Ben’s Breakdown | “Godzilla vs. Kong” Delivers The Goods, But Is It Art?

It has been the cards for some years to bring about a showdown between two of the arguably most popular monsters in all of cinema. It was destined to happen back in 1963 with the American release of King Kong vs. Godzilla so when the Legendary studio opted to give the big green guy a proper reboot with the 2014 movie Godzilla with an eye towards creating a franchise, people were already screaming for a proper meetup of Godzilla and Kong. Their hopes were solidified with the release of Kong: Skull Island in 2017 when it became clear that this was indeed a shared universe between the two titans. Then, when we got in 2019 Godzilla: King of the Monsters it was confirmed that these two titans had some history with each other and that it was not friendly.

The plot of this movie is not what has been shared in movie trailers. We had been led to believe that Godzilla was attacking cities randomly and that Kong was brought in to hopefully stop him. That was the plot for the 1963 movie, but that isn’t what is happening here. The organization known as Monarch is still studying the Titans, but where they were studying the likes of Godzilla, the unhatched egg of Mothra, and the frozen King Ghidora, here they are keeping Kong in a contained structure that resembles his home of Skull Island. Kong has grown up. He’s bigger and much smarter than Monarch realizes and he knows this isn’t his home. Enter the organization known as Apex. From the outside, they look relatively benign and have an interest in finding the origin of the Titans. This brings in the Hollow Earth theory that explains how Godzilla was able to get to any corner of the Earth so rapidly. Apex claims there is a renewable energy source there but is that all that they are after? Enter conspiracy theorist and wannabe Art Bell podcaster Bernie Hayes who has discovered something nefarious being constructed at Apex until Godzilla comes in and destroys the facility. It is then that Madison Russell (previously introduced in Godzilla: King of the Monsters) connects with Bernie as they hope to uncover the truth about Apex. Meanwhile, a member of Apex has gotten with Monarch about Kong and convinces them to take Kong to one of the tunnel entrances that leads to Hollow Earth. Apex tells Monarch one reason as to why this should be done, but in secret, they are hoping for something else.

I liked this movie, but I didn’t love it. As with previous kaiju movies, the big problem has been the people. They tend to get in the way 99% of the time. They do serve as the mastermind foil in some huge plan, but they generally grind the movies to a halt. That’s not so much the case here. The humans are kept to a reasonable limit that allows for certain story advancements to take place, but not hinders it. They even introduce a young girl named Jia who has more than just a connection with Kong. From here the movie does something that was most unusual as it almost humanizes Kong. In doing this they are setting up more than just a showdown between the two titans. They’ve created an emotional dilemma for the audiences. As stated earlier, these two are the most popular monsters in all of cinema and no one wants to see a “non-ending” as we got in the 1963 movie (or 1962 as it was released a year earlier in Japan). Fans are going to want to see a definitive ending, and the passions that rose from that took an interesting form through social media with groups such as #TeamGodzilla and #TeamKong. Just to be transparent, while I did like Kong a great deal, Godzilla has always been my go-to guy, but I must admit to my guilty pleasure of putting Mothra at the top of the monster heap. My point is, fans were being split in terms of who they were cheering for before this movie’s release. With this form of passion it became clear that you could not have one monster win over the other, nor would it look good to have one monster just capitulate. As Dr. Ilene Andrews says in the movie, “Kong bows to no one,” and the idea of Godzilla surrendering to Kong is beyond unthinkable. By humanizing Kong I found myself becoming sympathetic towards this Titan, and while I’m still pushing for Godzilla to be standing at the end of this movie, I didn’t want to see anything bad happen to Kong. Because of this, the most obvious plot device was introduced to have everyone satisfied. Just look to movies such as Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice or even Marvel’s The Avengers to spot that formulaic element. Right from the very end of Godzilla: King of the Monsters I knew precisely how the problem in this new movie would be handled, and for the most part I was right. However, writers Terry Rossio, Michael Dougherty, and Zach Shields, along with screenwriters Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein, took a risk regarding the final battle between the two behemoths. This could have been devastating for both fans and the franchise. Even director Adam Wingard stated during the build-up towards the movie’s release that there would be a definitive winner, but the brilliant use of the human element added something that brought about a redemption regarding the definitive loser of that fight that had them both standing proud towards the end and giving fans in both camps a sense of satisfaction.

As I previously mentioned, the humans here were kept to a reasonable limit, but they were all pretty much just background except for the character of Jia, played by the beautiful Kaylee Hottle. She is the one key player throughout this entire saga. Just as the mystical twin fairies gave voice to Mothra, she does the same for Kong. Her presence was beautiful and refreshing.

This movie has some huge flaws in it, ranging from how Kong is being transported on a cargo ship (he can only be so big for that, but he’s taller than some of the buildings in his final battle with Godzilla) to how he ends up at precisely the right location for his showdown with Godzilla. Yes, there was the use of Hollow Earth, but there was an added McGuffin regarding gravity that should bring about some obvious questions. Speaking of Hollow Earth, how is there sunlight there? Is it always daytime? These elements did not take me out of the movie, but they certainly provided some unwanted speedbumps in that experience. Lastly, this movie is simply a brawl between two popular monsters. The battles are easy to watch and are phenomenally shot as to make it very easy to see. Even one scene where they battle amidst neon-lit buildings gives both plenty of illumination as well as a sense of artistry, but is this movie artistic?

Godzilla: King of the Monsters, despite being a visually dark-looking movie, was extremely artistic in its approach. That movie was directed by Michael Dougherty (the same one who co-wrote this movie) and his scenes had an almost beautiful sense of imagery to them. He even employed some of the classic music for the Toho movies written by Akira Ifukube that created a sense of anticipation when Godzilla is marching into battle. He created scenes that gave a chilling sense of Armageddon, and that the final battle between Godzilla and Ghidora was in essence a Biblical conflict between Heaven and Hell. Sadly, this artistic element was lost in Godzilla vs. Kong. While the previous movie did things that engaged me and kept me emotionally invested, all I felt here was simple entertainment.

Godzilla vs. Kong is not a bad movie. Far from it. It’s a good movie. Unfortunately, that’s all it is. It’s just a good movie.

I give Godzilla vs. Kong 3.5 out of 5 Titans.

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One response to “Ben’s Breakdown | “Godzilla vs. Kong” Delivers The Goods, But Is It Art?”

  1. Michael Avatar

    Godzilla vs Kong does double duty — not only as the title for this movie but also a plot summary.

    Look, I appreciate all this character work and attempts to set up a reason why these two movie icons are going to fight, but I’m really here for one thing — to see Godzilla and Kong duke it out. As you point out, the movie stalls when the two titans aren’t on-screen together and I called the real reason behind the needed new energy source long before the movie revealed it to me. That said, this was a pure popcorn movie that my inner child loved. I’m not steeped in the lore of Godzilla, so I don’t know how faithful to the original spirit and intent it was. But man, I had fun with this — a lot more than I expected.

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