Review – Apes and Lizards and Kids, Oh My! (“Godzilla vs Kong”)

You were waiting for this, weren’t you? After Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla, King of the Monsters, plans were put into motion to bring these two titans together for one big epic battle, as if these guys duking it out with other monsters wasn’t enough. Are you ready to rumble!!??

**SPOILERS AHEAD**

Well, it’s been five peaceful years since Godzilla duked it out with three-headed King Ghidorah and won, being hailed a ‘savior’ by the world, even though the destruction left in his wake was mind-boggling. Back on Skull Island, home to King Kong, the big ape is being studied by the Monarch group who now have an ace up their sleeves. She’s little 8-year-old deaf Jia (Kaylee Hottle) who can communicate with the monster through sign language and is somehow symbiotically connected to him. Well, that’s convenient! Her caretaker and foster mother is “Kong Whisperer”, Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall), who wants Kong to be left alone in peace. Yeah, good luck with that!

Meanwhile, Godzilla pops-up after a five-year nap and wreaks havoc on an Apex Cybernetics facility in Florida. But why attack there and now? Paranoid conspiracy podcaster & Apex employee, Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry) says he’s got the answers and hooks up with the only ones who’ll take him seriously, teen science investigator Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) and her goofy comic-relief sidekick friend, Josh (Julian Dennison). While sneaking around, they get whisked away to the Tokyo branch of Apex, where discover a nefarious plot by Apex’s boss, Walter Simmons (Demian Bichir) to (*gulp*) make a gigantic mechanical version of Godzilla. MechaGodzilla!!

There’s a strange secondary plot, like The Core mixed with Journey to the Center of the Earth, where Kong is coerced by Dr. Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgard) into finding a beautiful inner hollow Earth and maybe Kong’s heritage. There, Kong finds a battle-ax made with a Godzilla fin, presumably crafted by his ancestors. But there’s no time for any homecoming because Godzilla has sniffed out something evil in Hong Kong and wants to destroy it. Kong and Godzilla then get into a no-holds, fighting dirty, knock-down, drag-out melee that is just awesome.

Wait! It ain’t over! Simmons wants to give his mechanical creation life, but instead of using human control, he uses King Ghidorah skull’s neural network instead! Oh, sure! What could possibly go wrong there?! MechaGodzilla, now under its own control, viciously attacks Godzilla, but who will win? Screenwriters Eric Pearson (Thor: Ragnarok) and Max Borenstein (2014’s Godzilla) have really cranked out a hum-dinger with this one. Forget plausibility, logic, or anything that’ll make any kind of sense to you, ’cause that will just ruin this movie. It’s two kaiju’s beating the crap outta each other, so what did you expect? Shakespeare?  

What’s surprising about this movie is director Adam Wingard. He’s only directed two forgettable movies, Death Note and The Guest, so to have him helm this big-budget icon was a gamble, but it paid off. Except for a few slow moments and a clumsy second act (the whole Hollow Earth thing), this action-packed film moves well and boasts some of the best CG effects ever! You came to see Godzilla and Kong beat each other up and brother, you get that in spades! Not once, but several times and each fight tops the previous one. Wingard lets us see the whole fight with no smash-cuts, rapid-edits, or bad camera moves. You feel each punch, every scorch mark on Kong, and Godzilla’s head getting smashed into a building; it’s all there.

The actors are just there for exposition, comic relief, or to move the plot forward, but at least they’re not sleep-walking through it. Millie Bobby Brown is back again as the heroine, having to show the dumb guys what to do and where to go, while her father (Kyle Chandler) is barely on screen this time around. It’s Skarsgard, Hall, and Hottle that seem to have more screen time and serve far better. I would have liked to have seen more of the villainous Bichir, as his character was intriguing. All in all, for all the hype this movie’s had in the past month, it was worth my subscription to HBOMax where I saw it. And yes, I would have paid to go see it in the theaters, too!

**Now showing at select reopened theaters and streaming on HBO Max

             
King Kong vs Godzilla (1962)

Yeah, these guys already fought, way back in 1962, in fact. In a world of silly, this is silly plus ten. Japan’s worldwide phenom and cash-cow, Godzilla, meets and does battle with the USA’s reigning champ, King Kong. The result? Hoo-boy! You have to SEE this to believe it!   

Aside from all the King Kong-sized lawsuits that happened when selling off the rights to the ape’s franchise, the Japanese came up with a bizarre story (well, aren’t they all?) about how these two mega-monsters should meet and fight. They had a Mr. Tako (Ichiro Arishima), who’s the head of Pacific Pharmaceuticals, being frustrated with the television shows his company is sponsoring and needs something to boost the ratings. He hears about a giant monster (Kong) on small Faro Island and believes the monster would be a brilliant publicity gag that would bring in the megabucks. Tako immediately sends two men, Sakurai (Tadao Takashima) and Kinsaburo (Yu Fujiki), to find and bring back the big ape.

Meanwhile, an American sub accidentally unleashes Godzilla (who was frozen in an iceberg), who then destroys the submarine and a nearby military base. So, where does Godzilla head for after that? Japan, of course! Sakurai and Kinsaburo manage to sedate Kong and transport him back to Japan and, as luck would have it, arrives in town just as ol’ nuclear breath shows up. Kong wakes up and engages Godzilla in a brief battle, but he retreats after Godzilla nearly burns him alive. Ouch! That’s gotta sting!

The JSDF (Japanese Self-Defense Force) tries to blow-up Godzilla (which doesn’t work) and electrocute Kong (that only makes him stronger!), so they decide to let them fight and hope they’ll just kill each other. They sedate Kong again and transport him (via giant balloons, no less!!) to Godzilla where their epic battle commences beneath Mount Fuji. In the end, the two plummet into the sea, but only Kong swims away alive. Did Godzilla survive? Hmmm. . . 

Directed by the great Ishiro Honda, undoubtedly the most prolific and respected Japanese director ever, his 30-plus year career as a ‘Godzilla’ or kaiju (monster) film director is universally recognized the world over in books and films. Sure, this movie is silly with a capital “S”, but it’s entertaining and boasts great SPFX and miniatures for the early 60’s. And hey, grown men wearing huge rubber suits stomping around on large-scale sets pretending to take all this stuff seriously? Are you kidding me? You just have to smile.  

This movie spawned a new upgrade look for Godzilla, but a terrible look for King Kong, which outraged fans of Willis O’Brien, the creator of the original stop-motion Kong of the 30’s. It seemed the Japanese rubber suit makers just couldn’t get it right and Kong ended up looking laughably bad with extra-long arms and a cartoony-looking face. Nevertheless, it scored huge at the box office and, thankfully, never had a sequel. BUT! Godzilla battling other monsters proved to be a major selling point and soon he was fighting other ‘legends’ like Rodan, Mothra, and even mechanical versions of himself (MechaGodzilla).

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