The King of the Monsters has been crushing the competition at the box office since “Godzilla” debuted to $93.2 million over the weekend, good for the second-best opening of the year. And while the big guy has had some help from human cast members Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Juliette Binoche and Ken Watanabe, his most important costars might well be the two without any lines: the MUTOs.
(Warning: Plot details ahead.)
Short for massive unidentified terrestrial organisms, the MUTOs are a pair of gigantic insectoid creatures who feed on radiation, terrorize the human population and ultimately draw Godzilla out of his deep-sea slumber when they try to breed.
Warner Bros. and director Gareth Evans (“Monsters”) cagily kept the presence of other kaiju (giant monsters) under wraps while marketing their “Godzilla” reboot, and it’s easy to see why: The inclusion of the creatures has significant repercussions for the film itself and the future of the burgeoning franchise.
From a character standpoint, the MUTOs are the movie’s antagonists — it’s their urge to propagate the species that threatens all humankind. That positions Godzilla as the hero, rising from his watery abode to smash the MUTOs and restore the natural balance. Granted, he does induce considerable collateral damage along the way, but it beats the alternative — and, let’s face it, it’s part of the fun.
In terms of pure spectacle, the MUTOs provide similarly scaled adversaries for Godzilla to tangle with rather than just towering over tiny human soldiers, tanks, helicopters and planes.
In those respects, the new “Godzilla” differentiates itself from the poorly received 1998 version directed by Roland Emmerich and starring Matthew Broderick; that film featured Godzilla as bad guy, terrorizing New York City while trying to asexually reproduce (yes, really).
By pitting Godzilla against the MUTOs, the new “Godzilla” encourages the audience to root for the titlular beast and thus takes cues from Toho’s original Japanese films. Those movies frequently found Godzilla protecting the Earth from kaiju threats such as Mothra, Rodan, King Ghidorah and Mechagodzilla.
The MUTO plotline clearly sets up the dominoes for sequels with new threats and bigger, badder showdowns. In the wake of the reboot’s smashing success — it has already grossed $204 million worldwide — a sequel is already said to be in the works.
And in a world where giant lizards and mantises run rampant, would a titanic moth or three-headed dragon be entirely out of place?