'Godzilla: King of the Monsters' Spoilers: Ending Explained by the Director
Here's how Ken Watanabe gave the monster movie its most powerful scene.
Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) is one of the few characters who returns from 2014’s Godzilla for Godzilla: King of the Monsters. In a cast packed full of A-list actors and skyscraper-sized monsters. He also gives one of the movie’s most powerful performances right at the very end.
“I wanted to make sure the end of Serizawa’s arc was very meaningful and poignant in a way that would almost be a sort of ascension for him,” director Michael Dougherty tells Inverse.
Here’s how the movie’s ending brings its best human character full circle, explained in the words of Watanabe and Dougherty. Warning: Godzilla-sized spoilers ahead.
Serizawa Makes The Ultimate Sacrifice
"I got chills when I heard it. — Michael Dougherty
Near the end of King of the Monsters, Godzilla suffers a crushing defeat against King Ghidorah after the U.S. government interferes and messes everything up. The only solution is to revive Godzilla with a nuclear bomb so he can defeat the three-headed dragon once and for all, but doing so means venturing to the bottom and the ocean where the giant lizard is recuperating in an underwater, lava-filled lair.
Serizawa volunteers to make the ultimate sacrifice, blowing up the nuke manually after the group’s submarine hits an impasse. In a touching final scene, the actor delivers an emotional goodbye before saving his old kaiju friend.
Watanabe: The final moment is really complicated emotionally for Serizawa because his father had experiences with the nuclear bomb in Hiroshima in 1945, which is symbolized by his pocket watch. Then, I need to revive Godzilla by nuclear bomb.
Dougherty: I wanted to make sure the end of Serizawa’s arc was very meaningful and poignant in a way that would almost be a sort of ascension for him. He truly does believe that in some part of himself that Godzilla is some form of a god.
Watanabe: After the first one, I discussed with Gareth [Edwards] that maybe in a second movie there would be some kind of sacrifice, same as the original version of Dr. Serizawa in the 1954 movie. And then I read the script of the second one and, yes, I got it.
The scene itself is just Watanabe and a green screen, but the actor made some interesting choices to elevate what could have been a dull moment into something personal.
Dougherty: Ken had a couple really brilliant ideas to sweeten this scene. One was the addition of the pocket watch, which was initially supposed to be given to Kyle Chandler’s character, almost like a sort of passing of the torch. Ken firmly believed that Serizawa wouldn’t do that. That Serizawa would take the watch with him into Godzilla’s lair almost as a form of closure. As a way of acknowledging that pocket watch was spawned from the atomic bomb dropping when his father passed away, but also as a way of symbolizing that now that same atomic energy was going to be used for good. That it was going to be used to revive Godzilla.
Watanabe: It was just one day, acting alone.
Dougherty: The other touch Ken added was that he’d speak in his native tongue to Godzilla. He would say goodbye old friend in Japanese. That’s something Ken just sort of sprang on us at the first table read. I got chills when I heard it because Ken can read the back of a cereal box and make it sound like poetry when he speaks Japanese. So those two little touches were huge contributions to the success of that scene.
“Let Them Fight”
Ken Watanabe became a bonafide meme after 2014’s Godzilla thanks to his famous line: “Let them fight.” Five years later, King of the Monsters brings back the meme with a twist. Not only is Watanabe not the one to say it, but when it does happen, another character interjects to note that this time it’s not enough to simply watch the monsters fight, humanity has to help Godzilla win.
Dougherty: I was struck by how much people embraced that particular line and how much you do see it popping up in GIFs constantly. It’s such a simple three word phrase, but the way Ken delivers and the context it’s delivered in is powerful. I thought it was the perfect way to sum up that film: I think the idea was that mankind should stay out of nature’s way and let it do its thing. But in this film, we’re saying something slightly different, we’re saying that we can’t stay out of the fight any longer. That if Godzilla is going to win this one we have to join the fight. That the fate of mankind and Godzilla are now intertwined because we’re facing a threat that poses a danger to everybody. So taking the most iconic line from the previous film and twisting it and reframing it seemed to make sense.
As for Watanabe, he had no idea those three little words had turned him into an internet celebrity.
Watanabe: I didn’t know. [Laughs]
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is in theaters now.