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Godzilla: King of the Monsters ending explained

At long last, five years after he last graced U.S. screens, the King of the Monsters is back to rule over Legendary Pictures' MonsterVerse. Godzilla: King of the Monsters is the 35th film to feature the legendary kaiju Godzilla, and features the King battling against and alongside some of his most famous friends and foes, including Mothra, Rodan, and Ghidorah. The film is the third installment in the MonsterVerse franchise, and with so much monster action it was bound to leave a lot of destruction in its wake, as well as a lot of loose ends.

In many ways, those loose ends are by design. A sequel, Godzilla vs. Kong, is already coming in 2020, and the MonsterVerse filmmakers are clearly planting as many seeds as possible for future sequels right here in King of the Monsters. With that in mind, there's a lot to unpack in the film's ending, from what the human characters might do next to what this rapidly expanding fictional universe could imply about the future of the ancient beings known as Titans.

So if you've seen the film, and you want to go back over every major element, now is the time. Spoilers for all of Godzilla: King of the Monsters below!

He's on our side... for now

Godzilla: King of the Monsters ends exactly the way you'd expect it to: With a massive Titan vs. Titan showdown in the ruins of Boston, as Godzilla and Ghidorah battle it out for apex predator status. The film ultimately reveals that Godzilla, who seems to be working side by side with humanity, has prevailed by showing us the King of the Monsters chowing down on one of Ghidorah's heads before blasting the remains of the alien monster with his atomic breath. Dr. Stanton responds to this by saying "Thank God he's on our side," to which Dr. Ilene Chen replies "For now."

It's an ominous postscript added by Monarch's resident mythologist, who seems to understand that even though some version of a balance has been achieved with Godzilla's victory, it could all go very wrong at any moment. Humanity is still a force in the world after the battle of the Titans, but the rules of existence are going to change from the biggest biological concepts all the way down to daily life. It might just seem like a line left in to tease more sequels, but Dr. Chen's warning speaks to the fragility of life on Earth in the wake of the film. Everything old is new again, and that means new rules for everyone that could be breaking at any moment.

What's left of Monster Zero

Midway through the film, Godzilla managed to chew off one of Ghidorah's heads before the Oxygen Destroyer weapon was deployed and rendered Godzilla dormant. Ghidorah was unaffected by the Destroyer because, it turns out, he's an alien species who invaded the Earth millennia ago, and that means he's also capable of regrowing his head. That replacement head makes it easy to forget to a head was lost in the first place, but the film couldn't end without bringing it back around.

We have to wait until a post-credits scene to find out what happened, but it turns out that extra severed Ghidorah head was picked up by fishermen and offered to Alan Jonah and his eco-terrorist group. Jonah's original plan was to awaken the Titans one at a time to "restore balance" to the world, and that plan — even with Dr. Emma Russell's help — fell apart when Ghidorah woke up all the Titans himself. So what can Jonah do with a Ghidorah head that he couldn't do before? Well, he could just be selling off the creature's DNA as a valuable resource, or he could have grander designs. A resurrected Ghidorah under the control of a human master could change the game for all Titans, and Jonah himself could be King of the Monsters. That's if he can manage to bring Monster Zero back at all, and that's a big if.

The future of Mothra

It's been a common feature of Godzilla films for decades now that Mothra emerges as a benevolent, self-sacrificing figure who wants to live in harmony with humans rather than battle them, and the Queen of the Monsters lived up to that legacy in this film. After defeating Rodan, a weakened Mothra sacrificed herself in battle against Ghidorah to help Godzilla, with her essence falling on the King of the Monsters to give him a little added boost when he needed it.

Luckily, that's not the end of Mothra. News clippings in the film's closing credits suggest the Queen is simply regenerating, and will eventually emerge from another cocoon. The film also suggests that when she does return, Mothra won't be alone. The Chen twins, Ilene and Ling, seem to be more than just two scientists with an intense interest in monsters. They are third-generation members of Monarch, part of a line that's followed the Titans for decades. This devotion to Titans, plus their status as twins, points to them being the MonsterVerse version of the Shobijin, the twin fairies (in the original films) who worship Mothra on its home of Infant Island (also referenced as part of the Chen family legacy) and call the creature forth in times of need. We very likely haven't seen the last of them.

The lure of Skull Island

Throughout the film we see references in archival footage and in conversations between the Monarch team to Kong, the king of Skull Island who was the star of the second film in the MonsterVerse and who will return again next year to battle Godzilla in the appropriately titled Godzilla vs. Kong. What we never actually see in the film is anything new from Kong himself, even as Titans around the world are waking up and responding to Ghidorah.

So why didn't Kong respond? Well, the simple answer could just be that he's on an island and isn't equipped to cross through the storms that surround it and make his way across the ocean, but there may be more to it. News clippings at the end of the film note that Titans are making their way toward Skull Island, seemingly setting the stage for Godzilla vs. Kong. If Kong is powerful enough to have resisted Ghidorah's orders, that places him in rare company alongside Mothra and Godzilla as one of the strongest monsters on the planet. His absence is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength… and, of course, a sequel.

The Hollow Earth

Early in the film, Dr. Stanton theorizes that Godzilla is able to move so quickly underwater because the earth is, in fact, hollow, and the Titan is using tunnels under the oceans that have yet to be discovered by man. His theory is laughed off, until the Monarch team follows a dormant Godzilla into the depths later in the film and discovers that there is, in fact, a system of tunnels down there that modern humans were unaware of. They're not just tunnels, either. There's also an entire underwater city down there that Stanton claims is quite a bit older than something even the ancient Egyptians could have built.

News clippings in the film's closing credits reveal that this information has been made public, and now the whole world knows that "Hollow Earth Humans" once worshipped and co-existed with The Titans. Of course, the underwater city we see in the film was presumably entirely destroyed by the nuclear explosion that Dr. Serizawa set off to re-power Godzilla, but if there really was a culture of people worshipping "The First Gods," it's hard to imagine that city was the only one.

The call of Orca

The worldwide chaos brought on by Ghidorah's revival would not have been possible if not for Orca, a device perfected by Dr. Emma Russell which analyzed the bioacoustics of the Titans and responded to them with a tone that mimicked that of an alpha. This made Titans like Mothra docile and friendly, but made Ghidorah hostile as it tried to eliminate the other alpha in the pack. In essence, this was a way for humans to "talk" to monsters, and by the end of the film it was destroyed as Emma used it to distract Ghidorah long enough for Godzilla to recover.

But is that really the end of Orca? Emma's ex-husband Mark — who once helped her design the prototype — saw the device as a dangerous precedent-setter that could easily backfire, but now that Titans exist all around the world, it also might be the kind of thing that could come in very handy with a little bit of tweaking. It's possible that Monarch's future will include some new form of Orca device, and if Mark won't build it, perhaps someone else will. It seems unlikely that scientists of the world would let such technology go dormant.

A family rebuilt

Even as monster chaos swirls throughout the film and cities of the world are destroyed in the wake of the Titans, Godzilla: King of the Monsters also does its best to keep a human heart at its center. In this case much of that heart centers on the Russell family, which was torn apart by Godzilla's battle with the MUTO creatures in San Francisco in 2014. Emma and Mark lost a son, Mark started drinking, and their marriage ended. Their daughter Madison stuck by her mother, then had to watch as even she descended into a kind of madness as she felt the Titans would save the planet by culling out portions of humanity. As the film goes on, Maddie has to watch her mother, who was once her hero, become what she calls "a monster" before ultimately redeeming herself in the fight to defeat Ghidorah.

When the dust settles, Mark and Madison are the only two members of the family left, and they've both just helped Godzilla become the alpha among the Titans. There's no going back to the world they knew, Mark's idea to wipe the Titans out is a moot point, and Madison has clearly developed an emotional connection to both Mothra and Godzilla. The film leaves their future open-ended, but we already know Millie Bobby Brown will return for Godzilla vs. Kong, so the Russells are clearly planning to stick close to the Titans for at least a little while longer.

Even more Titans

King of the Monsters spends most of its runtime focusing on the title monster, Godzilla, and three other key players among the Titans: Ghidorah, Mothra, and Rodan. Despite what the trailers might suggest, though, these creatures are far from the only Titans in the film. Ghidorah's rise from the Antarctic ice leads to Titans around the world waking up and wreaking havoc, and though we only glimpse a few of these, they often seem to be creatures we've never seen before in Godzilla films, most prominently the giant spider Scylla and the mammoth creature Behemoth.

Introducing new creatures to the Godzilla mythos is always a welcome thing, but we also probably shouldn't expect the MonsterVerse to draw the line at four original kaiju. The Titans in the film were the ones that had been discovered and previously contained by Monarch, but Monarch is never done searching, and the revelation of alien Titans as well as underwater cities leaves them with more places to look. The world of Titans is vast at the end of the film, but there's always room to grow, and we can probably expect more Titans to emerge along with more sequels.

Reframing civilization

When Dr. Emma Russell reveals her plan to awaken the Titans and balance out the world by achieving a co-existence that will also result in a certain degree of culling when it comes to humanity, she doesn't know that this supposedly necessary evil will blow up in everyone's face. When the Titans awaken all at once, mass destruction occurs on a global scale. Cities are leveled as the Titans respond to Ghidorah's command, and while we really only see Washington D.C. and Boston up close, we can speculate that such devastation has happened everywhere.

So, let's say that Dr. Russell's plan worked in some twisted way, and that humanity can now co-exist with the Titans. What does that mean for civilization? Well, our population has likely been greatly reduced by the initial Titan attacks, so perhaps concerns about overpopulation have been alleviated, but where will we live? Will we gravitate to the remaining major cities, or use the natural growth boost provided by the Titans' radiation to live a more agrarian life in the places they destroyed? Perhaps more importantly, what will the Titans eat? What will it take to permanently sustain them? We'll have to wait until the sequel to find out for sure, but this balancing act doesn't seem like something that will happen overnight.

Human resistance

King of the Monsters ends with other Titans bowing to Godzilla, acknowledging him as their alpha and presumably ushering in an era in which the Titans no longer attempt to eradicate humanity. Co-existence is the key to humanity's future, but while Monarch and its scientists know this, and the remaining media of the world seem intent on getting the word out, that doesn't mean everyone on the planet will agree. Even as Godzilla won his battle with Ghidorah the remaining major powers of the world were watching, deciding what to do next, and even though monster experts will be telling them the Titans are no longer our enemies, it's unlikely that everyone will listen.

Sure, there are the obvious dissenters like Jonah and his crew, but what if a major world government just flat-out refuses to believe that Godzilla will stay peaceful? We have the technology to build Oxygen Destroyers now. What if that falls into the wrong hands? The war among the Titans is over for the moment, but the war against the Titans might be just beginning in some parts of the world.

Titans vs. Overpopulation

Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a massive, globe-hopping film that is in many ways just an excuse to get a bunch of giant monsters together and let them fight. It's a popcorn movie to its core, packed with cheer-worthy moments and unabashedly setting up sequels for the MonsterVerse to keep exploring. That doesn't mean it's without deeper concerns, though. In an interview, director Mike Dougherty touched on the power big blockbusters have to shield big thematic concerns in a layer of popcorn fun, while still raising some major questions. In this case, the question was how long humanity can continue unchecked.

"I tend to find that with these pop culture movies, it's a way for us to collectively address subjects that are too difficult to bring up in other ways," he said. "I'm not advocating for their point of view, but it's a very tricky thing to bring up without it turning into a controversy that there are only so many resources, and is slowing our growth rate something that we should consider, without having to go through any drastic measures? I'll leave that to the media pundits."

Obviously, this is a question the film only tackles in a very bombastic, plot-driven way, but it's certainly a trend in major franchise films right now, and seeing that pattern is enough to send audiences home pondering their own impact on the world.