One of the first movies I remember watching was “King Kong vs. Godzilla.” I must have been 3 years old and caught it on some creature feature on the Syfy channel. But the image I couldn’t get out of my mind was of these two dominating powers duking it out on top of Mount Fuji.
I was so mesmerized by these monsters. In awe that something like Godzilla and King Kong could exist. Over the years, I realized that the power of cinema could bring these or any other monsters to life, which made me fall in love with movies in the first place. If it weren’t for “King Kong vs. Godzilla,” I would have never become a cinephile.
So, when I heard that Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. were doing a remake and having it serve as the next entry in their MonsterVerse, I was overjoyed. I never thought we’d see a rematch between these two monsters, let alone with modern special effects and a $180 million budget.
But with “Godzilla vs. Kong” set to release in theaters and on HBO Max on March 31, it sounds like my dream will finally become a reality, and I’ll get to relive a pivotal moment of my childhood.
Though my investment isn’t just for personal reasons, since “Godzilla vs. Kong” could serve as a return to form for the giant monster genre. It not only pits the two most classic giant monsters against each other, but also monsters with conflicting viewpoints.
At their cores, monsters are abominations of life. Creatures that, by every definition, shouldn’t exist. And yet life finds a way to make these horrors just as real as you or me, just so they can remind us how small and weak we are in this world. No monsters do this better than Godzilla and Kong, but in opposite ways.
Godzilla was created in 1954 and born out of the Japanese anguish in the wake of World War II and the fear of the atomic bomb. He is usually portrayed as a walking nuclear missile – emotionless, unstoppable and unrelenting, and he has no concern for those lives he’s stepping on.
You can’t fight Godzilla or reason with him because there’s no humanity to appeal to here. Your only hope, like with the bomb, is to run. And the most terrifying part of it all is that you probably can’t run fast enough.
Godzilla is one of the most effective monsters in the history of cinema, not because of his strength, but because of how he’s adapted since the 1950s. As the world evolved from the nuclear age, so did Godzilla.
He would fight greater threats than himself, including pollution and self-interested governments, as well as being a father figure to the next generation of monsters. Yet never straying too far from his imposing nuclear roots to make statements about the world, especially during the Cold War.
Godzilla is always portrayed as imposing or something to fear, yet he can be anything you want him to be.
King Kong represents the opposite end of that monster spectrum. Where Godzilla was created out of fear, Kong was made out of awe and wonder at nature. That something so gargantuan could also be so curious and loving toward another person.
A creature that controls a jungle filled with dinosaurs, and yet it falls in love just as easily as humans do. I don’t see anything resembling a human in Godzilla, but I see a lot of ourselves in Kong.
This makes King Kong the most human giant monster, one we’re supposed to root for and sympathize with while watching him. He was one of the first creatures to be brought to life with special effects, and that has stuck with viewers ever since 1933. Which only makes his tragic demise hit even harder.
While some will see the fight between Godzilla and Kong as a clash between two icons, I see it as a clash between two monster ideals. Pain and fear versus wonder and humanity. Cold strength going up against fierce courage.
Even with their entries in the MonsterVerse, Kong and Godzilla exemplify these beliefs to this day. From the brief shots they’ve shown in the trailers, Godzilla is a threat that cannot be stopped by any means, while Kong sympathizes with the lives Godzilla is endangering.
My hope is that the film will focus more on this angle and never take itself too seriously. After all, this is still a film about a giant ape fighting a fire-breathing lizard.
The best part of “King Kong vs. Godzilla” was any time the two monsters were on screen together, so here’s hoping the filmmakers rely on that more than the human characters.
Because, in the end, one of these two has to be crowned the king of the monsters.
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