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China thinks Godzilla should have saved his girlfriend

Godzilla: King of the Monsters tops the box office in China, where netizens compare the villains' plot to Avengers: Endgame

This article originally appeared on ABACUS
Kaiju battle royale Godzilla: King of the Monsters scored a big win in China. It scored US$70 million in its opening weekend -- far outstripping the US$49 million it made in the United States.

However, that doesn’t mean that all Chinese viewers actually liked the movie. One complaint for many cinemagoers was the poor plot. But some thought the way to fix it was to have even less plot… and more of a monster mash.

“Next time, let the little monsters play a couple of hours without human characters, okay?” asked a reviewer on popular review site Douban.

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The Chinese movie poster for Godzilla: King of the Monsters puts moth-like monster Mothra in the front row. (Picture: Warner Bros. Pictures)

But what got the most attention wasn't the magnificent special effects, or the performance of famed Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi -- known for her roles in Memoirs of a Geisha and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It was Godzilla's love life.

Mothra is the moth-like monster star of the film, and according to Weibo, she’s also Godzilla’s wife.

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(This next part contains spoilers for the end of the film!)

During the movie’s finale, Mothra is killed by the pterodactyl-like monster Rodan when she sacrifices herself to save Godzilla. Many online comments in China were dedicated to the beautiful, benevolent and powerful monster and her relationship with Godzilla. One Douban comment summarized the film this way:

“The love story of a scumbag lizard and a martyr moth. His girlfriend sacrificed herself in order to save him. He was surprisingly indifferent to the turkey beating his girlfriend.”

The girlfriend-boyfriend relationship may be a bit of a stretch, but even the movie’s director has indicated that there is a special bond between the two. “She’s the yin to Godzilla’s yang,” Michael Dougherty told the New York Times. And the film references Mothra as the Queen of the Monsters, a clear counterpart for the King of the Monsters: Godzilla.
Yes, it’s an illustration depicting the Godzilla/Mothra romance. (Picture: Weibo)

Chinese viewers actually found parallels between this film and another foreign mega-hit, Avengers: Endgame. They think the villains of both movies have similar missions.

In the Avengers films, Thanos wants to wipe out half of life to preserve resources for everyone else. That’s basically what the human villains in Godzilla want, though without the precision of an Infinity Gauntlet’s snap: They want the freed monsters to rampage over the Earth, knocking humanity off our perch as the dominant species and helping the planet to heal.

Besides Japan, its place of birth, China is an important market for Godzilla. The movie was produced by Legendary Pictures, owned by China’s Wanda Group since 2016. It was distributed by Warner Bros. internationally and by Godzilla owner Toho in Japan.

The film’s most obvious connection with China is the casting of Zhang Ziyi, who plays the role of monster scientist Dr. Ilene Chen. Her research on Chinese dragons proves to be significant to Godzilla’s storyline, and she discovers that her ancestors have always had a special relationship with Mothra. The mythical moth monster is even found in Yunnan, China in the film.

Hopefully this strong China connection will keep Chinese audiences engaged more than the lackluster dialogue repels them. The next sequel of the MonsterVerse is scheduled for 2020 and will bring a showdown between Godzilla and mega-ape King Kong.

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