This is the movie kaiju fans have been ravenously waiting to see! It’s been 7 years in the making, ever since Gareth Edwards brought the world a proper and faithful Western-made Godzilla film with a titanic budget backing it and cutting edge special effects befitting to the King of the Monsters.
Godzilla and King Kong, two of the most groundbreaking monster names in all cinematic history, have not met since the early ’60s. There was a lot of talk in the ’90s to bring these two colossuses back for a battle of the ages and I’m sad that never happened. I love the Heisei Godzilla films and seeing that Godzilla battle a revamped Kong would have been nothing short of extraordinary.
Well, after many decades, after many plans fell by the wayside, and once a new universe of monsters and mayhem had been established – courtesy of Legendary Pictures – the wait has come to an end at long last. The monster clash of the century has finally dawned and fans may rejoice in the neon haze.
Clash of the Titans!
If you’ve been following us here on Nightmare Nostalgia our readers will find it no surprise that I’m a Godzilla fanatic. I mean holy hell, people! If you search Godzilla there are at least 5 pages of Godzilla articles by me! So oh hells yeah, I’m excited about this movie. I’ve been looking forward to watching it for years!
First off I never thought it’d ever happen. Even while watching Godzilla back in 2014 I didn’t anticipate Legendary’s sensational vision to bring about a thriving MonsterVerse. One filled with classic Toho monsters and a fresh new evaluation of how these beasts would work in our world today.
Legendary’s treatment of these movies (Godzilla, Kong: Skull Island, and Godzilla: King of the Monsters) has been with the utmost respect for each creature and project. The filmmakers don’t treat these guys as great big monsters nor have they handled the projects as a ‘big dumb monster movie.’ Unlike the 1998 Godzilla atrocity.
Legendary treats these beasts reverently and as individual characters – and not just some CGI thing – and that’s what makes them work. What separates this series of monster films from many imitators is the fact that the monsters have so much heart and character, just like the original monster films Gojira and King Kong
Their latest monsterpiece, Godzilla vs. Kong, is no different. And this was not an easy project to bring to life either. Anticipations were high as fans of both beasts wanted to see their Titan done properly. This would have been a movie that easily could have monumentally fucked up – and fuck up hard – had it been handled in lesser experienced hands. I trusted Legendary’s vision and they didn’t disappoint. As far as both monsters go that is.
Let’s get the most obvious fact out of the way. This is a remake, but it’s the kind of remake that works just like Carpenter’s The Thing and Cronenberg’s The Fly. King Kong vs. Godzilla was a fine achievement for Toho back in 1962.
It was the first time either Kong or Godzilla appeared in color for one thing, and it was the third outing for Godzilla (just like this new film come to think of it) and a completely new take on Kong’s mythos.
In KKVG King Kong was a juice-drinking bachelor living the good life and being worshipped by adoring fans. He kind of had it made…aside from having to kick the shit out of rowdy gigantic sea life every now and then.
Fun fact: this was not the first time Kong appeared in a Toho production. Sadly (as of this date) the original Toho Kong movies are lost to Time but, as has happened before, perhaps they’ll resurface someday. Anyways that’s a topic for another article.
That original movie also set the formula every other Toho Godzilla project would follow – that being Godzilla vs. (insert monster here). It’s a brilliant formula too and it’s enchanted generations of fans ever since. Because of this movie’s success, it led Toho to quickly follow up with fan-favorite Godzilla vs. Mothra. And the rest is cinematic history!
So being a remake, Godzilla vs. Kong pays faithful tribute to the original (and much adored) Toho classic– and all of us fans are given some pretty nostalgic Easter eggs – while forging a modern classic out of the heat of Godzilla’s flames themselves.
This is a must-watch – I can’t stress that enough – for monster fans and whether you find yourself favoring Kong or if you’re more of a Godzilla nut there is plenty enough in this film to appease and delight fans on both sides.
Godzilla is shown in all of his raging glory and fans have not long to wait before seeing our Monster King. When he arrives all Hell breaks loose as he obliterates an Apex facility at Pensacola, FA. People flee (helplessly) in terror as he blasts away towers, buildings, and streets nearby. The very air sizzles in the tormenting heat of his inner radiation.
Flesh, blood, and bone melt by the heat of his atomic flames! Something, to be frank, I was expecting to see back in 2014. I was expecting to see the destruction of which Godzilla is very well known for. Godzilla is pure energy, a child of the Apocalypse, born of nuclear terror and he who walks with destruction in his stride. In Legendary he is an ancient Titan come from primordial mystery and awe, so it was nice to see him blast things apart just like he did in the good-old days. Naturally it also plays into the film’s narrative.
We are given a glimpse of the terror and awe that was revealed back in Gojira. I just wish there could have been a little more.
Kong is our lead though, a powerhouse of brute strength but with sympathy. I swear I keep seeing that beautiful Willis O’Brian touch (from the very original King Kong film) here in Legendary’s Kong. It’s in his eyes and how expressive they are. There is a profound soul behind his gaze and even a crazed G-Fan like myself can’t help but fall in love with Big Monkey.
Without getting into spoiler territory (yet) I’ll say this really is a Kong adventure-story where we follow him on his quest to kingship. Godzilla is not the villain though, which I theorized earlier. We’ll cover that a bit later though.
The movie is brimming with fantasy and sci-fi adventure. It’s a visual masterpiece that awes its audience. It also (most importantly) gives us a massive slugfest as monster battles monster to the violent end. Enjoy the marvel of seeing two of the most famous monsters of all time beating each other to bits. And yes, the battles – notice I say ‘battles’ because we get a few – are mind blowing.
Now for spoilers!
Final warning: If you don’t want the movie spoiled for you do not read further.
The rumors and theories were all true. The hidden villain of the film is none other than Mechagodzilla. I fucking knew it.
Mechagodzilla bursts onto the scene, tearing his wear out of the heart of a mountain, very similar to one of his earliest introductions from Toho, and as he’s born a wave of mayhem ensues. He is the new era of Titans, a new god, brought to life by none other than pure mad science! Don’t you love that? Classic sci-fi stuff right there.
They hint at him from the beginning of the film as we delve into the malicious secrets of Apex and learn of the company’s true intent.
Science may have built the chrome design of this mecha-nightmare, but the soul of the creature, and yes, at least in this particular case, the machine has a soul, one that’s blighted and thrives on the agony of others, is the DNA harvested from Ghidorah’s skull (just as I predicted from seeing the first trailer).
And he is vicious! I was curious how exactly Mechagodzilla would perform in the movie – like would he be a bulky stiff machine or something? He quickly proves (right off the bat) to be more than Godzilla or Kong could handle on their own. There’s a serpentine way the creature moves, and he possesses surprising agility. He’s out to kill and it could be argued that he is the Second Coming of Ghidorah seeing as he shares the devil’s own DNA.
So we get the monster team-up fans have always wanted as both kings join forces to take down the terror of Mechagodzilla. As people have been posting on social media (and spoiling the movie left and right) it’s true: Godzilla wins the fight with Kong but Kong ultimately kills Mechagodzilla.
But Kong would have never bested Mechagodzilla without Godzilla powering up that cool axe of his. Yeah, it’s a whole thing and quite awesome.
Mechagodzilla always proved a formidable rogue in the Toho series. He’s easily beaten the ever-living crap out of the King of the Monsters anytime the two ever faced off. And Legendary’s MechaG is armed to the gills with weapons of mass destruction. He’s a great introduction to the series even if Kiryu (Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla) is my favorite MechaG unit.
Since Godzilla is played up as the villain from the start it becomes a mystery race for Team Godzilla to discover why he’s attacking seemingly innocent people. Turns out Apex complexes are provoking him and Godzilla destroys each facility only because he believes a rival Titan is challenging him from each one. And he’s right considering it’s Mechagodzilla’s disassembled body parts behind it all. A single eyeball (seriously, his eyeball) emits a signal that just pisses Godzilla right off. Does he sense Ghidorah’s presence in the pulse? I really want to know more about this thing. Because the eyeball (hidden deep in an Apex factory) seems to act like the Orca did in GKOTM.
Kong’s journey is an adventure tale leading him from the borders of an artificial Skull Island and deep into the heart of the Hollow Earth. Whereas Godzilla’s story plays out as a conspiracy/mystery journey Kong’s story is played up as the hero’s quest to find a kingdom. And we spend a lot of time with Kong. And some of my favorite parts of the film were exploring the Hollow Earth! It was a beautiful place of fantasy and awe. I wanted to spend way more time there exploring all it had to show us. It’s said to be the birthplace of all Titans so who knows what other familiar faces are waiting down there and will appear in future movies?
And that’s where I do criticize the movie. I went to see this thing in IMAX – the first time I’d been back to a theater since seeing Joker. And after GVK was over I knew I could have (easily) sat an extra 40 mins just to get more details on, well, everything!
Criticism (of Human Characters)
Yeah, we gotta get into this territory.
With the previous three films, we were given plenty of ‘oh that’s cool’ explanations and things flowed fluidly as we followed people trying to figure out who the Titans were and why things were happening the way they were. I think Kong: Skull Island and GKOTM both did this the best. The human characters weren’t that boring and we clearly understood their motives and why they were reacting the way they did to the Titans.
Not saying GVK doesn’t do that. There is clearly a human villain and his motivations are evident. He wants mankind to be the apex ruler of the world again and will prove his place on top of the food chain by creating Mechagodzilla.
Not to get too into it (but you know I am) but how in the Hell does Apex manage to build an entire Mechagodzilla? Way back in 2014 I remember thinking ‘Wow! Imagine what Mechagodzilla would be like in this world.’ But the thought soon passed because I realized that realistically no one could afford to build that damn thing.
In this case we have the stereotypical business tycoon (Walter Simmons) played by Demián Bichir who just happens to have tunnels running through the earth to serve as his own personal transport. This way he can move his evil robot parts around and other fun black market stuff without anyone noticing. But holy shit how rich is this guy?
Unlike every other movie come before this one the military and government push to control the Titans are all missing. It could easily have been explained that world authorities had pumped all their resources together and given the military the go ahead with preparation for a man-made Titan combatant. That could have been Mechagodzilla’s origin and wouldn’t have taken much to set up. But no, rich guy built him.
The scene that stands out to me though was when Team Godzilla happens upon Ghidorah’s skull. It’s just there because of reasons. We get a quick rambling explanation that it’s fueling MechaG and Ghidorah used telepathy to communicate between his three heads, so this thing can talk to the mecha(?). But I would have liked a little more time knowing how did this thing get into Apex’s hands. I mean I know they must have bought it, but the last time we saw this skull was when Alan Jonah (Charles Dance) bought it off the black market in GKOTM’s post credits.
And holy shit did I miss Jonah. Like what happened to him? He was such a great(!) bad guy, definitely in my top 5 favorite Godzilla human baddies, and his absence is heavily felt here. It would have been cool to know that Jonah was the evil mastermind manipulating the CEO of Apex. I’d have liked to know that smarmy businessman who thought he had all the Aces up his sleeve was nothing more than a witless puppet in Jonah’s hands. And perhaps Mechagodzilla was simply a little test for a much bigger horror Jonah had in mind. Oh well.
Most of the Monarch team was missed here too. But no one was more missed than Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) who died in the previous film. But in GKOTM it looked like Dr. Chen (Ziyi Zhange) was going to be taking his place as the voice of reasonable exposition. In GKOTM she was already explaining Titan myths and lore from across history. In GVK it would have been nice to have her give us a little insight into this ancient rivalry between Kong and Godzilla’s species. That rivalry is just a thing that’s mentioned and never goes anywhere else in the film.
Again to use GKOTM as example, we’re told that Ghidorah is a species come from outer space and that he and Godzilla fought once before. The return of Ghidorah from his icy prison threatened the world as it had in ancient times when he and Godzilla fought once before. So the hatred they both had for one another was clear and understandable. Same way with Kong’s hatred fro the Skull Crawlers in KSI.
In Kong: Skull Island we had an established character (Hank Marlow played by John C. Reilly) in place to explain to us the long feud Kong’s family had with the treacherous Skull Crawlers. They killed Kong’s parents and made it very personal, and they also nearly wiped out the Iwi people. Kong had to fight these beasts to the death to protect all life on Skull Island but everyone feared the day when the Big One came up.
In the case of both films, Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla: King of the Monsters, both Kong and Godzilla are given villains to battle and there’s a lot of personal trauma caused on both characters by their arch villains. It created tension and excitement when they had to face them. Not to mention whereas Godzilla had Alan Jonah as a master-class baddie Kong had to fight none other than mother-fuckin’ Samuel L. Jackson! Both of these human baddies brought sinister drama to the monsters and it’s brilliant.
In GVK we have conspiracy theorist Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry) who is running with Team Godzilla and spouting off random bits here and there. I loved this guy – actor not character – in Child’s Play, and I really liked the character at the beginning of GVK but towards the end of the movie I really wished he would just shut up. He quickly became the stereotypical conspiracy theorist nut-job who couldn’t stop talking about the Illuminati and lizard people.
I know I’m bitching a whole lot but this is the first Monsterverse film where the human cast did really bug me. They simply felt one-dimensional when in past films they had depth and a purpose that was immensely relatable in one way or another. And they weren’t forcing comedy on us. When the comedy happened in past films it felt natural.
The one new character who carried her role perfectly was little Kaylee Hottle who plays the lone survivor of the Iwi culture. Her connection with a giant digital ape is so believable and precious. Kong acts as her guardian angel and she’s his voice to humanity. Really she stole every scene she’s in.
Do the monster battles make up for all this though? Oh hell yes! And my petty criticism can’t change how exciting and impactful the monsters are. And that’s why we go see these movies after all. Once the movie ended I could have easily sat there and watched a movie just about Godzilla and Kong without any human characters.
And that’s the bottom line. If you gotta have human characters at least take the time to make them interesting and give them depth.
Speaking of that I know there was talk about making a movie that went back in time and showed Godzilla and Ghidorah’s first battle. I’d be cool with that. And I’d also be cool with a movie focusing on the ancient rivalry between Kong and Godzilla’s species. I don’t care if there are no people in either film. Just let me see monsters fighting!
Overall I do love this movie even with my opinions about it. Doesn’t mean it’s bad. It also makes me hope there’s an uncut version of the film out there. At times it feels like scenes are just cut short, that, and, there are two characters listed in the cast who do not appear in the film. One being Dr. Ilene Chen (Zhang Ziyi) and that’s interesting! Where was she? Like I said, she was sorely missed. And a character played by Van Martin who is listed as Dr. Chen’s assistant. There has to be more to this movie than we’ve seen.
And now that Kong is established in the Hollow Earth who knows what else we’ll get to see in future films? I know that there’s been talk to remake Destroy All Monsters, a Toho film that took place on Monster Island and featured nearly every kaiju from Toho’s legacy. Could there be plans to set up a Legendary version with similar themes?
That and there were rumors of aliens being involved in future films. And you know what that means: GIGAN!
So far GVK has done well and we can only hope it continues to do so so the studios green light some more of these great monster movies.
In the meantime LONG LIVE THE KING!