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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Godzilla Vs. Kong



Godzilla Vs. Kong is booked perfectly according to pro wrestling rules. First, you have Godzilla, the heel, who has apparently turned on the human race that he was purportedly protecting. To beat the literal monster heel, Monarch and Apex Cybernetics bring in the babyface, Kong, who's admittedly an underdog against the radioactive lizard. They clash in a two-out-of-three falls Iron Monster Match that does end with a decisive victor - until there's a run-in by Mechagodzilla, who's the real monster heel of MonsterMania. It turns into a two-on-one handicap match where the best monster prevails. I won't say who he is, but, in the worlds of the late, great Pat Patterson, "The crowd go banana."

With the satisfyingly straightforward Godzilla Vs. Kong, director Adam Wingard delivers the goods. The bloat, i.e. the overabundance of jabbering human characters no one cared about in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, is largely excised. (Kyle Chandler, the star of the previous film, is in this movie and he might have a half dozen scenes and a dozen lines tops.) Even Godzilla himself, who has top billing, is shuffled into the background for much of the film. Godzilla Vs. Kong is smart enough to bet all of its money on Kong, who is the most empathetic and loveable movie monster of all, and make him the main character. It's Kong's heroic journey we follow, from Skull Island to the Hollow Earth at the center of the planet (think the Savage Land of Marvel Comics), and into Hong Kong (of course) for the final showdown with two types of Godzilla. Incidentally, Hong Kong's power grid is miraculous to behold, because, despite three giant monsters rampaging on the island, the buildings continue to be lit up in neon colors to provide groovy mood lighting for the creature brawl.

Godzilla Vs. Kong begins with Godzilla turning heel and attacking the Pensacola, Florida facility of Apex Cybernetics - a company whose name kind of gives away what they're really doing in their secret subterranean labs. In response, Apex comes up with a crazy scheme to use Kong to venture into the Hollow Earth to find the secret power source that fuels all of the Titans. Meanwhile, poor Kong is living on Skull Island in a version of The Truman Show. Monarch set up a biodome over the whole island to constantly watch Kong and keep him safe from Godzilla, lest the giant lizard comes to the island to defend the title of King of the Monsters. A couple of scientists played by Alexander Skarsgard and Rebecca Hall lead the Apex mission to bring Kong to Antarctica, which is the gateway to the Hollow Earth. Of course, they transport Kong by boat and in chains, and Kong pouts the whole way as he gets rained on and we wonder what happens when he needs to go to the bathroom after he eats the piles of fish Apex feeds him.

Since Godzilla wants to kill Kong, under the logic that after the ending of the last movie, Godzilla wants all the Titans to bow down to him but Kong bows to no one, the lizard finds the ape at sea and attacks. As one would figure, Godzilla has the advantage in the ocean and he nearly drowns Kong. Only then does Skarsgard think, "Hey, maybe we should have flown Kong to Antarctica?" Better late than never, one supposes. Skarsgard and Hall are joined by Eiza Gonzalez, the fetching daughter of the billionaire CEO of Apex, Demian Bichir. They have a couple of Star Trek shuttlecrafts that can allow humans to survive the gravitational inversion at the gateway to the Hollow Earth. There's also Kaylee Hottle, a little deaf girl who Kong befriended and who taught the great ape sign language. Altogether, they follow Kong to the Hollow Earth where he finds what is, apparently, the Kong family's ceremonial battle-ax and throne. Who built the Kong throne room? Who knows? But wouldn't you know it, as soon as they harvest the Hollow Earth power source, Gonzalez betrays Skarsgard, Hall, and Kong. Hilariously, they die, of course, and just as hilariously, Gonzalez's father never even finds out what happened to her before he bites it himself in Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, Millie Bobby Brown, who was in the last movie and was kidnapped by her crazy mother Vera Farmiga, leads a goofy side mission with her best friend Julian Dennison and a Titan conspiracy podcaster, Bryan Tyree Henry. They uncover what Apex is really doing: building Mechagodzilla! To power it, they need that power source from the Hollow Earth, but to control the robot lizard, they're using the head of Ghidorah, which was recovered at the end of the last movie. (No mention of whatever happened to Charles Dance, who bought the head in the black market.) Shun Oguri, who plays the son of Ken Watanabe from the previous two Godzilla movies, controls Mechagodzilla but, of course, there's a technical screw up and Ghidorah's psychic evil takes over Mechagodzilla. Here's the thing though: before he died, Bichir's logic for building Mechagodzilla was he was sick of Titans rampaging whenever they wanted and he didn't trust Godzilla to be our benevolent protector. (And really, why would you?) Mechagodzilla was designed to be a Titan killer to free humanity at last from the threat of all monsters. Well, he's kind of right! Sure, he turned out to be kinda evil, and Mechagodzilla was flawed, but his logic is basically correct. Every Japanese robot cartoon is about humans having a robot to fight and kill monsters. Apex was sort of doing the right thing.

Anyway, when Godzilla somehow finds out that Kong made it to the Hollow Earth, he atomic fire breaths a hole all the way to the Earth's core so Kong can climb up for the rematch. With his atomic fire breath-absorbing ax in hand, Kong whoops Godzilla and wins the second fall. His victory is short-lived, however, as Godzilla makes a comeback and wins the third fall, stomping on Kong's heart for good measure. Still, Kong earned Godzilla's respect and, after the good humans used the Hollow Earth energy as a defibrillator to jump-start Kong's heart, the great ape joins the fight between Godzilla and Mechagodzilla. This is Kong's finest moment since he totally lays the smackdown on Mechagodzilla after Godzilla totally couldn't get the job done. Kong saves the world and is confirmed as the true hero of Godzilla Vs. Kong. Godzilla, a little embarrassed, slinks back into the sea while Kong goes back to ruling the Hollow Earth. 

If Godzilla Vs. Kong is the last MonsterVerse movie, it's the best way it could go out for Kong lovers like yours truly. There are also a couple of hilarious nods to other movies: When Kong's shoulder is dislocated, he slams it back into place just like Mel Gibson does in Lethal Weapon 2. And after he kills Mechagodzilla, Kong tears its robot head and spine out just like Captain Jean-Luc Picard does to the Borg Queen in Star Trek: First Contact. It's nice that Kong watches the same movies I do.