King of the Monsters.
This heavyweight Kaiju, measuring between 165 and 985 feet depending on the version, made his debut in 1954’s “Gojira” as a metaphor for the destruction caused to Japan by the dawn of the nuclear age. The first modern Kaiju, this behemoth was the living embodiment of the nuclear bomb with all the power and terror that came with that title.
Produced by Toho and directed by Ishiro Honda, the titular champion of the 1954 film would go on to star in a decade spanning series of battles with various Kaiju. Through 36 movies, four distinct eras and even a stint fighting both Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and basketball legend Charles Barkley, Godzilla claimed his title as the premiere Kaiju champion.
Armed with atomic breath and a nigh unbreakable hide, Godzilla remained king even through fights with heavy hitters like Mothra, King Ghidorah, Mechagodzilla and his most prolific foe with an equally impressive reputation: the American, Kong of Skull Island.
Nearly 60 years ago, Kong and Godzilla fought for the title of “King of the Monsters” for the first time in Toho and Honda’s 1962 “King Kong vs. Godzilla,” the first time both monsters would appear in widescreen color. The massively billed fight between the two titans resulted in a victory for the giant American ape. The two would go their separate ways for the rest of the 20th century.
If Godzilla is one thing, however, it is patient. He is the king after all. The crown belongs on his head, not with some gorilla from the south Pacific.
When Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures began their “monsterverse” in 2014 with Gareth Edwards’ “Godzilla,” it came with a promise. It was Ken Watanabe’s character who knew the rematch of the millennia was on the horizon.
“Let them fight,” he proclaimed.
And fight they did. In 2021’s much anticipated “Godzilla vs. Kong,” the two titans clash as the culmination of a four-movie arc continued from “Godzilla,” “Kong: Skull Island” and “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.”
When these monsters fight, it’s absolutely fantastic. It’s widescreen action at its finest, with battles in bright neon environments and creative action that brings out the Kaiju-fan in us all. When Kong and Godzilla beat each other up in the heart of Hong Kong and in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, you’re on the edge of your seat, but that’s not as often as you may like.
The main problem with this movie — and the rest of the “Monsterverse” — is that its human characters are extraordinarily dull in a movie that promises bombastic fights between a giant monkey and a radioactive lizard.
Outside of very compelling performances by a little girl who can communicate with Kong (Kaylee Hottle) and a conspiracy nut obsessed with Kaiju (Brian Tyree Henry), the human characters are useless here. You have a generic set of characters like the businessman attempting to exploit the supernatural (Demián Bichir) and the two young characters trying to prove they can change the world (Millie Bobby Brown and Julian Dennison) that add little character to the plot.
While the human characters are laughably unnecessary due to an equally laughable script full of contrivances, the real stars here are the visual effects. When this movie does an out-there concept, it commits to that out-there concept. Everything doesn’t look like grey blobs of military technology, rather bright neon-futuristic aesthetics paired perfectly with the absurd nature of two monsters fighting.
Both Godzilla and Kong have a real sense of size to them that lets you really feel when they punch each other. Kong and Godzilla’s two fights in this film really stick out as great examples of why people like these movies so much, me included: they give us destruction without consequence. When I say destruction, this movie requires quite a bit of suspension of disbelief with how many people die unceremoniously.
In the end, this rematch of the millennia is not as complex as previous outings from King Kong or Godzilla. You won’t find the themes of Beauty and the Beast that King Kong became known for, nor will you find the political and social ramifications of nuclear war that Godzilla is built on. What you will find here is a “turn-your-brain-off” action spectacle that is incredibly entertaining for those of us who like Kaiju.
At the end of the day, was it worth the 60-year wait to see these two fight on screen again? That’s to be debated, but to me, this movie gave me some incredible Kaiju action set between some very dull connective scenes and that’s about what I expected.
This isn’t “Citizen Kane,” people; it’s “Godzilla vs. Kong!” Let’s treat it as such: dumb fun on the biggest screen possible.