Godzilla: King of the Monsters is being touted as one of the biggest Godzilla films ever made. American audiences likely have never seen this many iconic monsters on the big screen before, unless they happened to see any of the older Godzilla films. Those films often featured brawls of a similar magnitude, if not larger. Fans of Godzilla who happened to see Godzilla: Final Wars in a theater would've been treated to one of the biggest brawls in Godzilla history.
But the cast in Godzilla: King of the Monsters is similar to an earlier Godzilla film. Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah all met in the classic Godzilla film Ghidorah, the Three Headed Monster (localized as Ghidrah, the Three Headed Monster). Is this new film just a remake of an older classic, or is it something new?
Both films have fairly similar premises, or, rather, they do on paper. Both feature a brawl between several iconic monsters. Mothra is framed as a protector in each, a benevolent god meant to be worshiped. Ghidorah is the big villain of each film. Ultimately, the film culminates in Godzilla and Ghidorah fighting.
Each film features a subplot involving humans who are forced to bring the monsters together in harmony to reestablish some degree of peace and order to the world.
But where do the films differ?
The Human Plot
The human plot of Godzilla: King of the Monsters focuses on "eco-terrorists," humans attempting to construct order in a world full of Titans and, essentially, struggling to survive a disaster. But this plot is mostly focused on bringing the monsters to the forefront.
The human plot of the original Ghidorah, the Three Headed Monster is... well, it's weird, to say the least. The film focuses on a murder plot to kill a princess, but the princess falls into an interdimensional portal and becomes possessed by an alien entity who warns people about the horrors of Ghidorah. Also, during her meanderings telling people to watch out for monsters, she encounters twin fairies who worship Mothra (previously established characters in the series).
But that all goes out the window once Ghidorah shows up. The human plot really does feel like material used to pad the first half of the film, since it becomes almost irrelevant once Ghidorah, Rodan and Godzilla awaken to cause chaos.
Humanized vs. Deified
The big divide between the films is how the monsters are framed. Godzilla: King of the Monsters raises the kaiju to god-like figures of Lovecraftian importance. On the other hand, Ghidorah, the Three Headed Monster attempts to humanize monsters that, until this point, had been treated as forces of nature.
There is a fairly iconic scene in Ghidorah where Mothra calms Rodan and Godzilla (who until this point had been fighting) to talk about taking on the bigger threat of Ghidorah. Godzilla has a response that causes the Mothra fairies (who are translating the monsters' dialogue for the human characters) to reprimand him for his "terrible language."
This one scene is the point where the Showa Period of Godzilla films flipped on Godzilla's portrayal. Until then, Godzilla was the antagonist of the series, a force of inhuman destruction. But here? He's humanized. He's brought down to humanity's level by swearing at people.
But in King of the Monsters? The monsters are elevated to cosmic levels of importance.
The original film is a small-scale encounter between four monsters who would become iconic. Godzilla: King of the Monsters is not a remake of Ghidorah, the Three Headed Monster. It simply takes the general idea of it and tells a completely different story.
One that puts the "God" back in Godzilla.