Note I am reviewing King Kong vs. Godzilla NOT Godzilla vs. Kong which just came out into those theaters that are open and I currently have no plans to go into a cinema for completely reasonable reasons. The change in name flipping who gets front billing and was very intentional.
You may be surprised to hear that the clash against King Kong was Godzilla’s third appearance in film after the original masterpiece Goira and the very much failure of Godzilla Raids Again they put the monster literally on ice for around 7 years. During that time Toho made its first colour Kaiju films with Rodan and later Mothra.
The story of how this film came to be is one others have told far better than I and I recommend looking into it because it’s full of backstabbing and deceit.
It’s important to note at this time Kong was the more popular kaiju in Japan over Godzilla who remember had only been in 2 films so far and one of those was bad (so don’t except me to review it ever.). For the sake of this review I ended up watching both the American version of the film and the much harder to find Japanese version, which I can safely say is the superior version. The American one including scenes, while done to try and make more sense to the American audience, only really serve to make the plot less cohesive and alter the motivations of people to make even less sense.
The plot goes that Mr. Tako is frustrated at the ratings of his television show and looking for ways to improve it. While being shown some odd fruit from a south seas island he’s told of the monster the islanders talk about and sends some of his employees to find them thinking it will give him the boon he wants (in the American version there’s something about the berries being a non addicting narcotic that just makes less sense… which is saying something for a movie that’s all about a big gorilla fighting a giant reptile that breaths atomic fire)
Meanwhile an American submarine notices a glowing iceberg and accidently crashes into it. As the submarine catches fire on the inside the last noise the crew hears is a familiar roar. A helicopter answering the S.O.S finds the glacier breaking open with Godzilla emerging (he got buried in ice at the end of the previous film so good continuity there).
Back with Mr. Tako’s employees, they get to the island and while they and the natives (beware islander face) are attacked by a giant octopus Kong emerges who beats up the octopus (creating a recurring reference, yes that’s why there was one in skull island) then drinks some of the berry juice then passes out and in one cut is on a raft being sent to Japan.
So now our main players are on direction to meet each other in the first true example of what the showa era of Godzilla films will be like, an excuse to have two people in monster suits fight each other in basically a wrestling match. Yes Godzilla faced Anguirus in the previous film but this is the one that sorts it out.
The film was also the first one to implement a bit more comedy into the human plot especially with Mr. Tako, however the American version pushed that even further but in the Japanese version his actions are better explained.
As a Godzilla fan who was never a fan of Kong it’s a little annoying how much bulls***e they bring out to enable him to fight the living embodiment of the dangers of nuclear weapons. Yes we can buy the idea this is a kaiju sized version of Kong that’s fine, but they give him strengths and powers he never had before and Godzilla weakness he never had before and never had later.
Spoilers going forward.
Yes there is only 1 ending and it’s the same in both versions, Kong grabs Godzilla and they both fall into the sea… somehow this is viewed as a victory for Kong since Godzilla doesn’t rise up again yes… well Godzilla lives in the sea, he’s aquatic he doesn’t need to rise up. Somehow Kong pulling a monster into its native environment is considered a victory for him? Heck the first fight between the two in the film better points out the discrepancy between the two as Godzilla effortlessly beats him.
I hope the new film notes the massive difference between big gorilla and living embodiment of the dangers of nuclear weapons.
While not the best Godzilla film, it’s one of the better showa era films and an important one for being both Godzilla’s first appearance in colour (and a good suit design for him) and setting the course for the future films in that era. Still if you want to watch this go the extra length to find the Japanese version since those scenes added to the American release only damage the film.