Godzilla: King of the Monsters

The latest (and final) trailer for director Michael Dougherty’s take on the Godzilla mythos has arrived, with Alloy Tracks supplying their epic take on “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” 

This musical choice follows thematically from a previous trailer that placed the 19th century French composer Claude Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” into sublime, stark relief against the beauty of these monstrous kaiju (Japanese for “strange beast”).

One clever bit of expository dialogue at the 0:30 mark has one narrator listing the beasts alongside their visual introduction—“Mothra, Rodan, Ghidorah,”—only to have another character on screen seemingly respond to this terrifying triptych, opining, “oh my.” It’s clearly an allusion to The Wizard of Oz’s classic line about lions, tigers, and bears which, much like the serene music, is meant to serve as a study in contrasts, highlighting just how far away from the proverbial “Kansas” these characters are.

At 0:50 the music gently recedes in a wash of choral sounds, and in its stead we get what podcast Twenty Thousand Hertz or YouTube channel the Auralnauts would call “the booj”—a handy shorthand for this quintessentially modern pheonomenon in trailer sound design. This particular booj goes on for longer than most, beginning at 0:56 and interrupted at 1:01 with a bit of dialogue before coming back at 1:03. The goal with this small interruption may be, again, as much expository as it is affective: we are reacting to the trailer with the onscreen cast, and we are reminded that this particular kaiju—in a trailer that, especially for those less well-versed in the mythos, contains many that look fairly similar—is the titular Godzilla.

“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” returns with the date card (May 31) at the midway mark of the trailer, albeit opting instead to use the bridge portion of the song rather than the main motif. This time the choir and epic percussion is out in full force, to complement the onscreen carnage. At 1:30 the music stops for a joke, which is somewhat unusual for a dramatic, action-oriented trailer so heavily invested in imparting an emotional atmosphere. 

At 1:35 the main motif returns, but instead only the primary contour of the melody is outlined, measure by measure. It’s a neat psychological trick: we are so familiar with this melody, we don’t actually need the ornamentation of the notes “inside” this primary melodic contour, much the same way many of us can read a passage relying only on the letters at the beginning and end of words. This also gives more space to the epic percussion, and it allows the last bit of the melody, which is expressed fully, to be even more impactful. 

Title cards and beasts overtake the screen (“one king / to rule / them all”) in a bombastic manner that feels over-the-top, but earned. Notice also the sound bridge at 1:58: the penultimate note is roughly matched by the girl’s scream, and then that scream continues as the shot changes to Godzilla’s atomic breath beam. More percussion plays it out, emphasizing the primal nature of the film’s monsters.

“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” arrives in theatres via Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures on May 31st.

— Curtis Perry