MONSTERS HAVE CONQUERED THE WORLD

godzilla_vs_kong_ver12_xlg-900x900

[Like I mentioned in my previous post, here’s my incomplete Godzilla vs Kong review! The further along it gets, the more unfinished it is, but I wanted to share what I had before signing off.  After the review I’ll cap it off with a  mess of closing thoughts. Enjoy!]

Godzilla vs. Kong is the movie I have been waiting for since I was a little boy.  Not necessarily this version of the movie, but a big budget, high-profile rematch between my two favorite monsters of all time.  I love these two big mean fuckers on their own, but together?  That’s pure movie magic. Totally audacious, unhinged imagination let loose and exploding on screens all over the planet.  

The more I learned about filmmaking and the more I paid attention to the film industry growing up, the more I came to believe that Godzilla and King Kong would never meet again on the big screen. Even when Legendary announced their plans to build towards this movie, I had my doubts.  A single MonsterVerse flop could easily kill the plan, a global plague could even more easily kill the plan.  And yet!!  And yet here I am, reviewing the movie I’ve hoped for and daydreamed for my whole life and spent over half my life convinced I would never get to see. Not only that, but the rest of the world at large (not just the kaiju fan community!) seems genuinely stoked! True randos were cooking up funny tweets and fan art and speculating about plot details in the lead-up to its release! I told a friend that the release of Godzilla vs. Kong felt like Monster Christmas, he agreed!

w9mn06r6gan61Godzilla vs. Kong, currently the capstone on Legendary Pictures’ ambitious MonsterVerse cinematic universe, has its problems, large and small… but it also delivers all the big, crazy, colorful, joyful, thrilling, scary, gross, and awe-inspiring fun you could ask for in the greatest monster prize fight rematch in history. Just the fact that there’s now a mega-budget, (relative) smash-hit Hollywood blockbuster that has a title starting with “Godzilla vs.” is incredibly exciting. The fact that said title ends with “Kong”?! I’m freaking the fuck out over here, gang. I will be for a long time 🤣

This won’t be one of my usual reviews. Partly because I’m probably incapable of being objective about this movie (I have pretty bad recency bias on a good day, let alone for a movie I’ve daydreamed about since I was 6), but also because I want to talk about where I’ve been lately, the new kaiju boom we’re living in, and how I’m thinking about some major changes when it comes to my writing and this website. I’ve also been jonesing for an excuse to look back on what this site, the kaiju fandom, and the monsters themselves have really meant to me all this time–MONSTERS CONQUER THE WORLD was always a deeply personal project, and these last couple years especially have taught me a lot about myself and why these big stompy bastards matter so much to me.  

So this might be a sort-of kind-of a farewell post? Or at least saying farewell to the super in-depth kaiju reviews?  Who knows, I might feel completely differently in the near future and find myself re-inspired to get back to the big meaty reviews!  I’m not in a position to guarantee anything right now–so instead I want to just go with the flow and see where it takes me. Deep down I’ve been itching to pivot away from writing about other peoples’ creations and start writing my own stuff (I’ve threatened friends and family with fan-fic for years), and that’s at least some part of why I’ve had such a hard time getting out reviews the last couple years. Of course I can’t just WALK AWAY when there’s so much kaiju kontent to review, so for this big funky mega-post I will also do micro-reviews of every “Main Monster’s” filmography. For me that means Godzilla, Kong, Gamera, and Ultraman, and probably a few other odds and ends in there too [Had to ditch this, sorry. Maybe someday!]. This is a weird one and a big one and a personal one, so hoist up your glowing nuke-ax, buckle into your H.E.A.V. and grab a barf bag because we’re atomic breath-ing all the way down to the Hollow fuckin’ Earth!

Last chance to hop off the Spoiler Train before we ride it all the way to… In-Depth Recap Junction(??)!  Here’s the quick version of my thoughts on Godzilla vs. Kong:

Godzilla vs. Kong goes big, bold, beautiful and crazy without losing focus or tripping over itself. The movie is lean and mean–possibly to a fault. Like every MonsterVerse entry so far, GvK can’t figure out what to do with several of its human stars. Ultimately, GvK’s unbridled imagination, thrilling spectacle, and gorgeously realized mon-stars are enough to make you forget about its narrative flubs and the occasional dead-end subplot. Fans of Godzilla, fans of Kong, fans of both, and fans of outrageous, blockbuster filmmaking will have a blast with this kick-ass action-fantasy epic.

Got that? Now get out of here if you’re trying to avoid spoilers! Here’s the trailer!

The big boat! Hong Kong by way of Tron! Kong smacking cannon fodder monsters into each other! Godzilla blowing the shit out of the military! It’s just… from a pure spectacle/ action/ looka dese monsters standpoint, it’s everything you want out of Godzilla and Kong’s rematch! Plus it teases the mystery of “why has Godzilla suddenly turned on humanity?” AND Kong’s heartwarming relationship with the last Skull Islander, Jia.  Bingo bango, this trailer had me losing my fucking mind

godzilla-vs-kong-underwater-poster

No, I will not disclose how many different Godzilla vs. Kong wallpapers I have downloaded to my phone frankly it’s none of your business that it’s a double-digit number shut up

Which is hilarious because I absolutely did not need to be sold on this movie. Like, the title alone had me in the door. That said, I practically did a backflip when I heard that Tom Holkenborg/Junkie XL had signed in to compose the score.  Why?  Four words baybeee:

MAD

MAX

FURY

ROAD

Some of the most bad-ass, adrenaline-pumping, white knuckle, holy-shit-we’re-gonna-die action adventure music I’ve ever heard in my fucking life. Junkie XL’s a pretty prolific film and video game composer, with his Deadpool score being another personal favorite: it’s like if Michael Jackson’s Bad was seamlessly expanded into the score for a trashy 80s low-budget ninja movie which is… exactly the right sound for a Deadpool movie. After Bear McCreary went so insanely hard on the Godzilla: King of the Monsters score I was strapped in and ready to have my brain melted by Junkie XL.  

And said brain melting didn’t happen which is actually totally fine and also valid.  It truly sounds like if the Fury Road score had to sort of mutate itself into a kaiju movie score, which isn’t bad by any metric, but not that fresh or novel either.  I ended up enjoying his Mechagodzilla theme a lot, which has some great, sinister, synth-y touches, especially the weird “buh-boo-bloop, buh-boo-bloop, buh-boo-bloop” rhythm that pops up a couple times. The new Godzilla theme felt like a half-baked imitation of Ifukube’s original at first, but on repeat listens and viewings, it feels more like a surprisingly satisfying re-working of the original theme–like an evil twin to Ifukube’s original 😏. The Hollow Earth theme is ethereal and beautiful, packing in big Vangelis vibes and really selling Kong’s lonely, emotional journey. So yeah, Junkie XL didn’t reinvent the wheel, but he certainly didn’t shit the bed either. 

The usual MonsterVerse writing crew (Terry Rossio, Zach Shields, Max Borenstein, Eric Pearson) put the story together with an assist from Michael Dougherty.  The Godzilla: King of Monsters director also has a story by credit for Godzilla vs Kong. This partly explains why GvK tends to have the same successes and failures as previous MonsterVerse installments: the monsters are lovingly crafted and characterized, with satisfying story arcs that pack in emotion along with the action, but the human stories are a mixed, clunky bag. For every compelling plot thread or sympathetic human character, there’s also a deadend subplot or a character that isn’t fleshed out enough to help the story.

27ed7bf7ff9dbc7a-600x338

I was super psyched to see Brian Tyree Henry in the cast! Then super not psyched when his character turned out to be a conspiracy theory quack. FLUORIDE IN TAP WATER IS A GOOD THING YOU FUCKING DOINKS. DO YOU LIKE HAVING TEETH? HOW ABOUT UNBROKEN BONES??? That’s fluoride saving your brittle, ungrateful ass!

Of course you can’t have a movie without a director, and for GvK Legendary picked horror helmer Adam Wingard. Prior to this catastrophic kaiju clash, Wingard was best known for You’re NextThe Guest, and 2016’s Blair Witch reboot.  He was also NOTORIOUS for the live action Death Note adaptation–which was panned… which then led to him getting death threats from fans of the original anime.  Cool job, internet!

1536576574-death-note-netflix-willem-dafoe-as-shinigami-ryuk

I haven’t seen it so I can’t judge, but Death Note himself looks pretty cool!

I actually haven’t seen… any of Wingard’s other movies 😅. I even meant to! I love slashers and horror in general, and You’re Next has had positive buzz from the get-go.  I’ll watch his other stuff eventually, because even with its troubled production (where whole chunks of story were simply deleted), Godzilla vs. Kong fucking rips, man

11

It’s just non-stop radness.

Wingard’s horror sensibilities shine through with the monster action in particular.  Godzilla, Kong, and even the co-star monsters (co-mon-stars?) snarl, scream, spit and just go fucking bonkers on humanity and especially each other in ways both familiar and fresh.  Two of my favorite “new tricks”:

main-qimg-25a6f543830a9c0d63405224b0bcfbb6

1. Godzilla getting so pissed off at Kong that he scrambles forward at him on all fours to get to him quicker–undignified for the King but also SCARY AS FUCK

2. Kong ripping a Warbat’s head off AND DRINKING THE BLOOD N GOOP LIKE A NASTY PHREAK

Godzilla and Kong are both heroic monsters in the MonsterVerse, and that continues through Godzilla vs. Kong (thank goodness!)… but they’re still MONSTERS, dawg! They’re still wild and brutal, untamable and beautifully savage.  Good doesn’t necessarily mean nice, and Godzilla vs. Kong explores this idea–what it means to be monstrous but still GOOD deep down–because Godzilla and Kong, rightfully, are the true stars here.  That’s Wingard’s horror roots showing through, and it’s a perfect fit for this kind of story. 

tumblr_f871cfec8746cf595b8374c09f8dc217_e109c23e_500

So if the monster stuff is close to perfect, what about the human side of the story? It’s simple, serviceable and knows when to get out of the way, but some choices rub me the wrong way.  As is tradition with MonsterVerse movies, apparently! This time around, the main flubs are early on–by the end credits you’re coasting on pure, uncut post-monster adrenaline/euphoria (adrenaphoria?).  One of the first major plot developments is that Skull Island and the native Iwi people are completely wiped out, and off-screen at that.

princess-bride-boo

Well okay, one lil chunk of the island is still intact (for now) and exactly ONE Iwi survived.  I get that destroying Skull Island is a clear, understandable reason to force Kong off his safe home turf (and shit, that’s basically the plot of Son of Kong so it also feels like a knowing throwback too), but killing off all but one Iwi just sucks. Like really, not even a small group was saved by Kong?  Kong could ONLY save Jia?  

godzilla-vs-kong-jia-1253994-1280x0

Don’t get me wrong, Jia is easily the best human character in the movie and her relationship with Kong is the heart and soul of the film, but c’moooooooooooooooooooooooooooooon. After years of Skull Islanders that made me go “UH IS THIS OK??? I DON’T THINK THIS IS OK😬” the Iwi felt like a unique, fresh, realistic, and OK version of King Kong’s loyal subjects. But hey, maybe they’re not! Time will tell. I just like the Iwi and their culture and was bummed they got nuked off-screen unceremoniously.  Feels like a waste. If the MonsterVerse continues I want to see a flashback of Kong heroically saving Jia from who-knows-what. 

5-gvk-image-700x290

Jia is played by feature film newcomer Kaylee Hottle, a deaf child actor who just fuckin’ crushes it throughout. Her performance is understated and natural, making it easy to believe that she’s formed a bond with the Eighth Wonder of the World.  Speaking of Jia, she was adopted by Monarch operative Dr. Ilene Andrews, played by Rebecca Hall. Hall is a Golden Globe winner with a super varied career, having popped up in everything from heavy hitting dramas like Frost/Nixon and The Town to lighter genre fare like Iron Man 3 and The BFG.  

Rage2-BFGinRealLife-720x432

Only a visionary like Stevie Spielburgers could take the comically huge fuck-off gun from DOOM and turn it into a family fantasy romp.

Can confirm, she brought it in The Town and Iron Man 3!  I’m a little iffy on how she handles Dr. Andrews though? She comes across as exasperated and annoyed through the first half of the movie, and I can’t figure out if that’s a character choice or if she was just like “whatever, it’s a CGI blow ’em up movie, who gives a shit?” If it was a deliberate choice it’s a really interesting one. A woman scientist who takes in an orphan is the type of stock character you expect to be warm and nurturing, and she’s not really! She consistently seems irritated with Jia… but not a cartoonish, hateable way.  

Godzilla-vs-kong-warner-bros-hbo-max-10

Kids can be annoying! Especially when you’re ALSO trying to deal with and survive some apocalyptic kaiju nonsense! I have to assume any parents watching Godzilla vs. Kong could at least somewhat relate to Andrews’ frustration. When shit gets really crazy in the third act she does eventually get swept up in the awe and wonder of the crazy monster-war… though that could also just be that most of the human characters (understandably!) take a backseat in the final act. Her faintly-defined arc mirrors that of her self-appointed partner, crackpot ex-Monarch geologist Dr. Nathan Lind, played by charismatic super-Swede, Alexander Skarsgård.

tumblr_eca3b2b86b8df98dec37489cd27e6335_941d10ca_500

Fang-bangers know him as Eric from True Blood and Stephen King’s Constant Readers might know him as Randall Flagg from the recent and excellent The Stand mini-series–whether you know his work or not, he rocks the shit out of a puffer vest.

Dr. Lind spends the first two acts viewing Kong as a means to an end: successful entry into the Hollow Earth.  Lind is a disgraced geologist who’s been ostracized by the scientific community for his crackpot theories–he’s also pretty fucked up about his brother dying during their catastrophic first attempt at entering Hollow Earth. He’s starstruck when Apex CEO Walter Simmons (AND Ren Serizawa, whose whole subplot got CTRL-X’d right out) visits him at the beginning of the movie, but otherwise he spends the first two acts desperately tunnel-visioning his way into the center of the Earth.  Like Dr. Andrews, he doesn’t really GET IT until shit goes crazy leading into the third act.  By then, they both get it so FUCKING THOROUGHLY that they risk their lives to revive the dying Kong. I don’t know if “joyless career scientists reconnect with how weird and awesome nature is” was the point of these two characters, but that’s my takeaway and I think it’s pretty cool.

Godzilla vs Kong

So Kong has his bud Jia and two scientists getting their groove back, but who’s got Godzilla’s corner?! Who’s looking out for this precious lil prince!?!

b6430c22995bde2477d9b961dda39898

This is what my fridge sees at 2 in the morning when I “need” a to eat the leftover fried chicken.

Madison Russell (Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown) is back! Her dad (Kyle Chandler) even has a couple scenes and (thankfully) isn’t THE MAIN GUY this time. And now Chandler (could he be any more Kyle?) can say he’s been in two Godzilla movies AND two King Kong movies! 

(img)Yes, obviously I’m INSANELY jealous

Madison links up with her bud Josh Valentine, played by the delightful Julian Dennison (do yourself a huge favor and watch Hunt for the Wilderpeople if you haven’t yet).  She ropes Josh into helping her track down conspiracy theory podcaster Bernie Hayes (the previously mentioned Brian Tyree Henry) and the three have a merry adventure unraveling the mini-mystery of “Why the fuck Godzilla killing us now? I thought we were cool!”

maxresdefault

“TURNS OUT WE ARE NOT COOL BLAAAAAAAARRRARRRRGGGGHHHH”

Madison and Josh cruising around Florida in Josh’s brothers’ storm chaser van (shades of Godzilla 2000?) hunting for Bernie is fun… but the rest of it is iffy.  Their story is the clear comic relief subplot, and I’ve seen Dennison and Henry be pretty fucking funny… in other projects. If any filmmakers are reading this and you want to have lots of jokes in your movie, please, PLEASE hire at least a couple actual comedy writers. Like King of the Monsters, about half of the jokes don’t land (I am being generous here)–sometimes it’s the delivery, sometimes it’s the writing, sometimes it’s both. I LIKE when big spectacular blockbusters throw in a couple goofs, but they need to actually be funny for them to be not be (at best) a distraction.

(img) I really enjoy all three of these actors… but they don’t really get to shine here.

It’s a comic relief subplot, but thankfully they also usher in some of the weirder sci-fi elements in a digestible, believable-ish way and have some really wild close encounters.  

(img) Skullcrawler gore!

(img) FUCKING MECHAGODZILLA?!?!

I told you I wasn’t going to hold back on the spoilies! It was a delight to see a Skullcrawler again, especially as cannon fodder for FUCKING MECHAGODZILLA. With the MonsterVerse versions of Godzilla AND Kong both being heroic, it’s not a surprise to see that GvK ends not with one killing the other, but with both putting aside their differences to go absolutely fucking bonkers on some other, greater threat.  

(img) it’s just like, the best possible way to end this. 

Personally I was hoping for Biollante or Hedorah as the ultimate big bad, but who could resist the urge to throw FUCKING MECHAGODZILLA into their movie? Especially if it may be the last Hollywood Godzilla production for a good long while! This design is one that took me a bit to get used to, but I ended up loving it.  It’s blocky and chunky and ugly in a way that reminds me of Showa Mechagodzilla (so about a billion bonus points there). The long arms seemed weird at first but they might also be a stealth nod to King Kong’s big beefy punchers (if you’re building your own kaiju, why not steal the best elements from multiple monsters?)! Plus its haunted by the psychic brain ghost of King Ghidorah (so you know, its also a big fat wink at Kiryu/Mechagodzilla from Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla and Tokyo S.O.S.)?!

(img)That rules. That fucking rules so much. MonsterVerse is the best shared movie universe. I know I’m biased, whatever, I don’t care. CATCH UP MARVEL, make a movie where Fin Fang Foom drop-kicks Galactus or something you little wiener-babies. [Shang-Chi is pretty close and kicks ass, FYI]

OH and it has a drill-tail like the DragonZord.  It’s a lot of different very cool elements that add up to what is easily my second favorite Mechagodzilla design.

(img) yes of COURSE Showa is number one forever and ever amen. I am a ho-a for Showa. 

So we have all these story pieces in place! Godzilla is rampaging because Apex is using a  Ghidorah skull+cells to usurp his rightful throne.  Dr. Andrews and Dr. Lind are working with Monarch and Apex to move Kong off the quickly deteriorating Skull Island and to some place safe: the Hollow Earth. Apex wants into the Hollow Earth because they want to harvest its incredible power source so they can get Mechagodzilla up and running. Kong wants a new home with Jia… and to settle an eons-long score with Godzilla, who is also WAY fuckin’ happy to answer that challenge. AAAAAND Mechagodzilla/Ghiddyghost wants brutal, bloody revenge on just like, every sapient being on Earth, starting with the first two big assholes he sees.

(img) these fuckin’ jerks!

SO YEAH! It gets pretty kooky!  The monsters and these wild locations are rendered GORGEOUSLY, especially the eye-popping nighttime showdown between Godzilla and Kong in Hong Kong.

(img)Tron and Pacific Rim having a baby starring my two favorite monsters of all time–THIS PLEASES ME

We get a killer variety of locations too, each of them visually distinct and packed with environmental story-telling:

  • Skull Island/BioDome
  • Pensacola/Apex Florida
  • Open Sea
  • Antarctica
  • Hollow Earth
  • Hong Kong (Arcade ver.)

I love when kaiju movies double as fucked-up travelogues, mixing real-world locations with freaked-out, fantastical ports of call. GvK NAILS that shit! The fake Skull Island dome-simulation kicks things off with a trippy bang that screams “we’re keeping the crazy-ass, futuristic super-science from King of the Monsters, OKAY?” Pensacola is a grounded, real place… with some dark, super-science secrets! The open sea (and the CRAZY battle that happens there) is like a love letter to decades of classic Godzilla (and chaining Kong to a ship is a direct wink at King Kong ’76). Antarctica is another classic kaiju locale, housing Godzilla’s frozen keister in Godzilla: Final Wars and Ghidorah’s in King of the Monsters (King Kong Escapes has a lot of gorgeous snowbound scenery, but that’s the North Pole, not Antarctica. Still though!). Plus Kong gets to Antarctica via helicopter airlift, another big ol’ reference to King Kong vs. Godzilla!

(img) Kong’s a thinking beast, he’s been racking up Skull Island Air Travel Rewards Points since 1962!!

Hollow Earth is a whole new crazy thing for the franchise….sort of. The Godzilla franchise didn’t invent the concept of Hollow Earth (it was pitched and then definitely debunked in the 17th century), but an unproduced sequel to the original Gojira did! “Bride of Godzilla?” is  abso-fucking-lutely buckwild in a way that makes Godzilla vs Kong look like a quiet little coming of age dramedy.  Anguirus, mermaids, giant blood-sucking fleas, octopus people, and a big naked robot lady all feature, and that’s really just scratching the surface! 

And that really just leaves us with Godzilla and Kong themselves.  I know I’ve gushed about them, but they really, truly are the best parts of the film, as they deserve to be. They look beautiful and BIG, they’re both being pushed to their limits (usually by each other), they’re doing new stuff we’ve always wanted to see and stuff we didn’t even know we wanted to see, and they both OOZE distinct, lovable personalities.  Godzilla is the wrath of nature personified, Kong is more human, being a primal beacon of both untamed pride and profound love.  Godzilla gets to reassert he’s King Shit, Kong gets to discover his birthright and lost throne, and they both get to bury the ancient hatchet with each other (instead of IN each other).

(img) Ouchers

Godzilla looks more or less the same as he did in King of the Monsters (which is JUST FINE with this guy!) and Kong isn’t WILDLY different than he was in Kong: Skull Island, but he’s aged! He’s bigger and gruffer, with battle damage across his chest and a nice scraggly beard that just adds to his whole vibe of “mighty, ancient monster-king.” 

(img) I love these dudes. Not sure if that was coming across or not 😂

Of course the fights are the main attraction–the combat choreography and aesthetics POP, the different locations play to the monsters’ strengths and weaknesses in smart, thrilling ways, and Godzilla and Kong have a dramatic back-and-forth, despite (or because of?) Kong’s underdog status.  Of course Godzilla whips ass in round one, he’s in his element, the briny blue! Kong is in DEEP (heh) trouble here, as Godzilla channels his inner Jaws (my favorite visual gag/Jaws connection is Big G dragging a boat behind him just like ol’ Brucey did with the barrels!) and effortlessly terrorizes not just Kong, but the whole fuckin’ fleet!

(img)

That said, round two gives Kong a chance to shine in the concrete jungle of Hong Kong! It plays out just like I had always hoped it would! Godzilla is still the overwhelmingly powerful aggressor, blasting the ever-loving fuck out of everything in sight, but Kong’s fast, he’s smart, and he’s scrappy! Seeing The Eighth Wonder of the World dodge Godzilla’s atomic fire blasts by climbing, jumping, and swinging from skyscrapers is a dream come true.

(img) no I will not shut up about the Hong Kong fight. Ever.

And then we cap it off with the two kings doing tag-team pro wrestling movies on that robo-dork Mechagodzilla. 

(img) This is my cinematic happy place. I want a million sequels where Godzilla and Kong are kaiju buddy cops who tag-team every other big evil monster they can get their claws on. Imagine these two double-teaming Cthulhu’s eldritch ass! 

Even Mechagodzilla gets to shine! He wastes a Skullcrawler in his intro, terrorizes the citizens of Hong Kong, and mops the floor with Godzilla until Kong gets mega-defibrillated and jumps back into the fray!

 (img) Uh, YEAH I’m counting Kong’s electro heart-zap as a nod to his lightning powers in the original King Kong vs. Godzilla…. and to the supersized pacemaker he gets in King Kong Lives.

As cool as the battles are, I really, really appreciate that we get to see Godzilla and Kong do things besides beat the piss out of each other.  Godzilla gets to directly and purposely battle human forces for the first time in the MonsterVerse (YES! [sickos link]) and Kong straight-up has an epic fantasy adventure rediscovering his homeland.  

(img) Yes, I’m saying I want a King Kong game that is the kaiju-sized version of Breath of the Wild. Who WOULDN’T want that?! Why doesn’t this exist?!

So that just leaves us with the big “who WON?” question.  From the get-go, Wingard and co. were telling fans that yes, there will be a clear winner in Godzilla vs. Kong. King Kong is the original gangster when it comes to giant monsters, but there’s no denying that Godzilla has since become the bigger, badder beast all these years later.  So yeah, Godzilla wins the fight. I get it, it makes sense.  That was pretty predictable, as is the fact that the “true” ending is Kong and Godzilla teaming up to take out the larger threat.  They’re not reinventing the wheel or blowing minds with convoluted twists, but as someone who loves King Kong as much as Godzilla, I really appreciate that Kong gets to retain some dignity by RIPPING MECHAGODZILLA’S FUCKING HEAD OFF AND SAVING GODZILLA’S PUSHY, ARROGANT ASS

(img) FUCK YES

Godzilla wins the fight, but Kong wins the movie. I’m happy with that. Godzilla is nature’s righteous fury personified (monsterified?), Kong is compassion, empathy and the potential for growth in kaiju form. When they come together they are un-fucking-stoppable.

(img)If they can stop bitching at each other long enough to work together, that is.

So that’s it, that’s Godzilla vs. Kong! It’s a BLAST!  It’s not perfect, it’s not especially deep and it makes the same mistakes we’ve seen in previous MonsterVerse movies… but it’s so much goddamn fun that I just can’t find it in me to be mad about its shortcomings.  The fact that GvK had such a rocky production makes the end result even more impressive–this movie had to be hacked apart and stuck back together so much that it’s amazing it’s watchable let alone a thrilling and incredibly satisfying monster-mashing adventure! Eye-popping visuals, kaiju that feel humongous and REAL, buckwild action setpieces, fuckin’ bonkers story beats… Godzilla vs Kong is a love letter to everything that makes this genre so special and especially the two iconic monster heroes that set the whole damn thing in motion almost a century ago.

(img)

Commercially and even critically(?!?!) Godzilla vs Kong was a smash.  Audiences gobbled up the spectacle and were more than happy to tolerate the movie’s flubs, making it one of the highest grossing films since the COVID-19 pandemic turned the world inside out starting back in March 2020.  The future of the MonsterVerse is still uncertain, but Wingard is in talks with Legendary to continue it in some capacity!  

(img) MINILLA FOR THE MONSTERVERSE, YOU FUCKING COWARDS

Son of Kong has been mentioned in rumors and whispers as a potential fifth MonsterVerse film, but who knows. In April of 2021, The Hollywood Reporter wrote that Legendary was “quietly taking steps to stretch the series into one or more installments.” I think the MonsterVerse is the only attempted cinematic universe to consistently come close to what Marvel has accomplished, and I’d largely chalk that up to Legendary’s deliberate, even conservative approach. Even when they were shifting financial and story-telling puzzle pieces together to lay the groundwork for Godzilla vs Kong, they took it one movie at a time, and took care to make each movie a solid, stand-alone mega-monster experience.

(img) it fuckin’ paid off, IMO

It paid off and it sounds like that’s their path forward. They’re not gonna drown us to death in an overwhelming tidal wave of content like Marvel and Star Wars (the “Disney Investor Day” from last December almost gave me a panic attack and filled me with deep, DEEP existential/corporatocracy dread) and they’re not jumping the gun and holding star-studded photoshoots for a multiverse that hadn’t had a single movie yet

(img) Hey here’s a totally unrelated picture from that Dark Universe photoshoot Universal embarrassingly did, which will never not be funny to me

But that’s not to say they lack ambition! There’s a Skull Island animated series spin-off coming to Netflix brought to us by Powerhouse Animation, the studio behind the acclaimed Castlevania anime.  That sounds cool!  

#ContinueTheMonsterverse began trending on Twitter, which garnered support from Jordan Vogt-Roberts (director of Kong: Skull Island) and was acknowledged by Legendary.[

In August 2021, writer Max Borenstein stated that “there will be some new, interesting installments coming” due to the success of Godzilla vs. Kong.[107] Borenstein had also expressed interest in seeing Legendary produce a film with minimal human characters, stating, “I think it is possible. It would be very ambitious. I think ambitious in that Mad Max: Fury Road way. I think it’s totally possible to do that with the absolute minimum amount of human characters and really characterize the creatures.”[108]

(img) as a fan of the monsters themselves, I of course love that idea–but it feels like a cop-out to not even try to tell a satisfying human story within a MonsterVerse movie.  Worse, it also feels like an excuse to just 100% lean on CG artists–which in Hollywood also means exploiting the shit out of said artists. This is because practical effects guys are protected by unions, CG effects guys are NOT.

Whether we get Son of Kong, a Walking With Dinosaurs-esque kaiju mockumentary, or something else entirely (GAMERA!!!! PLEASE GIVE THAT BEAUTIFUL BABY BOY A NEW MOVIE!), we know there’s at least some serious potential for the live-action MonsterVerse to live on.

(IMG)GOOD

At the end of my reviews I like to try and squeeze in any fun production/behind-the-scenes anecdotes, and that’s always a little tougher with modern, CGI-heavy movies.

behind the scenes 

One of his early thoughts upon taking the film was “I just want to see Godzilla and King Kong fighting in a synth-wave neon city, and that is 100% my main drive.” He credits the film’s visual effects artists for delivering on that dream.

Director Adam Wingard thought of Godzilla as The Undertaker, the pro-wrestling character and fearsome loner who comes and goes to take on enemies when he needs to. for Kong, Wingard looked to Bruce Willis’ John McClane, even giving the big guy a dangerous jump that’s also a “Die Hard” homage in the film. “He’s this ’80s action-hero archetype,” he says of Kong. “John McClane is this awesome cop, but it’s like one guy versus a bunch of terrorists.” And like Willis’ good guy, Kong’s in a little over his head though he isn’t totally outgunned.

Godzilla-vs-Kong-in-Hong-Kong-Review

And that’s everything I had waiting in the wings.  I’ll always love kaiju, but I just don’t have the drive to keep writing big phat reviews of kaiju stuff.  I haven’t for a couple years really, but it’s hard for me to let go of things.  And who knows? Maybe I’ll feel totally different in the near or not-so-near future? 

I’ve had to drastically scale back my internet presence for mental health reasons.  I just can’t be so Online anymore, it’s bad for my brain. That doesn’t mean you’ve heard that last of me though!  You won’t be rid of me that easily!! I’m paying for this URL so I’m gonna post stuff here, dammit!  …at some point. 

I’ve been running a homebrew Dungeons & Dragons campaign with friends, so I’m thinking about cleaning up my notes and posting them–turning them into modules you can run with your group if you’re a D&Der, plus recaps and insights from the sessions themselves.

I’ve also been (very very slowly) piecing together some kind of Choose-Your-Own Adventure/text adventure kaiju story–putting readers/players in the big stompy claws of a classically-styled kaiju.  I’ll definitely be posting notes or even prototype versions of that here! Maybe other writing too! No schedule, no plan, but I will be using this as some kind of creative hub in the future.  

Capture

I’ve also FINALLY started playing around with 3D modelling like I’ve been wanting to for years. Here’s the beginning of my attempt at a simple, cartoony starship Enterprise. I know, you’re insanely impressed, “better graphics than Avatar” you scream maniacally

I started this blog for a few reasons: to give myself a reason/excuse to watch kaiju stuff on a regular basis, to dive deep and figure out why this genre has such a powerful hold over my imagination, and because I wanted to contribute some fuckin’ goofy but also thoughtful observations to diehard kaiju fans and the casually kaiju curious alike.  The first and last reason manifested in the form of the blog itself, but I haven’t written all that much about the second reason.

The chaos, the spectacle, the horror, the fantasy, the epic battles, the cool creatures and the almost-century of cinema history are all major draws, but I relate to the monsters.  That’s really what it is. The monsters are huge and awesome and powerful… but when they enter the world of humans, everything that makes them amazing is used against them.  Their immense size, fearsome faces, terrible tails, crushing claws and missile-proof hides make them nigh-invulnerable… which also gets them gigantic targets painted on their backs.  I think everyone has felt like that at least once in their lives. 

What makes it even better is seeing that beleaguered hero-monster come out on top, against absolutely insane, impossible odds.  So even if you feel like a weird monster hated by society, kaiju media’s there to tell you that actually, being a weird hated monster is fucking bad-ass, and if you’ve got enough grit and guts and Fighting Spirit, you can survive anything.

I was sweating bullets in the dentist’s chair about a year or two ago, and I felt like a moron for being scared. I was in for a minor procedure–I had already had several major procedures done at this office and the staff has always been gentle, courteous and kind. The worst I had ever been subject to here was slight pain, and even that was taken seriously and quickly remedied.  Even fully knowing all of that, I was panicking and also desperately trying not to look like l was panicking, which is impossible. And I was about to call myself a dumbass for acting like a frightened wild animal… but then I thought about Ymir, the space beast from 20 Million Miles to EarthSpecifically the scene where he’s strapped down to a table breathing heavily… right before he comes to and goes fully apeshit.

photo-a-des-millions-de-kilometres-de-la-terre-20-million-miles-to-earth-1957-7

Whenever I’m feeling stuck or helpless or trapped, I think about Ymir.  He’s huge, he’s scary, he’s fuckin’ awesome.  And even he gets caught, strapped to a table and poked and prodded.  It was weirdly comforting–as beads of sweat grew on my brow I felt like Ymir.  The animal terror in my gut, my heart pumping at rabbit-speed–these responses don’t mean I’m a wuss or an idiot, they mean I’m right on the edge of feral, like Ymir. Like Godzilla. Like King Kong.  Like Jason Voorhees.  Like Mothra. Like The Wolfman.  Like Gamera.  I instantly went from feeling embarrassed at myself to feeling kind of bad-ass–something that can really lift you up when you’re feeling trapped or helpless.

I have a small collection of kaiju action figures. “Collection” truly meaning the random assortment of lil dudes I like to have on desks and bookcases at home and at work. The world of hardcore kaiju figure collecting is super fun… to observe from a safe distance.  Thankfully for my wallet, I don’t have the determination or patience to try and lock down full collections of rare, expensive figures like the serious folks do.  I don’t bring this up just to brag (but I mean, it is to brag a little bit, I have fucking DINOSAUR TANK chilling at my house) but because they’ve crossed over from geeky collectibles to little like… power totems for myself? 

IMG_20210224_235851_481

Just TRY to feel powerless when you have this THICC KING standing on your desk and watching you approvingly, silently cheering you on. IMPOSSIBLE

Of course I don’t believe that these hunks of plastic shaped like fucked-up dinosaurs and space aliens have like magical healing powers, but it’s a fun, helpful, harmless placebo effect that I’m happy to add to my “survive the hellscape of modern life” toolkit. For me, kaiju fiction isn’t just the carnage, it’s not just the cool monsters, it’s not just the escapism.  Of course those are vital pillars of the genre, but the wide, weird, wonderful world of kaiju is more than the sum of its parts.  It’s a unique, bonkers little genre that’s brought me countless hours of joy… but also reassurance, comfort, and inspiration.  

For once, I’m running out of things to say.  Maybe this blog, like the kaiju that inspired it, will return from the depths when we least expect it. Maybe this blog will come lumbering back onto our shores in our hour of need, when evil space monsters come bearing down on us. Until then, I have two final things to say:

MONSTERS CONQUER THE U N I V E R S E

3270820250641533

MINYA LIVES… F O R E V E R

DAM_-_Minya_and_Anguirus

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s