Explaining All the Kaiju in the New 'Godzilla: King of the Monsters' Trailer

Godzilla may reign supreme as the king of the monsters, but next year, his throne will be challenged by an influx of some mighty familiar kaiju in Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

On Monday, Warner Bros. unleashed the new trailer for Godzilla: King of the Monsters, in which the Big G returns to fight a slew of iconic enemy kaiju: Motha, Rodan, and of course, the three-headed King Ghidora. The film is directed by Michael Dougherty and will be released on May 31, 2019.

Set in the canon of Legendary’s MonsterVerse (which includes 2014’s Godzilla and 2017’s Kong: Skull Island), the film is a direct sequel to Godzilla with a new cast, starring Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things), Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights), Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring), Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley), Bradley Whitford (The West Wing), and Zhang Ziyi (Rush Hour 2).

Ken Watanabe also returns from 2014’s Godzilla to reprise his role as Dr. Ishiro Serizawa, a Monarch scientist who plays a major supporting role that will probably lead to some great new memes.

For the kaiju newbies among you, we break down the new monsters introduced in King of the Monsters, as well as which old Godzilla movies to track down to see them in their earliest incarnations. Get ready for the brawl to end them all.

Godzilla King of the Monsters Mothra
Left: Godzilla vs. Mothra, in 'Godzilla vs. Mothra' (1992). Right: Mothra in 'Godzilla: King of the Monsters.'

Mothra

As her name implies, Mothra is a mutant, sentient giant catepillar/imago moth that bears a resemblance to a giant butterfly.

Mothra usually doesn’t travel alone. In the old Toho films, Mothra was accompanied by two, tiny singing fairies, whose song would summon Mothra. It’s unlikely King of the Monsters will feature the fairies, which is kind of a bummer. Who doesn’t want to hear tiny fairies sing the entrance theme of a giant killer butterfly?

Mothra first emerged in her own film, 1961’s Mothra directed by kaiju godfather Ishirō Honda. She then emerged in 1964’s Mothra vs. Godzilla, the fourth film in the Godzilla franchise (and not to be confused with Godzilla vs. Mothra from 1992). Yeah, way before the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Toho’s monsters were innovating the spectacle of interconnected narratives in pay-per-view boxing-esque cinematic showdowns.

She then appeared in 1968’s Destroy All Monsters before taking a lengthy hiatus. Mothra reemerged in the 1990s, first in the aforementioned 1992 film, then in her own trilogy, Rebirth of Mothra, released between 1996 to 1998.

Mothra made more appearances in most of the Millennium films (all Godzilla films between Godzilla 2000 through 2004’s Godzilla: Final Wars) until she was retired with the rest of the Godzilla franchise.

Godzilla Rodan King of the Monsters Trailer
Left: Rodan in 'Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II' (1992). Right: Rodan in 'Godzilla: King of the Monsters.'

Rodan

An ancient mutant pteranodon — a giant bird of the Cretaceous period that flew over what is now the modern day American midwest — Rodan first emerged a few years after Godzilla’s film debut, in 1956’s Rodan, which was retitled Rodan! The Flying Monster! when it hit drive-in theaters in the U.S. in 1957. The film is notable for being Toho’s first color kaiju movie.

Originally meant to exist in his own canon, Rodan soon returned in 1964’s Ghidora, the Three Headed Monster, the fifth film in the Godzilla franchise that introduced Godzilla’s most notorious enemy in history. Rodan made another appearance in 1964’s Invasion of Astro-Monster, which has a plot that bears some similarity to the upcoming King of the Monsters in which Godzilla and Rodan team up to fight King Ghidora.

Godzilla King of the Monsters King Ghidora
Left: King Ghidora in 'Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah' (1991). Right: King Ghidora in 'Godzilla: King of the Monsters.'

King Ghidora

The grandaddy of all monster villains, the infamous King Ghidora is a golden, fire-breathing three-headed bat dragon. His origins vary: Sometimes Ghidora is a planet-killing alien, other times he’s a genetically modified monster from the future. But no matter what, King Ghidora is almost always an enemy of Godzilla, and the two have been rivals for decades.

In the same way that Japan interprets Godzilla as the manifestation of America’s nuclear weaponry, some critics understood Ghidora as the personification of China, as the country began experimenting with WMDs at the same time Ghidora appeared onscreen. However, in a 1992 interview, Ishirō Honda maintained that King Ghidroa was just a modern take on the Yamata no Orochi, a dragon from Japanese mythology.

After his debut in Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Ghidora became a mainstay in Toho’s Godzilla series, appearing in 1965’s Invasion of Astro-Monster, 1968’s Destroy All Monsters, 1991’s Godzilla vs. King Ghidora, and 2001’s Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack.

After Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, King Ghidora retired until he returned in the animated Godzilla movies released on Netfllix. 2019’s King of the Monsters marks King Ghidora’s live-action return after 18 years.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters hits theaters on May 31, 2019.


Related video: Watch the breathtaking Comic-Con trailer for ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters.’

Media via Toho, Toho, Warner Bros. Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures