Review by C.J. Bunce
Author Greg Keyes is back again after his smartly written novels War for the Planet of the Apes: Revelations and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Firestorm with the newly released novelization of Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Keyes takes what is a convoluted and overstuffed story on film and fleshes out the details of character motivations and plot points, revealing the film really had enough content to be released over two movies. Keyes’ novel is based on the screenplay by Michael Dougherty and Zach Shields, and a story by those men along with Max Borenstein. Of course a story credit goes to the many Japanese creators’ works over the past 65 years that the film’s kaiju monsters were mined from. If you can get past the family of humans that the plot of the latest film revolves around, there is a good story of monsters rising from the ashes that should appeal to any Godzilla fan.
Each chapter begins by pulling the reader into the in-universe historicity of the giant antagonists by quoting myths, historical works, hymns, native poems, and notable stories that make reference to large creatures, ancient gods, and the end of days. It’s a clever tool, citing works including Yeats’ The Second Coming, The Epic of Gilgamesh, Bacon’s Novum Organum, The Popul Vuh, Tennyson’s The Kraken, Hesiod, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and Job. It all provides some minimal justification for the constant character references to the monsters as Earth’s ancient gods, as opposed to any attempted sourcing in the scientific record with something like dinosaurs or some kind of Michael Crichton-esque twisted re-creation.
In his novelization Keyes follows the film substantially verbatim, adding some improvements along the way, like specific references to Kong at Skull Island, which merits only an end-credit montage sequence in the film. This is good preparation for the next film in the series coming next year, Godzilla vs. Kong. He also provides information that is glossed over in the movie–who are the people affected by the monsters that don’t get the spotlight, those outside Godzilla, Ghidorah, Mothra, and Rodan? We learned in the film there were at least seventeen Titans creatures guarded by gated, Monarch outposts, many via names on monitors audiences could blink and miss.
So in the novel we actually meet some locals in the other cities with those outposts trapping the monsters, and learn the names of those creatures that Monarch hopes to align with Godzilla by story’s end. That’s the tusked Behemoth in Rio de Janeiro, armored Methuselah slicing through Munich, arachnid Scylla in Phoenix, serpentine Typhon in Angkor Wat, Tiamat at Stone Mountain, Mokele-Mbembe in the Sudan, Abaddon in Russia, Bunyip from Uluru Rock in Australia, Leviathan from Loch Ness, and the aquatic Kraken from the Indian Ocean. Quetzalcoatl from Machu Picchu, Baphomet in Morocco, and the giant beetle-lie Sargon are mentioned on a monitor screen in the film but don’t make the novel. Those are the seventeen Titans referenced in the movie, if you don’t include Kong.
The cast of supporting characters is a challenge to keep up with, even during the film. In the novel it’s difficult when a character is only referred to by their last name to know where they are affiliated, with Monarch, military, or one of the government agencies. Only Stanton’s constant joking sets him apart, but the rest of the second tier characters, especially the “ecoterrorist” Jonah’s henchmen, aren’t all that memorable. And there are many human characters to keep track of.
Despite some of the convoluted components of the underlying script, if you’re a fan of the Godzilla universe monsters and the scenes featuring their arrival and destruction or Greg Keyes’ writing, it’s a good bet you’ll enjoy the novelization of Godzilla: King of the Monsters. It’s available now here at Amazon.