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  • Writer's pictureJohn Brage

'Zilla. Kong. Let's Do This!

It's finally here. A modern version of Godzilla v. King Kong is set for release in March. This may surprise a lot of people, but this movie has been done before. In 1962, a movie with the same title was released in Japan. The ending in that movie doesn't make it clear who "won". I suspect the same thing will happen in the new movie.

Cinematically, Kong is much older than Godzilla. "King Kong" was released in 1933 and featured the classic scene of Kong climbing the Empire State Building while clutching Fay Wray in one hand. Godzilla first appeared in 1954 in "Godzilla", released in Japan. An edited version was later released in the U.S. as "Godzilla, King of the Monsters". The Godzilla series of movies is the longest running series in the history of movies.

Kong's back story has remained more consistent than Godzilla's over the years. Kong lived on Skull Island, an imaginary island in the South Pacific protected from the prying eyes of humankind by freakish weather patterns. Skull Island has its own unique biosphere that includes a variety of "giant" monsters (bugs, lizards, apes, etc.). But Kong is the king. Invariably, Kong ends up being captured by humans and returned to some major populated area where he escapes and wreaks havoc before finally being defeated. Godzilla's back story is all over the place. Initially, he was depicted as a creature spawned by exposure to the radiation from nuclear weapons testing in the South Pacific. He has been portrayed as both a villain and a hero. In some movies he is rolling through Tokyo, destroying poorly conceived building mock ups and obliterating the Japanese military. In others, he is a protector of Earth. Alien invaders like Monster X attack and Godzilla springs to the defense of the planet.

The physical characteristics of both creatures have changed over time. In "Godzilla" (1954), he was originally conceived of as being about 160' feet tall. In the "Americanized" version "Godzilla, King of the Monsters", he was bumped up to 400' tall. Godzilla needed to be taller than the tallest buildings around him to make him seem more fearsome (and buildings in the U.S. were much taller than those in Japan). As buildings became taller and taller, so did Godzilla. In "Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters" (2017), Godzilla was scaled at 984' tall. That is as tall as Godzilla has ever been. In his 1933 debut, King Kong was "only" 24' tall. However, the depictions of his height varied in that movie depending on the scene. During his battle with Godzilla in 1962, Kong's height was 148'. Peter Jackson returned Kong to his original size in the 2005 film "King Kong". By 2017, in "Kong: Skull Island", Kong was at 100'.

These size comparisons drove the Sci-Fi community nuts when it found out about this upcoming movie. The Kong from "Skull Island" is the same Kong that is in the movie. So when the announcement was made that the movie was in the works, a common reply in social media was: "Uhhhhhh, Kong is 100' tall and Godzilla is at least 300' tall. This will be a short movie." But in Skull Island, one of the characters noted (conveniently) that "Kong is still growing". Problem solved! In the trailers, Kong and 'Zilla appear to be nearly the same height. So The King of the Monsters won't be simply swatting a tiny (relatively speaking) ape into orbit with one swipe of his tail. I must admit that I find the vision of 984' tall Godzilla fighting 24' tall Kong amusing.

So, what's the rest of the tale of the tape? I offer the following observations:

  1. Godzilla effectively has no arms.

  2. Godzilla has radioactive breath he can use from very long range that is extremely powerful.

  3. Godzilla is an excellent swimmer.

  4. Kong not only has arms, but his agility on land is, well, ape-like.

  5. Kong is very capable of weaponizing anything that happens to be handy.

  6. Kong's ability to swim likely barely exceeds that of a 300' tall version of the Venus de Milo.

There is an adage in boxing - styles make fights. Godzilla (despite his lack of reach) likes to get in close with an opponent and brawl. He's a biter. He likes to swat his enemies with his tail. He never picks up anything and uses it as a weapon (because, again, little tiny arms). And that breath....... Kong is an opportunist. He's not opposed to a brawl, but he's likely to bring a rock or a gigantic piece of metal with him to beat on his enemy. Kong has a killer instinct. I almost wonder if he has taken judo or BJJ lessons because he loves choke holds and breaking bones with joint locks. Unfortunately for him, Godzilla has no neck and (once again) tiny arms.

Kong has an advantage if this battle takes place on land. Godzilla has an advantage if they end up in the water. For me, the factor that is the difference-maker is Godzilla's radioactive breath. Kong has nothing equivalent and no way to defend against it unless he employs some object as a shield. The plot will almost certainly offer some way of negating that clear advantage (that is hopefully reasonable) so viewers aren't asking themselves "Why doesn't Godzilla just set Kong on fire?" Ultimately, I don't think this movie will give us a clear winner. I expect some outside threat (Monster X? Mechagodzilla? You out there?) will arise that threatens the Earth, and Kong and 'Zilla will team up to confront it. They will ultimately defeat this threat leading to a closing scene where Kong is jumping up and down atop a cliff while calling "Godzilla! Can you not see that I am your friend?" while 'Zilla shuffles back into the ocean until the sequel is finished.

Full disclosure. I love me some Godzilla. I watched every Godzilla movie that came on TV when I was a kid. I hope he sets Kong on fire.

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