monster movies. Only instead of superheroes, audiences will get a face full of super-duper creatures, with Godzilla throwing down against classic foes from the old Japanese cinematic canon like the winged Mothra, fiery Rodan and three-headed golden dragon (and resident alpha) Ghidorah. Not to mention some old-fashioned human family drama, with animal behaviorist Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) dragged into the fray when his estranged paleobiologist ex-wife Emma (Vera Farmiga) and daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) are captured by a mysterious organization.
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It’s about to get more epic, though: Next year brings the next chapter in the MonsterVerse, “Godzilla vs. Kong” (out March 13, 2020), where the G-man throws down with the gigantic great ape King Kong from 2017’s “Kong: Skull Island” – the first time they’ve shared the big screen since 1962’s “King Kong vs. Godzilla.”
But before that must-see matchup, let’s answer the burning questions heading into “King of the Monsters”:
Is it connected to the last ‘Godzilla’?
You bet: The previous film had the iconic thunder lizard saving humanity – and San Francisco – from a couple of giant insect-y creatures. This time around, the cryptozoological organization Monarch has found other “Titans” cropping up around the globe, and the humans have to figure out which side they’re on in the middle of apocalyptic destruction. It’s safe to say, though, sticking with Godzilla is probably pretty smart. “He’s truly mythic almost in that Joseph Campbell sense,” says director Michael Dougherty of the noted author’s writing about the “hero’s journey.”
Why should we care about the humans?
The storyline with Farmiga’s and Brown’s characters is “hugely important,” Dougherty says, and veers away from other popcorn movies featuring “lots of characters with daddy issues.” (Looking at you, Iron Man and Batman.) “You don’t see too much on the mother/daughter side of the spectrum. When you introduce maternal struggles into science fiction, it shifts things ever so slightly, so they do become a little bit more poignant and emotional.” Brown notes that “human interaction” is just as important as the giant monsters for Dougherty. “He has this vision and passion and rode with it.”
Is there a deeper message to be had?
Godzilla movies have always been about more than the monster mashes. Back in the day, he was an enormous metaphor for the atomic age, and in “King of Monsters,” the issue du jour – just like in real life – is climate change. “Godzilla is here, in my own personal view, to come and say, ‘Look around, look what you’re doing and stop it. Fix what you’ve done here,’ ” Chandler says. “You can see why the franchise would last forever because there’s always a period in some decade where we’re screwing something up.”
Who’s got the best chance at KO’ing Godzilla?
All hail the queen! Mothra is a “different kind of maternal figure,” Dougherty says, and Jackson says he always had respect growing up: “I remember Mothra actually beat Godzilla. Wrapped him up in a cocoon, dropped him in the ocean and then went off.” But don’t sleep on Rodan, either. “When I was a kid, Rodan just looked like a pterodactyl,” Jackson says. “But in this one, Rodan is a force to be reckoned with.”
Are young fans going to dig the coolest lizard around?
Push Captain America and his buddies around to make some room in the toybox, because giant monsters punching each other will always be cool for children. “I just love the idea of 10-year-old kids seeing their first Godzilla,” Chandler says. Dougherty’s nephew flew to L.A. for the premiere, and the director found him playing with Godzilla and Ghidorah toys and making stop-motion battles with his mom’s iPhone. “I was so touched by that because it’s a modern-day version of what I did when I was a kid using a giant Betamax family camcorder.”
Is ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ going to be the biggest thing ever?
For a certain segment of monster fandom, the next flick is their “Avengers: Endgame.” Brown, who returns alongside Chandler, says it’s a “totally different movie” from “King of the Monsters” and adores King Kong after seeing the simian in Peter Jackson’s 2005 film. But her co-star isn’t a fan. “King Kong is a gorilla, man. Whenever I look at gorillas, it’s usually with David Attenborough narrating it,” Jackson quips. “I know the last time (in the 1962 movie), Godzilla took the ‘L.’ I’m not into that, so we’ll see.” Whatever happens, it’s “a fight that we’ve been wanting to see for decades,” Doughtery says. “It only makes sense that they were sort of destined to throw down with each other. But ultimately, it’s the audience that wins.”