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Godzilla vs. Kong

GODZILLA VS. KONG follows GODZILLA, KONG: SKULL ISLAND and GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS as the fourth movie in the 21st Century American kaiju series known as The MonsterVerse. When it comes to the giant monsters, as I’ve told you before, I’m a Gamera guy. I’m not trying to be a hipster and choose the less popular thing to show off, it’s just a fact – he’s the Guardian of the Universe. But setting him aside, Godzilla and his Monster Island pals have always interested me more than the King Kong movies, as great as some of those are.

So hopefully that puts some weight behind me saying that this crossover – which stacks the cards for Kong by starting with him, spending much of the movie with him and treating him as the underdog hero – is easily the best of the series.

It got me instantly. Opening with Kong waking up to a perfect needle drop and a sunny day on Skull Island, he scratches his ass as he groggily stumbles to the waterfall for a shower. It’s just a great example of those times I love when monsters just get to live a normal life instead of always leaping through the air and roaring at the camera.

We soon see that Kong is TRUMAN SHOWed in a contained part of the island by Monarch, not for captivity but basically monster witness protection. They believe if Godzilla knew Kong was there he would kill him to maintain his King of the Monsters title. They call it Apex Titan status, but same thing. (By the way, this one ignores the last movie’s cliffhanger that all of the Titans were headed to Skull Island.)

Monarch anthropological linguist Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall, THE GIFT) looks after Kong and tries to understand him, while her Deaf adopted daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle), the last surviving native of the island, actually does understand him. She walks fearlessly up to him, holds up her finger and he reaches down to her – the most size-imbalanced E.T. homage in cinematic history.

This is a top shelf version of the kid-with-connection-to-giant-monster trope because her interactions with Kong are always cute without her ever seeming precocious, and she projects a level of concern and awareness that makes her seem to have a better handle on what’s going on than the adults. When they ask her to tell Kong things that are a little misleading she seems to understand the shitty position they’re putting her in. She might be the first character in the series that would be disappointing to not see come back if there’s another one.

Dr. Andrews is new to this installment, as is her associate Dr. Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård, THE LEGEND OF TARZAN), who convinces her to ship Kong to Antarctica to enter the center of the earth and use his instincts to sniff out an ancient power source to protect the earth from Godzilla. As one does. He attributes his interest in Hollow Earth theory to a dead brother, and later mournfully looks at a photo of himself with said brother. You bet your ass I assumed the brother was a character I forgot about who died in the last one, but that’s not the case. It almost feels like they did that intentionally to fuck with me. You got me, movie! It’s true – I can never remember if these characters were in the last one or if they just seem familiar because I’ve seen the trailer a million times.

Dr. Lind conceives the mission when he’s approached by the pretty-obviously-not-trustworthy head of Apex Cybernetics Walter Simmons (Demian Bichir, MACHETE KILLS). It’s one of those scenes where they rave about how much they admire each other’s scholarship and achievements and Dr. Lind gets to do that thing where you excitedly rush to grab a book and flip through the pages explaining an outside-of-the-box concept, and another person finishes your sentence as they understand and are impressed by the idea.

In this case the sentence is finished by Simmons’ right hand man Ren Serizawa (Shun Oguri, AZUMI, AZUMI 2: DEATH OR LOVE), and oh my god I just realized that means he’s the son of Ken Watanabe’s character who I’m almost positive was in both of the other GODZILLAs. But definitely at least the last one.

I think the movie’s biggest (and only serious) weakness is the uselessness of its two major human returning characters. Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler, who was in Peter Jackson’s KING KONG!) is really only in a couple scenes acting important, so it doesn’t matter that much. But his teenage daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown, one episode of NCIS) gets a whole b-plot that’s a textbook example of bringing back a character without ever finding a worthy justification.

That section of the movie can only be described as Emmerichy. To her father’s dismay, Madison spends all of her time in her attic bedroom sipping coffee while obsessing over one particular Godzilla-related conspiracy podcast. After Godzilla attacks the Apex Cybernetic facility in Pensacola, Florida she’s convinced there’s a reason for it, so she and her wacky worrying best friend Josh (Julian Dennison, a.k.a. Ricky Baker from HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE), who owns a stormchaser van (?) track down podcast host Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry, CHILD’S PLAY remake), who is a mole working as an engineer at Apex, and they break into the plant together to try to uncover the truth, which mainly means they walk through tunnels that somehow never have any security or other employees at all, and look at files and stuff.

Henry is an absolutely brilliant actor, somehow the MVP on Atlanta even though he’s between Donald Glover and LaKeith Stanfield, and he does get some laughs with this dumb cliche character (he says all this tinfoil hat stuff but also this time he’s right, do you get it?). Dennison has far less to work with, and Brown’s character is just there to be very determined. Yes, we are walking into this top secret door. No, we are not going to run. Because I am determined! And then people recognize her as the daughter of an important guy from the last movie.

Other than a brief part where they almost get eaten I’m not sure there’s anything accomplished in their subplot that couldn’t have been easily gotten out of the way through Bichir’s character. But even if we accept that all of their scenes are dead weight, it still feels like there’s less of that than in the previous installments. “The Human Stuff” isn’t a problem when the main humans are with Kong the whole time, because it’s really The Kong Stuff. They’re out in the field with a giant ape, not in a control room pointing at graphics on giant screens.

Director Adam Wingard (A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE), screenwriters Eric Pearson (THOR: RAGNAROK) and Max Borenstein (GODZILLA) and story-providers Terry Rossio (THE MASK OF ZORRO), Michael Dougherty (X2: X-MEN UNITED) and Zach Shields (KRAMPUS), plus others uncredited in a writer’s room, maintain a good level of knowing ridiculousness – goofy enough to be fun, even funny, but rarely pushing over into the “oh, jesus christ” level of stupidity. (One exception: when a machine gains sentience for reasons I did not follow.) More importantly, they seem to understand that both larger than life action and small visual and character details are crucial. You get Kong tearing a tree out of the ground, stripping its branches and throwing it as a spear, you also get the sight of his giant unconscious hand hanging off a boat, skimming the water while being transported under sedation. Or the waves of mist that splash off him every time he turns his head when wet.

You don’t have to wait too long for the first skirmish between title characters. As predicted, Godzilla catches wind of Kong’s existence and tries to take him out at sea. I don’t love the modern design of Godzilla (in an attempt to make him look like some burly Crossfit asshole they basically gave him no neck), but I do love the way they portray him as an amphibious creature, his jagged dorsal plates surfacing, cutting through the water (and boats) like blades, lithely slithering around like some cross between Jaws, a crocodile and a sea snake. It’s a way to both show him and hide him, to do things he could never do in suitmation, but (unlike GODZILLA 1998) still use his iconic physical features.

This is not a fair fight. Kong is a land mammal in the middle of the ocean, sedated and shackled. I was kinda hoping he would do a Houdini/Riggs escape routine when he fell underwater with cuffs on. Instead he gets rescued, but it’s still thrilling. He gets knocked around like John McClane – has to crawl out and puke up water, looks like he can’t go on. Later he leaps off of an exploding ship and it, uh, reminds me of something.

But my favorite part of this fight is when Kong sees Godzilla headed for two aircraft carriers. He looks like he’s concerned for the safety of the ships – I wondered how he could be so selfless as to care about these people who have kept him in chains. He leaps he into the air and soars over Godzilla and…

Oh, he lands on one ship and then hops onto the other like they’re lily pads. No, he didn’t give a shit about those people after all, he just saw a good thing to stand on. Good for you, Kong. I love it.

(I also like how he hangs off the aircraft carrier like it’s a boogie board. At one point it flips all the way over and the people get wet and shaken up, but they’re okay.)

The survivors of the human fleet figure out it’s better to carry Kong with helicopters carrying a giant net, sort of like how they used balloons in the original KING KONG VS. GODZILLA. I wish Godzilla was underneath leaping up and trying to bite him like a yappy little dog, but I guess he has more dignity than that. They manage to separate the two long enough to go on their quest to the Hollow Earth, a nice little excursion with some trippy sci-fi and fantasy imagery that stands out from the others in the series. Even more than KING OF THE MONSTERS, they go all in on Toho-esque space ships and stuff, plus the new additions to the MonsterVerse mythology of a past when Titans ruled the world. On the inside, at least.

Eiza González (BABY DRIVER, ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL, HOBBS & SHAW, BLOODSHOT, CUT THROAT CITY) shows up during this section as an Apex employee who provides some tech and acts like a jerk. Kind of a thankless role, but an important one because we need some humans the movie knows we won’t mind seeing get squashed.

And thankfully this is a movie that understands the kaiju format – it knows that though we will go along with the story of course we mostly care about the two title monsters and seeing them fight. And I think it lives up to that responsibility. Although I liked YOU’RE NEXT and THE GUEST, I never would’ve guessed that long-time indie horror guy Wingard would be the one to finally crack CG kaiju fights. PACIFIC RIM, GODZILLA and KING OF THE MONSTERS all have their charms, and perhaps aspects that are superior to this one. But to me they all, to varying degrees, suffered in their presentation of kaiju battles. PACIFIC RIM obscured them with darkness, rain and (most of all) constant cuts from the fights to the humans inside the robots; GODZILLA just didn’t have very many of them; KING OF THE MONSTERS, though a great improvement, still leaned more than necessary on night time and shaky, disorienting human perspectives.

GvK continues showing what it would look like from the ground, or the sky, or close up, emphasizing the colossal size in ways that suitmation never could, taking advantage of technology to have dynamic, thrilling movement in the camera moves. But it does it in the bright sun, and it whips us around without obfuscating. Our point of view rockets, twirls and corkscrews through the battles, but it doesn’t vibrate, it doesn’t cut away too fast, it doesn’t make us struggle to know what we’re looking at. Big, loud popcorn movies are often compared to rollercoasters, but how often do they actually make you feel like you’re riding a loopty-loop?

It’s endlessly inventive in its virtual cinematography (director of photography: Ben Serisin, TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, WORLD WAR Z, THE MUMMY), with cool visual gimmicks like showing us the view from the cockpit of a jet that Kong throws like a dart, or staying with Kong as he leaps from the bottom of the Hollow Earth to the top and shifts his perception of up and down. In addition to that, it’s just pretty to look at: not just all the magic hour and the fantastical settings, but Wingard loves his tech noir shit, so there are red, green and blue lights, and a fight in Hong Kong at night so the lights outlining the buildings and Godzilla’s blue glow give it a TRON vibe.

And then, of course, the fighting. Lots of moves that bring to mind pro wrestling, MMA and bar fights. Kong uses weapons, jumps off a building like you might jump off a wall in a cool hallway fight, throws a construction crane like an ax. Godzilla uses his tail well, his atomic breath better. He steps hard on Kong’s chest and you feel how close he is to crushing those ribs. He also gets his head bashed through skyscrapers, dragged face-first across wreckage. There is an appropriately savage victory celebration. I had such a great time watching this at home, but I’m sure to some people seeing a movie in a theater for the first time in over a year that climax seemed like the height of cinema. The apex cinema.

The movie makes you really like Kong, and root for Kong, but not necessarily against Godzilla. It’s a little like ROCKY III in reverse. Godzilla is the champ, but he’s not going soft. He’s like Clubber Lang in that he’s the hungry one out there looking for a fight, and also that he’s the asshole. But he’s worked hard to get where he’s at and he’s earned that attitude. We can see his point of view: he didn’t ask to be woken up by these little pricks called humans. He didn’t ask for the other Titans to fuck with him. And it became clear he was gonna have to establish dominance to live in peace.

Which he did! Nobody’s seen him in years. It’s only because of what Apex Cybernetics built that he came back. He was provoked by the fucking humans. Like the man says, you fuck around, you find out.

But Kong is more relatable. He’s had it worse and made less of a fuss about it. He sticks to his little island kingdom, doesn’t bother anybody but, like, pterodactyls and squids. But he lost what he had, because most of the natives died and Monarch keeps him under lock and key. They bring him on this mission without his consent. He’s embarrassed to admit that he’s scared. And to get beat up in front of everybody. He has those moments where he’s beaten down and trying to catch his breath and might not be able to get to his feet again. But he does. Even has to pop in a dislocated shoulder, which many have taken as a LETHAL WEAPON reference. The credits acknowledge LETHAL WEAPON 2, apparently for various homages (including the logo on a coffee mug) that were cut out. Maybe next time give him some of the ol’ blues rock guitar noodling on the score.

Which brings me to my final point: if they do another one, it’s gotta be a buddy movie, right? ZILLA & KONG. Or MONSTER KINGS. Godzilla is outmonstered by Titan (or mecha) enemies, and Mothra’s been kidnapped or some shit. So he has to go to Hollow Earth and convince Kong to help him. They bicker but they also bond and become a great team. Let’s do this, Hollywood.

If not, at least the series is going out on high note.

p.s. If I remember right, the last movie asserted Godzilla’s status as King of the Monsters by having all of the others literally bow to him. So I had this whole idea in my head that Godzilla could defeat Kong and force him to bow to him, then be attacked by another monster and be losing, and use his breath to somehow revive the barely conscious Kong, and then they would fight together and out of respect Godzilla would bow to Kong, and after a long beat Kong would bow to back to him and we would all be moved to tears by this honorable karate match/“My friends you bow to no one” type moment. Of course they didn’t do any of that, but when early on Dr. Andrews said “Kong bows to no one” I thought holy shit, is it happening?

p.p.s. In other ways, this movie seems like it was made to my specifications. In my KING OF THE MONSTERS review I joked that Godzilla’s inner glow should blink as a countdown to when he’s going to explode from radioactivity – this one has a magical stone carving in an ancient temple that, when it charges, lights up in a circular fashion like a progress wheel. I also said that instead of Mothra’s theme they could’ve used Loretta Lynn’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough To Take My Man,” and this one indeed uses some vintage needle drops in funny ways. Glad I could help.

This entry was posted on Thursday, April 1st, 2021 at 4:53 pm and is filed under Monster, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

46 Responses to “Godzilla vs. Kong”

  1. Odd that they called this one Godzilla vs. Kong, becuase it’s clearly a Kong-centric film, with Godzilla doing a heel turn and being used much more sparingly than Kong. The film goes all in on humanizing Kong and making him the hero of the film, while Godzilla’s motives are most likely sinister or at best ambiguous.

    I enjoyed this a lot and definitely was satisfied, but, then again, I enjoyed GODZILLA:KOTM at least as much, maybe even more (heretical take, I know). I appreciate how this film keeps going further into its Monarch/Hollow Earth worldbuilding and that it does a good job of maintaining continuity of look and characterization with respect to the Kong and Godzilla. And although I enjoyed GODZILLA 2014, I’ve enjoyed the significantly expanded color pallette and the wider array of titan personalities, interactions, and so forth. I’ve enjoyed watching these films get progressively less-grounded and more bonkers.

    People generally seem really excited that the fights are more day-timey and up-close-y / WWE-style, and I enjoyed that approach this time out, but I was in the minority who though all of the action from, e.g., KOTM was great, and I don’t think there was anything in this film as exhilirating as Mothra, Rodan, and Ghidorah (though this film’s mystery guest is up there). There’s also nobody in this film holding a candle to Bryan Cranston, Vera Farmiga, Ken Watanabe, or, for that matter, Bradley Whitford, whom I enjoyed immensley last time out. Bryan Tyree-Henry can hang with those guys, but other than that, the cast and acting are exceedingly generic and extraneous. Serviceable at best.

    The titular characters are great, mystery guest is great, Tyree-Henry is solid, beautiful to look. Great colors, critters, worlds. Downright whimsical in many respects, and that is a complement. The first film this pandemic that I’ve made a point to watch, and I’m glad I did.



    So did Kong officially acknowledge Godzilla as his Alpha? That was why he dropped his axe right?

  3. Oh man I absolutely loved this one. It’s the perfect version of a kaiju movie- fun, likable monsters, lots and lots of action, and the humans are only around just long enough to facilitate more awesome monster-on-monster action.

    I also thought the [slight spoiler] ultimate bad guy was both really cleverly set up and a completely awesome version of that character. The sound design for it alone was stellar, I rewound to hear that roar like 3 times.

  4. Good question, Felix. I didn’t think of that. Is that how other people took it?

  5. Vern, the movie theater where I worked as a kid was called Apex Cinemas! They sold it to Crown in 1997 and now it’s Bow Tie though.

  6. The Undefeated Gaul

    April 2nd, 2021 at 1:51 am

    I enjoyed this one, although perhaps slightly less than KING OF THE MONSTERS. These are basically just fun CGI cartoons that you watch for the cool visuals, and KING OF THE MONSTERS had more monster money shots that stuck with me (that film had a more memorable poster campaign as well, love the Rhodan one especially). SKULL ISLAND and especially GODZILLA feel more like real live action films to me, which I do prefer. I get that a lot of people want these movies to be more about the monsters than the humans, but I actually like some “Human Stuff” in my Kaiju movies, as long as it’s well-executed of course. I need a bit more to hold onto than just big cool CGI monsters bashing into each other.


    By the way, the machine gaining sentience I thought was because of the big skull still having a bit of consciousness left in it (which they were using to telepathically control the machine) but then it transferred completely into the machine, taking it over. So the machine was basically the other monster reanimated in a new robot body. That was my take in any case.


    That’s what I figure too, but 1. consciousness coming from a skull is pretty hard to swallow even in this movie – unless it’s a ghost! and 2. this is MechaGhidora erasure


    I did not interpret Godzilla as bowing to Kong, I took it more as mutual exhaustion and grudging respect. “Let’s call it a tie and rest.” We never see Godzill bow, instead we see him give a stoic staredown that suggests he might be coming back for one last helping. We also clearly see that Kong is again wiped, and possibly more so than Godzilla (to say nothing of the fact that Godzilla has already whipped his ass and nearly killed him (were it not for human intervention) twice by this point while also taking the lion’s share of Mechagodzilla’s punishment). I take it that Kong is preparing for one last exchange w/ Godzilla in case the latter wants to go one more round, but then he assesses that he has earned Godzilla’s respect, and so he tosses his axe as a gambit for calling it a draw. Godzilla essentially agrees that this is a good idea, but not before giving one final staredown to convey both respect for Kong and resolve/unfuckwittableness of his own. “We good here?” kind of energy. Importantly, I never see Godzilla submit or stay down or bow. When he slinks away into the water (per his usual steez), it’s a “my work is done here, time for some R&R” feel as far as I could tell.

    As for mystery guest’s origin, I had same take as Gaul. I view him mostly as a reincarnated semi-Ghidorah. There was some exposition about how Ghidorah has this sort of telepathic consciuosness that is what enabled a kind of extra-neural (~=airborne mystical voodoo) communication among his heads, and there is another implication that they have harvested or re-purposed Ghidorah DNA. So, it’s not just that you can do a lot of cool things with skulls generally, but that Ghidorah’s is a particularly cool/potent skull for this sort of thing. I would not say it’s particularly plausible or logical, but it’s a cool visual, and it’s nicely set up in the KOTM post-credits scene and is kind of a cool “Ghidorah’s revenge” call-back imho.

    Some films feel the need to over-explain or justify their stupid illogic, going through a lot of stupid exposition mythology dumps and/or rectons to justify key monster battle plot points. This wastes screen time, can be confusing and boring, and rather than address plot holes, it tends to just magnify them or else draw excessive attention to how implausible and unsatisfying the narrative solutions are. In contrast, this film takes the opposite and correct approach for a monster mash, which is to assume that the audience is already bought in and prepared to accept the most threadbare, satisficing justification and premise for cool set pieces to commence asap. Any explanation that is simple, confident, and in service of the plot’s momentum is a winner. Any explanation that is built on complex mythology, macguffin hunts, or skepticism and debate among the human cast is almost a sure loser. Boring and unconvincing.

  9. As I mentioned in the other thread, I love how perfunctorily this movie dismisses it’s human characters, finally acknowledging how utterly useless their functions are to films like these.

    Like the couple of heels who are summarily dispatched with so little fanfare. And beyond calling one of the characters Serizawa, the movie makes NO attempt in giving any further background info about him. It’s like “Listen, this could be Ken Watanabe’s character’s son, it could be some rando with the same surname, who gives a shit?” Or the fact that Joe Morton’s Dr. Brooks or Zhang Ziyi’s identical twin sister scientists or Charles Dance’s Titan Hunter from GODZILLA:KING OF THE MONSTERS are nowhere to be found. Only poor Kyle Chandler got roped in just so he could earn an imdb trivia point that he’s now acted in 2 King Kong flicks.

    A sluggish 1st half, but an epic, rousing second that’s everything I love about Creature Features.

  10. Yep, Kong officially acknowledging Godzilla as his Alpha was how I took it.

  11. This movie is absolutely gorgeous, so much so that I had several moments of jaw drop. I honestly can’t think of a better looking CGI fest type movie than this one. And it isn’t just the CGI of the beasts and the action itself, but the colors. It actually had me really excited to see what James Cameron will do with these new Avatar movies, and I hate the first one. Because if this is the new state of the art for CGI world and creature effects, I’m thinking JC will blow our minds out next year.

  12. Oh, and Skarsgaard seems horribly miscast. His character, as best I can tell, is supposed to be some kind of nerdy, reluctant hero type. The guy who most recently played Randal Flagg in The Stand shouldn’t be that guy.

  13. I’ve started to peg Wingard as a hack, and this movie is defintiely not doing anything to dissuade me of that, but he performed his hackwork with honor and pride and delivered on all of the movie’s promises, which is noble. I kind of loved it. SPOILER: Godzilla being a total dick and blowing up Kong’s ancestral homeland with his mouth laser less than five minutes after it’s discovered (was it known that WaKonga was right below Hong Kong or am I too dense to understand that anything in or on a sphere is in a straight line from anything else if you just pick the right angle?) and then they just start roaring at each other through a tunnel that is thousands and thousands of miles long like rival neighbors yelling at each other over a backyard fence and then Kong climbs up that whole thing in like two seconds and emerges in Hong Kong holding an axe made out of Gorilla spine ready to fuck shit up…well, that’s the reason movies were invented. This is why we put up with their bullshit. Because every now and again, something like this happens.

    It’s not perfect. Team Godzilla was a waste of time but still probably better than most human characters in these things. At least they were amiable and doing their level best to entertain, even though they were sent to a war they weren’t prepared to fight. Team Kong was more generic but integrated into the action better. Maybe I’m stupid but I didn’t catch that the little girl was deaf. I figured she was just mute because she was from that tribe that doesn’t talk. (Also, way to commit genocide on an entire race of indigenous people because you couldn’t think of any other way for a white lady to adopt a brown kid, movie.) Plus, given recent events, I’m pretty sure “wacky conspiracy theorist” is a character type that should be retired along with “loveable gun nut” and “funny sexual harasser.” Tyree was basically playing the Doug E. Doug role from EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS, and it’s aged about as well as that sentence implies.

    But shit, man, if that’s all I got to complain about, this is some kind of fuckin’ miracle. Throw in a reasonable running time and you’ve got easily the best of these pandemic streaming debuts.

  14. Well said, Majestyk. I agree with just about everything you said. Yeah, the lovable conspiracy nut was already worn out many years ago, before QAnon and shit made it in actual poor taste. That was the primary reason that section of the movie felt so Emmerichy to me (see also: Randy Quaid says he was abducted by aliens in ID4, Woody Harrelson conspiracy theories in 2012).

    The movie does indicate that Jia is deaf in her first scene – when she approaches Kong the sound cuts out to show him from her perspective. (I also read while researching the review that the actress is Deaf.) But thankfully I don’t think they ever say it in dialogue, since it doesn’t really matter. Your interpretation would make sense too.

  15. Yeah, Emmerich clearly loves his conspiracy theories. Many of his films engage with them in some way.

    STARGATE: Aliens built the pyramids!
    ID4: There are aliens in Area 51!
    WHITE HOUSE DOWN: Kennedy had secret sex tunnels under the White House!
    2012: The Mayans predicted the apocalypse!

    Hell, he even made an entire movie about how Shakespeare didn’t really write all those plays.

    But then he also goes and makes THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, which is preposterous but based in science, more or less, his MIDWAY movie was way more factual than you’d figure, and he was even 100% right about right-wing coup coming from inside the executive branch, so who knows with this guy? Maybe he just thinks conspiracy theories are make good material for his ridiculous movies.

  16. Darth irritable

    April 2nd, 2021 at 4:34 pm

    I really liked this, but I did find a couple of gaps in the science that were distracting in a couple of spots

  17. And…after ENOLA HOLMES, it’s also time to retire Millie Bobby Brown as a feisty and gutsy young girl who carries the ass of a spineless male companion.

  18. I liked this one, quite a lot. When I was a kid watching the two Kings of the Monsters duke it out on an afternoon Creature Feature, my mind would have been blown to learn that the concept would be revisited 4+ decades later. I enjoyed the small homages to the earlier film…Kong carried by air, electricity getting Kong back into the fight…but I was really blown away by how effortless Wingard made the fight scenes look. He set the standard for kaiju fights going forward.

    The inserting of a sub-plot as a way to include Millie Brown was needless, but it’s not like the old Toho films didn’t have rampant silliness going on, either.

    And the axe drop to me meant, “Fuck it. I’m getting too old for this shit.” Godzilla could rule the surface world in peace, but Kong was going back to the Hollow Earth (where maybe he can fight time-lost Nazis and their Vril-powered flying saucers…feel free to steal that idea, Hollywood).

  19. You know in retrospect it’s kind of funny that because someone came up with a team-up film in the mid-20th century just to get people away from those damn television sets for 5 damn minutes, the idea that Godzilla and Kong are somehow linked is out there forever, and we’ve all been hoping these guys fight again, even though they don’t really have much in common other than they’re both big and like buildings and punching. And it happens in the era where no one is comfortable saying a movie is just a goof anymore, you gotta say at it’s core it’s about characters going on a quest, and learning to bond and get along with each other etc., we’ve all been there it just so happens this one ends with punching monsters. So we have this elaborate series built towards it that started with films which were all “yeah, we know Godzilla films are famous for a giant monster punching other monsters and destroying buildings, but we’re all too sophisticated for that now aren’t we? So let’s have a film where he does that stuff but we don’t see it because we’re all more into Aaron Taylor-Johnson these days”, and another where Samuel L Jackson is all “Kong sure is destroying stuff. But you know what else destroys stuff? War!”

    I guess this is my convoluted way of saying I didn’t like this one as much as you all seemed to, but it sure does deliver in the last half-hour. Yeah, the relationship between Kong and the little girl is charming, but the other human characters were a bust or too undeveloped to make a difference. But the movie gives you what you came for, and a little more, and I can’t imagine anyone excited by the title regretting that they watched it. I just wish KING OF THE MONSTERS had this kind of well-staged action sequences, because for all its faults that was a more intriguing movie that was built around Godzilla doing what Godzilla was born to do, and featured some of the best character animation of the CG onslaught era, but it didn’t matter because the action was so obscured and uninvolving, and sure as heck nothing else in that movie made up for it.

  20. “…well, that’s the reason movies were invented. This is why we put up with their bullshit.”

    Well said, Mr M. That was beautiful

  21. Looking backwards on where this monsterverse experiment landed and how it got there, I think they did a really nice job of balancing a variety of different tones and sticking the landing.

    This GODZILLA looks and feels like GODZILLA 2014, it’s just that he’s more familiar and better lit. This is very similar to the evolutiono of Freddy Krueger, who starts out more shadowy and obscured. There’s a strategic ambiguity as far as suspense and the awe of the reveal, but then once the audience has habituated to the look and feel of the character, the filmatists have to move on and give him more things to do and more colorful opponents or landscapes to interact with. That’s why I think GODZILLA 2014 works as its own movie and as great introduction to this GODZILLA. And then KOTM does a great job of further developing this notion of GODZILLA as a protector and as the alpha of a bigger and weirder universe, where those original MUTOs from 2014 were just the tip of the iceberg. That’s a smart way to do a first film that leaves plenty of room for the sequels to expand the visual pallette and build out the mythology.

    SKULL ISLAND has such a different feel and tone compared to GODZILLA 2014. SKULL ISLAND is pretty campy and is this kind of theme part simulacrum. It’s NOT ANOTHER VIETNAM MOVIE plus King Kong. I think KOTM is an effective bridge, because it feels firmly planted in GODZILLA 2014 world, but the color and camp factor is amped up a good bit. So, by the time we get to this GvK movie, it starts to feel more plausible that these films could share a world, whereas if you just take GODZILLA 2014 and SKULL ISLAND by themselves, they’re really incongrous in look and tone.

    So, I think KOTM is pretty crucial in bridging the gap, both narratively and tonally, that sets up this film. More generally, with these last three films, they’ve done a great job of coloring in between the lines of the Monarch / Hollow Earth / Titan mythology stuff in a way that actually puts these characters plausibly into the same world, while at the same time not overthinking or over-explaining it. It’s more just subtle textures and points of continuity or tapering / hand-off that makes it work. That’s where I think there is some nice effect of the little grace notes, like that Ghidorah head (both in GvK and in the post-credits of KOTM), or bringing Watanabe back for KOTM, or bring Chandler and Millie Bobby Brown (it’s their prerogative) back for this last one. These small points of casting or visual or mythology/macguffin connective tissue give the whole thing some sense of continuity and felt cohesiveness.

    What’s wild is, by the time we get to this one, it feels like a pretty good mixture of those incongruous visual and tonal worlds of GODZILLA 2014 and SKULL ISLAND, respectively. It’s clearly more Kong-centric in story and in the look (i.e., brighter, more colorful, more day-time-y), but there is enough carryover fromt he Godzilla corner of these films that it feels like his world, too.

    Anyway, I suspect a lot of that is due to Michael Dougherty. And I don’t want to make the movies sound better than they are. Storywise, they are mostly passable at best, and I fully agree that Millie Bobby Brown and Noah Chandler serve no purpose in this sequel other than to co-sign / remind us that this is the same Godzilla that Ken Watanabe was tracking and, thus, the same Godzilla that Wanda and Quicksilver were dealing with.

    Still and all, to me this to me feels like kind of a best-case compromise between the George Lucas auteur approach vs. the STAR WARS sequel trilogy approach. There’s more room for a diversity of visions and directing styles, but there’s at least a surface level cotinuity and narrative arc that would allow you to watch these films in a sequence and see progressive developments or revelations that build on one another, resulting in later films that make more sense and are more satisfying if you’ve bothered to watch the earlier ones. Whereas the finished product of the STAR WARS sequel trilogy plays out as a passive aggressive spat between two very different storytelling sensibilities at war with each other — corporate sellout hack older brother vs. hipster emo younger brother. GvK actually finds a way to stitch this Frankenstein up and stick the landing, while STAR WARS 9 is just 2.5 hours of a decapitated chicken running around.

  22. Honestly, I still don’t believe that Gareth Edwards and Jordan Vogt-Roberts knew about the “Monsterverse”. Both of their movies feel too much like an autheur, trying to put their own spin on a classic property, instead of trying to establish a cinematic universe by laying the groundwork for other directors and writers. I really wouldn’t be surprised if we hear in a few years that, despite what they said before, Edwards didn’t return to the series because he wanted to keep it “serious” and was against the idea of a monster-mashup for popcorn pleasure, and that SKULL ISLAND was supposed to be a stand alone movie, until the post-credit scene was added in post production.

  23. That may be true of GODZILLA 2014 (not sure on that), but Monarch was pretty central to the SKULL ISLAND plot, so, I don’t think the director of SKULL ISLAND can have plausible deniability about a shared world. Even so, the two films are night-and-day (literally) different in look and tone, which underscores Dougherty/KOTM as the unsung hero in bridging the two film worlds into one. Again, there are plenty of things to quibble with in each of these movies, but I don’t think GvK could succeed to the extent that it does if there wasn’t (a) a lot of cool elements introduced in the preceding films and (b) a reasonably effective job of bringing all those disparate elements together enough for you to track what is going on and to be emotionally invested in the outcome. A large part of why this works is that the Kong and Godzilla are bona fide characters, each of whom as gone on a semi-coherent, somewhat emotionally involving arc across the various films.

  24. I’m pretty sure the only reason GODZILLA got made in the first place was to kickstart a shared universe to compete with Marvel’s, so any director claiming he was trying to make a standalone was just lying to himself.

  25. Jeffrey Roberie

    April 3rd, 2021 at 10:40 am

    [still not posting really but couldn’t stay quiet]

    Watched a second time just to make sure, yup I was right. This movie is very bad. If you any of you can link me to the good version without all the bullshit comedy and awful characters and writing I’ll be much obliged because I love this genre and these two characters. The movie you folks are talking up sure as hell isn’t the one on HBO Max.

    Anyways, much, much better than GODZILLA: KING OF MONSTERS. Good job!

    [end of not posting moratorium]

  26. I admit to not remembering SKULL ISLAND too well, but I don’t think there was any part of the Monarch inclusion, that couldn’t have been added in post production through dubbing or small reshoots (Kinda like the changed the whole plot of MIB by redubbing three key scenes.) Like, they already had a few government characters/scientists going on the island, so why not give their organisation a name and add a scene of them talking about King Gidorah?

    Also I doubt that they greenlit a GODZILLA movie without thinking of sequels, but if they were actually greenlighting it, thinking “Oh yeah, we let that guy do his dark & serious movie now and then let Godzi fight King Kong in a few years!”, they did a great job of hiding their plans in the beginning.

  27. I’m fine with giving Mike Dougherty credit for constructing the bridge between the reheated “serious” Spielbergisms of GODZILLA (2014) and the reheated “fun” Spielbergisms of KONG (whatever year that was). Judging by the response to the new product, his corporate-compulsory brand management operation was a success. Great job, dude. It’s also a movie that cuts away from a battle between Rodan and King Ghidorah to give television actors sitting in front of a green screen the space to make sub-Whedon adorkable quipsicles and climaxes with Godzilla triumphantly fighting alongside the US Air Force, so I remain unconvinced of its value to people who don’t sit on the Warner Brothers and/or Legendary Pictures shareholder boards.

    There’s something about the combination of frantic over-plotting, desperately shallow characters, miserably atonal dialogue, grotesque visual incoherence, and the incessant worship/fetishization of US military personnel and hardware that makes this style of filmmaking (?) feel like a calculated assault on attention spans/critical thinking capacities/the ability to discern quality in art. I don’t enjoy it!

  28. CJ – there was tons of reporting on the MonsterVerse plans. Unless I’m remembering wrong this one was announced well before KONG: SKULL ISLAND came out. And they straight up had a writers room working on the various movies.

  29. I think the main reason the tone changes after the first film is that the reaction to that film was kind of lukewarm; it did well but notably it dropped about 66% in the second weekend. Cinemascore was B+, which is a little cranky by their generous standards. It felt like something that was better liked by critics than audiences; people wanted more Godzilla, and they certainly wanted more Cranston. A hit, but not a universe builder.

  30. I saw (or probably falsely read into) Godzilla’s motivations a little differently.
    He destroys the Apex facility because he senses the power reactor they developed. He heads out to the ocean chasing the Apex employee that we see land on the ship a few hours before he arrives. Monarch all assumes he’s coming after another titan, but Godzilla, knowing Apex is screwing around, wants to find out what this fleet is up to.

    Godzilla has no idea what to make of Kong or his motives, but probably remembers the history between their kind. But he only blows a hole through the Hollow Earth after the Apex machine steals some of the energy and along starts playing around with the axe. He’s all, “Dude, they are up to some shit, check your friends, don’t turn that on.” But once he sees Kong is actually not with Apex, he respectfully lets him go in peace. And I love the tired, exasperated look Godzilla gives him before heading back to his territory, appearing to give Kong a choice of where he wants to go.

  31. I wanted to google the monsterverse announcement timeline to back up my wild claims at some point, but in my memory the whole monsterverse thing didn’t come up until SKULL ISLAND was in production, which could be a hint of them basically realizing that they have a cinematic universe in their hands at the very last minute. Buuuuuuuuuuuut of course that’s just a theory and my memory could be completely wrong.

  32. I like that, Dryden. I didn’t think about the possibility that Godzilla was following the fleet for Apex rather than Kong, but I think it makes sense.

  33. I thought this was a lot of fun. And so gorgeous! Man, I really wish I could’ve seen it in the theater. But I’m one dose down on the vaccine as of yesterday, so fingers crossed about getting back into the theater soon.

    There’s the shoulder pop LW2 homage and the DIE HARD jump, but one I haven’t seen mentioned that seemed pretty obvious to me was the broken boat getting it’s chain stuck on Godzilla and popping up like the buoy in JAWS.

  34. If Godzilla is chasing after Apex, then he’s not a heel or villain at all. He’s just several steps ahead of all the humans in the film on knowing what’s up. The film does this with Kong, as Monarch doesn’t realize that this dumb ape has been signing with the girl this entire time. Godzilla as Poirot while the humans are oblivious to the true villain of the story, would be a more emphatic reading that lines up with how Kong is treated.

    I really want Kong and Godzilla as The Nice Guys, greenlight that you cowards.

  35. I really liked Skull Island, really *disliked* Godzilla 2014, I thought King of the Monsters was only okay, and now I really liked this one. The monster fighting was definitely the best it’s been in the series.

  36. Thanks Skani, I guess that proofs that I was wrong about SKULL ISLAND, but unless they told Edwards “Hey, listen, we are planning something for later, depending on how well your movie does at the box office”, it’s still possible that his plans for Godzi were way different than WB/Legendary’s.

  37. grimgrinningchris

    April 4th, 2021 at 3:02 am

    Speaking of Pacific Rim and Kaiju…

    I think it’s great that part of this takes place where I live in Pensacola (and that we even got our own title theme in the score for a movie this… big).

    Amusing thing is that while it took place on the coast of the tri-state area… the Asylum knockoff of Pacific Rim…, Atlantic Rim (which my best friend and producing partner is one of the 5 leads in… yes, she knows how awful it is too… as did the second season of the newer MSTK- which dubbed her character ‘Dr Laura Dern’) was filmed almost entirely in Pensacola.

  38. Saw it last night and run on here to finally read the review and comments.
    I also saw the previous films in succesion the previous days.
    130 inch projector with a Dolby true HD 5 speaker system, so I try to make it as much a “cinema experience” as I can. Also re-saw all the movies with my girlfriend saw her eyes were “fresh” to all the movies.
    We loved Godzilla 2014.
    The serious grounded tone coupled with the incredible cinematography and music make it more of a suspence / thriller. The blending of the monsters with the environment is exceptional.
    We loved Kong Skull Island.
    Colorful but old school cinematography invoking a 70s movie, good humor, very well directed creature sequences.
    We HATED King of the Monsters.
    First time I saw it it was when it came out, on 3d/4dx. That format can make you swallow the most mediocre movie when it comes to big spectacle. At home in 2d without a chair that can simulate G force and especially after 2 very good movies, we couldn’t stand it. Nonsensical plot, unlikable characters, what feels like hours of spouting exposition and military jargon, futile atempts at humor scattered, bad bad BAD head injury indusing way of directing the fights if not the whole movie with a forever spinning and zooming camera and an unforgivable length.

    We went BONKERS for Godzilla VS Kong.
    Right when you think “OK, a lot of people talking and talking this is gonna be another KOFM” the first fight happens and you realise they had the perfect timing for it. It’s at a point where we empathize with Kong being dragged in chains away from his home. The fights are INCREDIBLE. Definitely the best fights ever between beasts. Well choreographed, well shot, garish color pallette but in a good way. Even the Millie Bobby Brown subplot, which is something you could cut away entirely, has its moments and “flies by” without becoming a drag.
    We cheered, we had our jaw drop to the floor, we had the best of times. In my book, Adam Wingard and the whole team of writers / fx people etc created a masterpiece of kaiju mayhem.

  39. Am I the only one who has trouble following the whole “Godzilla must rule the titans or we are fucked” plot? Maybe it’s because the scripts and characters from the series are so bland, that I never remember anything, once the next movie hits, but I feel like I have more trouble getting behind the series’ mythology than I should.

    Also the only thing that I actually enjoyed about this movie (other than Kong and Godzi actually acting like they have a personality this time), was that they went full pulp this time, not just with stuff like Kong picking up a magic axe and sitting on a throne, but how in best Saturday Morning Cartoon tradition everybody knew enough about super science, to correctly identify whatever glowing thing they saw. (Podcaster sees a guy sit in a glowy SciFi chair and instantly realizes: “This is a neural interface, he is controlling Mechagodzilla telepathically!”, or Kong’s axe starts glowing and one woman correctly claims “This is an ancient power source that is more powerful than anything we ever dealt with!” or shit like that.)

  40. This fell further in my (already middling) esteem pretty quickly, and I strongly suspect this came and went to little effect in the non-pandemic timeline.

  41. Just got back from GODZILLA MINUS ONE. Holy shit, you guys. It’s the CASINO ROYALE of Godzilla movies.

    (The Martin Campbell one, not the one with Peter Sellers)

  42. So it’s a big, dry snoozefest with a miscast lead, that tries to jump on the bandwagon of more popular giant monster movies by removing everything people liked about Godzilla, but at least gives us one really fun action scene early on? (Sorry, it’s been years since I let my dislike for CASINO ROYALE and the Daniel Craig Bonds flow, but for some reason couldn’t resist this one.)

  43. It’s a little dour in the beginning and a lot corny at the end, but it’s well made and delivers the Godzilla goods where it counts. I could have used maybe one more city-stomping scene but that’s a quibble. It’s a solid movie, very different from SHIN GODZILLA but comparable in quality.

  44. I saw GODZILLA MINUS ONE last night, and I’m here to tell you that it’s the Godzilla movie everything must be compared to hereafter!

  45. I loved it too! I’ll have a review ready soon.

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