“Our world is changing…the mass extinction we feared has already begun, and we are the cause. We are the infection.”
Those words are intoned by the voice of Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) as the first official trailer for Godzilla: King of the Monsters (which premiered on Saturday at San Diego Comic-Con) opens with a scene in which Emma’s daughter, Madison (Millie Bobby Brown of Stranger Things), stands on a rooftop and watches what looks like the mother of all dust storms heading across the cityscape around her… an omen that things are drastically wrong, even without 400-foot-tall lizards stomping around.
It turns out, however, that the lizard in question — Godzilla, in case you needed a quick recap — is more than just a reptile. According to Emma, who we next see speaking on a video screen to a roomful of concerned scientists and military officers that include Bradley Whitford, Thomas Middleditch, and O’Shea Jackson Jr., these creatures are the “original and rightful rulers” of Earth, which she calls the Titans.
As this plays out we catch a quick glimpse of Ken Watanabe’s Dr. Serizawa — returning from 2014’s Godzilla — in underwater gear as he explores some sort of ancient ruin with pictographs of massive kaiju on them. And then we see one in the flesh: Godzilla himself, being watched by Emma’s husband Mark (Kyle Chandler) and a crew in what also appears to be some sort of deepwater research station (all this to the tune of Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” no less, making it somehow all the more ominous).
Hi, Sally Hawkins, also reprising her role as Dr. Vivienne Graham from Godzilla, as she joins the rest of the cast staring in trepidation at things off camera.
One of those things turns out to be a familiar three-headed shape, seemingly encased in a building-sized block of ice, that kaiju fans know as King Ghidorah. So following from the hints planted in Kong: Skull Island, it seems that recorded history has left behind fragmentary, legendary records of this ancient creatures, who we perceive now as monsters but some of which may be the saviors of the planet — a theme very much in line with some of the classic Toho kaiju movies. But first, some serious damage is going to go down as we see in one shot of a city in flames.
But next, as Emma says, “They are the only guarantee that life will carry on,” we see her and Madison reaching out as if they’re going to pet the large round head of what can only be Mothra.
Cut to Zhang Ziyi and Chandler’s Mark on a boat, watching as Godzilla emerges out of stormy waters, raises his gigantic head and bellows blue atomic fire into the sky — almost as if in greeting.
Perhaps the single most breathtaking shot comes next as Mothra spreads its beautiful, almost luminescent wings and begins to take flight — there’s a poetry to this moment that has not been seen in a monster movie since perhaps the original Mothra was first hatched in 1961.
And then we see Rodan perched above an exploding volcano — another nod to the original Toho movie — as Mark shouts at someone, “You are out of your goddamn mind!” Perhaps he thinks awakening Rodan from her slumber by igniting that volcano isn’t such a good idea?
“I’m sorry, but this is the only way,” says Emma as Rodan’s vast shadow passes over a city, leaving a titanic backdraft in its wake. Could Emma and Mark be at odds over Emma’s determination that to save the Earth we must engage with its ancient kaiju rulers?
From that point on, the trailer accelerates into a series of explosions and destructive sequences, with Rodan flying over a devastated Washington D.C. and Madison telling Emma, “You’re a monster,” before a real monster glares through a window behind her. Next, we see O’Shea Jackson Jr. again, patrolling down some sort of makeshift corridor, then Rodan swatting away a squadron of fighter jets.
Finally, the first awe-inspiring and eerily majestic appearance of King Ghidorah in the flesh, emerging from clouds and backlit by giant yellow electrical flashes.
The trailer fades to black, then comes up on the great Charles Dance saying to Emma, “Long live the king.” After that it’s a quick series of tableaux — many of them in shadow — that ends with a full view of Godzilla as he issues his unforgettable roar.
From all this, it’s reasonable to assume that Emma has a plan in mind to engage with Godzilla and somehow align with him to save the Earth from both the sins of humankind and the fearsome trio of Rodan, Mothra, and Ghidorah — or will the first two side with Godzilla against the latter? And will the human race survive this titanic jockeying for supremacy? As kaiju fans know, that’s been the basis of some of the greatest of the original Toho movies, like the original Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster — and if this trailer is a good first indication, Godzilla: King of the Monsters may join their ranks.
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