Big monkey punch big lizard. Big lizard punch big monkey. If this doesn’t sound like your thing, turn around right now.
Like most young boys I was fascinated by anything giant and scaley. It started with dinosaurs, and once I really began to get into movies it became the wonderful world of Toho studios. Something about a man in a rubber lizard suit punching buildings and slapping around men in other rubber suits really tickled my fancy. I can recall memories of renting classics such as Terror of MechaGodzilla and Godzilla vs. Mothra on VHS, coming home, and being the only one out of my family to watch.
In 2004, Godzilla went into hibernation, as Toho decided to give the big man a break and stopped producing his films. The world of giant monsters went silent, with a few attempts to revive the genre like Cloverfield popping up over time that could never really spark global interest the way Godzilla did. The reptile was a worldwide icon, even though us Americans had some difficulties getting ahold of some of his films. For years I clamored for a new Godzilla film from either Japan or America, and in 2014, I got my wish.
Godzilla (2014) was a step in the right direction for giant monster movies, introducing a new generation to the monster and reestablishing him as the terrifying force of nature he was meant to be. A follow up, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, was released in 2019 that brought more monsters into the fray, but ultimately became too bloated for its own good and fumbled with its human characters. While Godzilla wasn’t exactly where he was decades ago, a storm was brewing. In 2017, another famous giant movie monster was reborn. King Kong, who hadn’t seen the silver screen since Peter Jackson‘s take on the classic film in 2005, was the star of Kong: Skull Island, a goofy but entertaining romp that set to expand Legendary Pictures “Monsterverse”. Once it was clear that film was a success, it was only a matter of time until we saw King Kong and Godzilla colliding once again for the first time since 1962’s King Kong vs. Godzilla.
2021’s Godzilla vs. Kong is everything I expected it to be; a rollercoaster of special effects, giant monsters, big explosions, and disposable human characters. When the film decides to ignore its flaws and focus sorely on its main attraction, the aforementioned big monkey and big lizard beating the piss out of each other, it’s truly a sight to behold. The special effects for the monsters are still incredibly impressive, capturing the beasts’ ferocity and moments of genuine emotion without compromising their image alongside the rest of the film. Their fight sequences are hard hitting and surprisingly creative. On paper, a titanic lizard capable of breathing literal atomic fire seems to be the favorite pick, but the film at least makes a compelling argument for Kong’s sake. Kong is faster, more agile, and seemingly a bit more intelligent. While Godzilla is all about brute strength, Kong is versatile and handy, able to craft simple weapons and utilize the terrain around him to his advantage. This variance in their fighting styles makes their encounters much more interesting to watch, and luckily the bulk of the runtime is devoted to the two behemoths beating themselves up.
When we aren’t focusing on Kong or Godzilla, we’re following a cast of new and returning human characters. Since the beginning of time, human characters have been a universally understood afterthought in giant monster movies. They’re essentially there to either explain the plot, fight the monsters via the military, or to die. The film is split into two teams of humans. There’s the Monarch research team, led by Alexander Skarsgard, Rebecca Hall and newcomer Kaylee Hottle. Financed by a billionaire with absolutely no ulterior motives, the team attempts to use Kong to reach the Hollow Earth, a confusing yet visual gorgeous biome at the center of the Earth and Kong’s native land. Their characterization is incredibly shallow, acting as plot devices rather than actual characters themselves. However, Kaylee Hottle‘s Jia, a deaf orphan who befriends Kong and accidentally teaches him sign language, at least adds a bit of heart to the story. Her interactions with Kong almost humanizes, showing him as less of a monster and more as a creature capable of love and emotion. It’s a nice spin on Kong’s previously established relationship with humans, and a very similar callback to the twins that are typically found communicating with Mothra. This group of humans feel very one-note, but they at least drive the plot forward.
Our other group of humans we follow consist of Millie Bobbie Brown, Julian Dennison, Bryan Tyree Henry. Henry plays Bernie, a conspiracy theorist who believes he is about to uncover something shady about his employer, Apex Cybernetics. Brown and Dennison become entangled with Bernie’s whistleblowing plot, throwing them directly into a dangerous corporate conspiracy. This group is where most of the film’s comedic relief comes from, and for me it was a bit hit or miss. Most of the time the group adds nothing to the plot, purely injected into the story to stumble across explanations for why certain events are happening. Occasionally its funny, but most of the time I just found this little side plot to be annoying. This group somewhat “saves the day” later on in one of the dumbest ways possible, which at least made me laugh by making me realize writers are still using this really dumb trope.
When Godzilla and Kong are doing what Godzilla and Kong do best, the film is a knockout. Special effects are king here, but the stylistic choices are smartly designed and not just needlessly flashy. With the shortest runtime out of this cinematic universe so far, the film is very easy to get through. It tends to cut through the boring BS as fast as it can to get to the fantastic action, with the second half of the film being jam packed with punches, explosions and a pretty satisfying surprise for us kaiju fans. A quintessential summer blockbuster that we were lucky enough to get in spring, it’s big, balls to wall movies like this that makes me miss going to the movies.
There can only be one cocktail, and a poll on our social media has determined that Godzilla will be the titan we immortalize with a craft cocktail! The Gojira is a combination of several Japanese flavors, including sake and midori. Refreshingly crisp thanks to some added mint leaves, this drink may just be in the running for King of the Cocktails!
- 4 mint leaves
- 1oz sake
- 1.5oz silver tequila
- 1.5oz Midori
- 3/4oz lemon juice
- Garnish: Mint leaf
- Muddle mint with the sake in a mixing glass.
- Add tequila, Midori and lemon juice to shaker, add ice and shake.
- Strain into cocktail glass over ice.
- Garnish with mint leaf.