In any “vs” movie, there will be winners and losers, even if these things almost always end in a draw. These films offer a field of viable players we already know and love and some just fare better than others in terms of delivering knuckle sandwiches. Now that the dust has cleared and everyone has had a chance to see the new movie over the weekend, let’s see how everyone in Godzilla vs. Kong stacked up.
Major spoilers for Godzilla vs Kong to follow. You have been warned!
The Winner: Kong
No, Godzilla vs. Kong does not end with a triumphant Kong beating his chest over the body of a dead Godzilla. And yes, Kong does kind of spend most of the film getting his ass kicked. Nevertheless, this is his movie. From the moment a groggy morning Kong scratches his butt to his final arrival as king of the Hollow Earth, this is Kong’s story and the guy we’re meant to root for throughout. He has the most to gain and the most to overcome.
And why not? He’s basically a human in this one. He has emotions, gets a cool magic weapon, implements fight strategies, and – much like Koko the Gorilla – pretends to know sign language. There’s even a part where he uses a skyscraper to pop his dislocated shoulder back in place just like Riggs in Lethal Weapon 2! How are we not supposed to fall in love with him?
Second Place: Godzilla
But that doesn’t mean you can just discount the King of the Monsters. Godzilla is more an agent of antagonism in this one, which at first is odd considering the Chaotic Good vibes he offers in his first two Legendary outings.
The good news is he isn’t being controlled, as many of us assumed after seeing the trailer. He’s not even evil. He just can’t stand there being other badass monsters on this planet, a previously-introduced character quirk that remains cool as hell. Usually that drive works to our benefit. With Kong, it’s more a misunderstanding.
And while Kong stands tall as the winner of this film, he actually doesn’t do very well against Godzilla. The titans fight twice. Kong has to play dead to survive their first encounter, and pretty much becomes dead for real in their second. That first fight is understandably rough for Kong because it’s on water and my guy can barely find a place to stand up. But in the Hong Kong battle, Kong has every advantage – solid footing, a magic axe, plenty of buildings to jump off of – and Godzilla still beats him into submission. It’s probably best for Kong that the two end up shaking hands and going their separate ways.
Participation Trophy: Mechagodzilla
You just knew the two monsters would ultimately join forces to fight a greater villain. Godzilla vs. Kong pulls out a Toho classic: Mechagodzilla. Even in a post-Pacific Rim world, it’s too tempting not to bring this guy into your modern Monsterverse. The great twist here is Mechagodzilla basically has Ghidorah’s brain (a plot point loosely adapted from Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla), so instead of being driven by humans, it’s just straight evil.
Mechagodzilla pops on the scene and makes short work of Godzilla, who just made short work of Kong. It’s unclear what makes the robot so powerful, but whatever. The point is he has Godzilla down for the count. A revitalized Kong shows up, gets his axe superpowered by Godzilla’s atomic breath, and cuts him into little evil robot pieces. Follow my logic here: Godzilla beats Kong, Mechagodzilla beats Godzilla, Kong beats Mechagodzilla…therefore, Kong must be stronger than Godzilla? In the end, I guess it doesn’t matter. But if you came to Godzilla vs. Kong looking for a dead monster, you certainly do get one. Just maybe not one indicated by the title.
In Charge of Bringing Soda and Snacks: The Humans
Despite popular opinion, you cannot have a good Godzilla movie without significant contribution from humans, and folding them into your giant monster story is an art few have mastered. I still think of Kong: Skull Island as a golden standard, but Kong films work a bit differently in general. When it comes to Legendary Godzilla humans, the 2014 batch was bland, the King of the Monsters batch was obnoxious. This batch is at least kind of fun, which is truly the best you can hope for. Specifically, I’m referring to Kong’s wingmen: Rebecca Hall, Alexander Skarsgård and Kaylee Hottle. These three basically tag along for Kong’s adventure, giving him assists whenever he’s in trouble, and it’s great. They participate in the film’s zaniness on its own terms and with a straight face, lending it a fantasy adventure quality all these other films have missed.
They fare much better than Godzilla’s Wingmen: Millie Bobby Brown, Julian Dennison and Brian Tyree Henry, who kind of stumble through the film as boring comic relief. Kyle Chandler returns as the World’s Rightest Dad, and he’s not even Rightest this time. Also: Lance Reddick for some reason.
Still, Godzilla vs. Kong’s humans are not the worst thing in the world, which gives them a huge boost in a rather miserable playing field.
The Minor Leagues: Hollow Earth Monsters
Apparently, Earth is hollow in the center. Who knew? Instead of lava or whatever, the middle of our planet is a beautiful mountainous home to all manner of wild monsters. Our tour is brief, but we do see some good ones. There’s a crab monster (Ebirah? Destoroyah?) and a quadruped lizard thing (Manila? Anguirus?). We also get good looks at snake-bats and, by far my favorite, chicken-bats. Who knows what other animal-bat combinations are down there (or up there, depending on how you want to look at it)?
Hopefully we get to find out in the sure-to-be-upcoming Godzilla AND Kong!
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