We’re back! If you missed Part 1 of this series, you can click and catch up here. For the sake of my editor who has to carefully read this giant piece, let’s get right to picking up where we left off.
Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)
Okay, this one is a WILD ride, so buckle up. Strangers in a UFO show up and reveal they are time travelers from the future, warning that Godzilla is going to destroy Japan. Meanwhile, a popular author is tracking down a story of a dinosaur that saved Japanese soldiers on an island during WWII. These paths converge when the time travelers pick up the author and tell him that the theory of his book was correct: Godzilla was that dinosaur on the island that was subsequently transformed by nearby H-bomb testing. They travel back to the war and transport the dinosaur from the island to ensure Godzilla is never created … and then one of the travelers unleashes three small, Furby-like creatures onto the island that are eventually turned into King Ghidorah. Now, the humans in the ‘90s have to re-create Godzilla to defeat Ghidorah and the time travelers who are really trying to stop the expansion of Japan’s economic influence. Oh, and then they have to go to the future and make a robot head for the now-defeated Ghidorah to drive Godzilla away.
Phew! What a summary … and as complex and goofy (and full of butterfly-effect plot holes) as it is, they execute it all really well and created a fun movie in the process. The characters are likeable, and there’s an oddly poignant scene where the Japanese commander—now the wealthiest man in Japan—stares down his one-time savior and then gets a face full of nuclear lizard breath. Godzilla clearly recognizes the guy, and you think he might spare him, but then Godzilla is either just a big ol’ jerk or he’s mad that the commander didn’t kill him and allowed him to live the tortured existence he now lives. This movie was controversial for its portrayal of Japanese vs. American troops in the World War, and it is a little cringy, but as far as I’m concerned, Japan made the movie and can tell the story from the perspective they want to tell.
Method of defeat: Make monster (remote-control Ghidorah) to defeat the monster they made (Godzilla) to defeat the monster they made (Ghidorah) to defeat the monster they made (Godzilla)
Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992)
Our moth queen returns! And her fairy-twin keepers (now called the “Cosmos”)! A giant meteor crashes to the Earth, unveiling a Mothra egg on Infant Island. As a greedy corporation tries to take it back to Japan for their own purposes, we learn from the Cosmos that the return of Mothra has awakened another, more sinister ancient protector of the Earth: Battra.
Battra was created by the Earth as vengeance for a society that tried to control the climate, and he’s still mad at humans for their environmental negligence. The three of them fight it out (and ravage Tokyo in the process) before Mothra and Battra morph into their mothy form and team up to yeet Godzilla into the ocean. Godzilla goes down fighting, killing Battra, who we learn was supposed to stop a giant meteor from destroying the Earth. Mothra flies off into space, holding her promise to Battra to take his place.
This one was apparently rushed into production, and it feels a little like that as far as the plot goes, but the special effects and fight scenes definitely make this a solid entry in the Godzilla catalogue. The soundtrack is also a standout; watching Mothra berserk her way through battleships as the Cosmos sing the calming Mothra theme is poetic, and Godzilla emerging from Mt. Fuji is an epic moment.
Method of defeat: Moths dumping Godzilla trash in the ocean
Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993)
Some old favorites return, and it’s not just the Mecha.
Scientists salvage the remains of the robot head of King Ghidorah and use the technology to create two machines for the newly-established G-Force to combat Godzilla: a new Mechagodzilla and a new gunship.
Two years later, Japanese researchers come across an egg that appears to belong to Rodan. Something about the egg sends out waves that attracts Godzilla, who fights Rodan, allowing the scientists to escape with the egg. The telepath Miki (who has been a steady, reoccurring role throughout this whole era) has her young telepathic students study the egg, who discover it is emitting a song, which they then sing. The song triggers the egg, causing it to hatch and reveal—a baby Godzilla (MUCH cuter than Minilla, by the way). They conclude Godzilla is a big, mean cuckoo who lays his eggs and leaves them to the care of others, and meanwhile, Big G shows up to claim his son. The humans counter with Mechagodzilla, who owns for a little bit but then ends up losing from Godzilla’s energy pulse. The humans hide the baby, and Godzilla rages around before heading back to sea.
The humans then discover that Baby (as they call him) has a second brain in his hips, and they hatch a scheme to use Baby to lure Godzilla and take out his hip brain. As Baby starts crying, another one of his parents answers the call—Rodan. Rodan flies in, leaving a wake of explosions, gets into battle with Godzilla (adoptive father vs. biological father?), then the humans paralyze Big G by taking out his hip brain with Super-Mechagodzilla, which is MG with the flying gunship attached to his back Zord-style. Baby is none too pleased, causing Rodan to essentially fly on top of Godzilla and dissolve in order to regenerate his hip brain. Then Miki uses her psychic powers to convince dad and son to leave them alone. The end.
Kind of a lot going on, but the story is actually easy to follow and is anchored by a splendid cast and the emotional ties they form with Baby. The battle between Super Mecha and Godzilla is top-notch.
Method of defeat: Simply telling Godzilla to leave with his son
Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994)
If you think this movie is going to be as ridiculous as the title, then you thought correctly.
A giant meteor crashes through space, taking out a NASA space station and crashing to the Earth. But, of course, it’s not just a meteor; this is SPACEGODZILLA.
G-Force has a new toy, a mole-ish robot called MOGUERA (a callback to an older kaiju film from Toho called The Mysterians), which is sent to take out SpaceGodzilla, who has landed on Birth Island—where Godzilla and Little Godzilla (as we now call him) currently reside. Meanwhile on Birth Island, Miki and a team of soldiers learn from the Cosmos that Godzilla must defeat SpaceGodzilla or the Earth is doomed, so they work to attach mind-control devices for Miki to use on Godzilla. SpaceGodzilla traps Little Godzilla in a crystal prison and proves to be too powerful for Godzilla. Having defeated Godzilla this time, SG heads for Japan.
In preparation for SpaceGodzilla’s strike, the humans discover that, through Biollante dissolving and Mothra flying off to space, they polluted space with Godzilla’s cells and a black hole mutated them into SpaceGodzilla.
SG lands and uses the Fukuoka Tower to absorb energy through the Earth and slowly destroy it. Godzilla, with the help of MOGUERA that splits into two machines (reverse Super-Mechagodzilla!), works his way through SG’s power crystals. MOGUERA blasts away SG’s shoulder pads, and in this weakened state, Godzilla nukes his perverse space clone. Earth is saved, and Miki relieves Godzilla of the mind control device.
I liked the overall design of SpaceGodzilla, although the shoulder pads looked a little unwieldy. It, again, seemed like a lot was going on, and while the cast did an admirable job, they didn’t quite feel as involved this time around. MOGUERA was a lame afterthought.
Method of defeat: Shattering the space crystals
Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995)
Folks, this is the one.
The humans in charge of monitoring Godzilla have made a horrifying discovery: Birth Island has been obliterated, Godzilla is missing, and Godzilla Junior (second name change!) is presumed dead. Godzilla shows up soon after, though, but he’s in Hong Kong, he’s glowing red, and he’s unstable.
In an attempt to find answers, the JSDF seeks help from a young college student who is obsessed with Godzilla—for a very good reason. This young man just so happens to be the grandson of Dr. Yamane, who was the scientist from the very first Godzilla movie who was hesitant about killing a new species. He theorizes Godzilla’s heart is a nuclear reactor, and it is undergoing meltdown. They work to create freeze rays that stop his meltdown, which only succeed in slowing down the process.
Meanwhile, the oxygen destroyer (again from the first movie) somehow mutated a colony of pre-historic parasites who start infecting fish in Japan, including in aquariums, and start to grow into murderous, alien-like creatures that eventually join together to become Destoroyah.
Miki is able to find Godzilla Junior (who is almost full-grown at this point) and telepathically lures him to Tokyo in hopes that Godzilla will join his son in defeating Destoroyah. As Little G and Big D fight, Destoroyah absorbs some of Junior’s DNA and morphs into an even more powerful being. Godzilla arrives, but not in enough time to prevent Destoroyah from killing Junior by dropping him from the sky. Godzilla is enraged and tries to revive Junior, which he succeeds in doing, but only for a moment. Going into full meltdown, Godzilla uses all the reserves he has left to annihilate Destoroyah and then melts into nothing. We believe this is the end, until the smoke clears just a little, revealing that Godzilla Junior is revived.
This movie was the final movie of the Heisei period, and there must be something about the “final period” movies that makes the writers go all-in, because this movie was top-tier. I loved that we got some callbacks to the very first film that play a big part in this movie. I loved the tension of Godzilla being unstable and that the humans were actually working to save him rather than exterminate him—they recognize him as a necessary evil at this point. Destoroyah is a worthy foe, and they used a lot of horror elements to build up to his reveal that really work. Plus, I didn’t expect to get so emotional about Junior dying and then seeing Godzilla literally melting. This movie is probably one of the best Godzilla movies out there. I think my only complaint is that we didn’t get a chance to close the thread with Mothra being off in space.
Method of defeat: Nuclear blast from an angry dad who is literally melting with rage
Here is America trying to get its own piece of the Godzilla pie. Maybe we’re better off sticking with Kong.
In the opening credits, we get the gist of nuclear testing on Pacific Islands resulting in a lizard mutating into Godzilla, and they really updated his look to be a lot more dinosaur-ish than our upright-walking Japanese friend.
We follow along military folks trying to track down this threat with the help of a scientist (Inspector Gadget) who studies the effects of radiation on wildlife. This leads them to New York City, where Godzilla makes a big entrance. They try to lure him with fish, but this goes horribly wrong, resulting in the military blowing up many iconic NYC buildings.
Then, Worm Guy (Ferris Bueller) discovers that Godzilla is actually pregnant and produces asexually. The military doesn’t want to hear it, but for some reason, a small group of French spies do, and they—along with Worm Guy’s ex-girlfriend who is masquerading as a journalist—journey through tunnels created by Godzilla and find a nest in Madison Square Garden. Hundreds of eggs crack open, and the little G spawns start trying to get a taste for our main cast. They convince the military to bomb MSG, enraging Godzilla, who was thought to be dead from a previous encounter.
Godzilla chases them through the streets of New York until the military is finally able to kill him on the Brooklyn Bridge. Yay? At the end, we see one of the eggs in MSG still unhatched starting to crack.
I remember this one from my childhood, and since it came out around the time I was 10 years old, I loved it. Seeing it now, I see why it was panned. The jokes were beat like a dead horse (They can’t pronounce his name! The military is incompetent!), the French spy inclusion was just a weird and unnecessary plotline, and the latter half of the movie really drags. Some of the action sequences are good—and evoke glimpses of director Roland Emmerich’s other works like Independence Day and Stargate—but the computer-generated Godzilla doesn’t really hold up these days. Also, all the human relationship drama totally distracts from the movie instead of allowing us to identify with the characters.
Apparently, one veteran actor from the Japanese Godzilla movies stormed out of a screening of the movie, saying, “It’s not Godzilla, it doesn’t have his spirit.” I pondered on that one, and I have to agree. Godzilla was boiled down to a mere spectacle in this one; there wasn’t anything thematic about how he was created or how he was ultimately treated, other than the humans looking a little sad when his heart stops beating. He’s not begrudgingly seen as a protector, and they mercilessly eliminate his offspring. It all felt off compared to the films Godzilla’s home produced.
Method of defeat: American Military Force
The Mighty Kong (1998)
We won’t spend a lot of time here.
This is an animated, musical adaptation of the original Kong movie. It is most definitely for kids. For my watching purposes, it was mercifully an hour long. The animation, even by the standards back then, is meh; Ann Darrow’s constantly-changing hair color was the most baffling aspect. The voice cast was okay, led by Jodi Benson (the voice of Ariel from The Little Mermaid, which we definitely get a nod to during one of her songs), but Dudley Moore as Carl Denham was very sleepy other than the times he sang. This was, unfortunately for him, also Moore’s final movie before he passed away.
If you REALLY want your little kids to get a taste of Kong, this movie is pretty widely available. But I doubt it will be enjoyable to anyone over the age of five.
Method of defeat: Idk it’s a kids movie so Kong kinda just wakes up after falling from the friggin’ Empire State Building
Godzilla 2000: Millennium (1999)
Godzilla is back in Japan (again)! And now, we are in the Millennium era.
Godzilla has been a nuisance to the people of Japan since 1954, resulting in the creation of the Godzilla Prediction Network to track and predict where Godzilla might strike. Meanwhile, scientists discover a long-buried UFO in the Japanese trench, which revives and looks for Godzilla in order to steal a regenerative ability that he has. Godzilla fights the UFO, gets driven underwater, and then swims off before the UFO can absorb him.
The UFO flies into Tokyo and begins spreading tentacles through a building in order to steal all the information about Godzilla from Japanese computers. Godzilla shows up again, and the UFO kinda splits off its tentacles, forms a tripod-looking thing that absorbs Godzilla’s DNA and becomes its own monster called Orga. Orga is resistant to Godzilla, but when it tries to basically swallow Godzilla like a snake, Godzilla willingly goes in a blasts it from the inside. The humans observe that Godzilla has saved them from the UFO, wonder why he would protect them after all they did to destroy him, leading one character to say, “Maybe Godzilla exists in us.”
This one was almost a little too straightforward and doesn’t really care about any set-up to get Godzilla back into our lives. He’s just … there. The human cast is also fairly forgettable, and the computer graphics don’t hold up. The fights between Godzilla and Orga were kinda cool, though, and the moment Orga opens up like a boa constrictor shows that the practical effects still trumped computer effects at the time.
Method of defeat: I have too many inappropriate jokes in my head about this one. I’ll just say Godzilla’s flame was too spicy for Orga’s throat.
Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000)
Godzilla is back at it with the bugs, which leads to some extremely cathartic moments in this one.
Godzilla has been a nuisance since 1954 (I guess the Millennium era is when we get different interpretations of Godzilla rather than a continuing narrative), although this occurs in an alternate timeline where the oxygen destroyer didn’t get used, Japan moves is capital city from Tokyo to Osaka, and Japan totally bans the use of nuclear energy to keep from attracting Godzilla.
A group called G-Graspers is trying to create a mini-black hole weapon that will trap Godzilla once and for all. During a test, one of the black holes opens a worm hole, and a huge insect flies through, lays an egg, and then flies off. A young boy finds the egg, but as it keeps leaking, he disposes of it down a storm drain. The egg hatches, and a giant dragonfly spawn crawls out and starts feasting on humans as it grows in size and number.
Meanwhile, Godzilla shows up looking for nuclear energy (it’s later revealed that a government official secretly and illegally created a secret plasma project that ends up luring Godzilla), and G-Graspers and the giant dragonflies attack him. G-Graspers tries the black hole weapon but fail. The dragonflies that survived fly off and release the energy they absorbed from Godzilla into a giant cocoon that becomes a ‘Zilla-sized dragonfly called Megaguirus.
Megaguirus and Godzilla live up to the title of the movie, and while the dragonfly monster is able to weaken Godzilla by absorbing his energy through its stinger, Godzilla finds a way to bite off the stinger and roast the bug. The humans finally succeed with the black hole weapon, but an after-credit scene reveals the victory was short-lived as we hear Godzilla’s roar.
This was much better than the previous entry, and I would argue it’s only a step below Destoroyah. Once again, this movie incorporates a lot of horror tropes to build up the arrival of Megaguirus. The human characters are extremely compelling; the female lead even has a backstory of seeking revenge against Godzilla that really helps carry the story. There’s a scene where Godzilla is being swarmed by dragonflies, and it reminded me of summer here in Georgia when the mosquitos are in full force. Watching Godzilla blast them with his fire breath was extremely rewarding. I want fire breath for the mosquitos.
Method of defeat: Dragon trumps dragonfly
Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001)
I added an Oxford comma to the title. I don’t care.
Godzilla has been a nuisance since 1954 (oh here we go again…) except, that was the only time? The Japanese have grown complacent since then, that is until they search for a missing American nuclear submarine and witness a giant fin nearby. While the government tries to deny the existence of Godzilla, a reporter (and her TV crew that runs a fake monster show) starts to uncover some uncomfortable truths about Japan: Godzilla, in his creation, absorbed the souls of dead World War II soldiers (from both sides), and the land of Japan created three protectors to hold back Godzilla. These three protectors are Baragon (who had a minor role in Destroy All Monsters), Mothra, and … Ghidorah.
Godzilla shows up in Japan, and he is an absolute dick in this movie. In one scene, he walks by a hospital where a young female survivor of an earlier attack screams as she sees him, then is relieved to see he walks past her. And then his tail crashes through the building and wipes it out. Yoink!
He pretty easily handles Baragon, but Mothra and Ghidorah team up and try to take him out. He knocks out Ghidorah and then flames Mothra into dust. That dust, however, floats over to revive Ghidorah, and they morph together, giving the three-headed dragon back his wings, and the old rivalry is revived. Ghidorah drives Godzilla underwater, where a submarine commander (and the young reporter’s father) enters Godzilla’s mouth and blows him up from the inside. He returns to the surface, prevents his daughter from hugging him since he might have radiation poisoning, then they salute the Guardian Monsters for their help in defeating Godzilla. Of course, Godzilla’s heart starts to beat again at the bottom of the ocean. Roll credits.
This is another solid entry that heavily benefits from a compelling cast. Watching the young woman find her identity in creating an actually legitimate TV segment is entertaining, and seeing her father’s journey from a young boy who survived Godzilla’s first attack to mostly taking him out is a treat. The mythical elements of the dead souls and the old, crazy man who seems to know all the ancient lore adds an extra layer that makes this Godzilla interpretation unique but welcome. The saddest part was, even though Mothra was in this, the Shobijin/Cosmos weren’t a part of it, although we certainly get an homage to them when we see two women wearing matching outfits watch Mothra fly over them.
Method of defeat: Denying Godzilla the Heimlich
Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002)
Another masterpiece, start to finish.
Godzilla has been a nuisance since 1954 (yeah, I know) and, in the opening, he terrorizes the Japanese coastline and wipes out a battalion of soldiers tasked with taking him out. One of them survived, but because of her actions, she is demoted to a desk job for three years.
Meanwhile, scientists discover the skeleton of the original Godzilla and use it to construct a new Mechagodzilla. The woman who survived his first attack (Akane) is chosen to join the Mecha pilot team. However, in their first use of MG against Godzilla, Godzilla roars and awakens something buried deep inside the skeleton’s DNA, making it go on a destructive rampage that they are helpless to stop until it runs out of battery power.
After repairs and reassessment, Godzilla attacks again, and Kiryu (as Mechagodzila is often called) is ready this time. However, when the team tries to freeze blast Godzilla, he roasts back and damages Kiryu. Akane leaves the safety of her control plane and enters Kiryu, manually piloting it to drive Godzilla into the sea for battle. It ends, more or less, in a stalemate, with Godzilla walking away.
This movie has a lot more heart than many of the other Godzilla entries, and it honestly jostles for a top spot in my mind with Destoroyah. The cast is a lot of fun, and the revenge and redemption storyline for Akane is compelling to where you can’t help but root for her. Her friendship with one of the scientists and his young daughter is also endearing, especially in the post-credits scene where Akane finds a loophole in an agreement with the scientist she had that allows her to ask him out for dinner. The creation of Mechagodzilla make sense—in as much as it can in a world where giant monsters exist—and the “living skeleton” element is intriguing. My biggest complaint here is that it gets quickly forgotten after the first time.
Method of defeat: Atomic and freeze-blasty stalemate
Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003)
Godzilla has been a nuisance since … wait, this one is actually a sequel? From the last one?
Now that Kiryu is established as a defense against Godzilla’s raids, the JSDF creates a whole new squadron dedicated to piloting Kiryu. One pilot, Chujo, is the nephew of an old man who has his own history with kaiju movies, having met Mothra and the Shobijin (back to this title instead of the Cosmos) back in Mothra’s original raid in 1961. The Shobijin visit him, warning that Godzilla keeps raiding because of the skeleton still in human possession, and if they return the bones to the sea, Mothra will take Kiryu’s place as Japan’s defender.
The Japanese government refuses to listen, and Godzilla predictably raids again. Mothra is summoned when the old man and his grand-nephew make the Infant Island symbol, but she is outmatched, quickly losing her lifeforce. Kiryu and newly-hatched Mothra larva show up to help, and while Mothra expires, the rest of the team is able to hold off Godzilla. Kiryu suffers damage, forcing Chujo to enter and wake up its spirit (or something), and Kiryu wakes up, picks up a silk-trapped Godzilla, and rockets into the bottom of the ocean (but not before allowing Chujo to escape first). Chujo salutes his savior, and the credits roll. However, in the post-credits, we see a secret lab containing multiple DNA samples of several kaiju. What could this mean?
The cast in this one wasn’t quite as engaging as the previous entry, but overall, the story still worked. Bringing the Shobijin back (and with their original name) was also a huge plus, and including a Godzilla/Mothra veteran as a principal character adds the nostalgia flavor.
Method of defeat: Taking Godzilla 20,000 leagues under the sea
Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)
Godzilla is 50 years old, and all his friends are here to celebrate!
Really! There are so many old monsters that show up in this one. This is like Destroy All Monsters on steroids. With so many monsters (even the American version of Godzilla is in this one), there’s not really a compelling plot attached, but they did try.
Years after a submarine crew buries Godzilla in ice, pretty much every kaiju shows up and starts terrorizing the world. However, more old friends appear: the aliens from Planet X. They abduct all the kaiju, pretending the save the Earth, but they really seek to steal the identities of world leaders in order to take over. However, there is a race of mutant humans (yes) who have gained their mutation by a long-buried Gigan (…yep). They are aided by a journalist and a grizzled American soldier, and together, they find out the aliens’ plot. The aliens unleash the kaiju, and so the humans are forced to rescue Godzilla and have him fight the kaiju while they infiltrate the UFO. One of the mutants unlocks his full power, defeats the aliens, and Godzilla dispatches of all the kaiju, including Monster X who transforms into King Ghidorah.
When archeologists discover our society hundreds of years from now, they might get a pretty good picture of what the mid-2000s were like from this movie. It is a bombastic, saccharine-fueled cheese-fest that was made when everything had to be The Matrix. Techno-beat soundtrack, trench coats and leather, wooshing camera movement with slow-mo fight scenes, spiked hair, bad dialogue and one-liners … it’s the whole package. It never once takes its foot off the gas and goes from a sugar high to brainfreeze by the end. It got so mid-2000s that we had a fight scene set to a Sum 41 song. Might be one worth watching for hardcore Godzilla fans, especially for the updated looks to a lot of kaiju favorites, but definitely not a masterpiece of a standalone film.
Method of defeat: Godzilla’s Dad Strength
King Kong: King of Atlantis (2005)
Another animated musical film for kids that uses Kong, although this one is somewhat decent.
Kong doesn’t know his place in the world. He was resurrected by a scientist who used the DNA of her son Jason, who now shares a link with Kong. He’s also the protector of his island, and his Shaman guide Lua wants him to remember his duties. After Lua claims he is not the “real Kong,” he storms off … just as snake-like Atlanteans arise from the sea and claim he is their true king. He is whisked away, but the empress of Atlantis is really seeking to mind-control Kong in order to take over the world. Kong ultimately joins his human friends, who have found common ground, and they turn back the rise of Atlantis.
This is a follow-up to the 40-episode King Kong: The Animated Series and was essentially created to cash in on the next movie on this list. It’s definitely for kids and was kind of hard for me, a grown-ass man, to watch, but there were some intriguing thematic elements, like Kong’s struggle to know who he really is and the character development with the human characters. The animation holds up pretty well and, while the songs are a little phoned-in, the voice cast buys into their given roles. Not a bad one to introduce to the kids to keep them busy in order for you to read all of these summaries in relative peace and quiet.
Method of defeat: Kong turning back the doomsday sundial
King Kong (2005)
Live-action Kong gets remade a second time, but he’s back to the ‘30s.
This one pretty closely follows the plot of the original, although the Lord of the Rings crew excels at stretching stories out, so that’s what they do here. It’s entirely welcome, though, even if it clocks in at about three hours long. The character development of Ann Darrow is especially welcome, and Naomi Watts nails the melancholy vibe of our femme fatale. The fight scenes are awesome, Kong’s motion capture is near-perfection (God bless Andy Serkis), the native scenes are gruesome and terrifying, and I still get the heebs from the giant bugs scene.
Extra points for a soundtrack that soars and lingers in your mind long after the credits finish rolling. I’m not afraid to say it; it’s an improvement on the original. It still captures that “concrete jungle of man ruins wild beast” theme of the original while also allowing us to empathize with all of the characters involved.
Method of defeat: See: King Kong (1933)
Kong: Return to the Jungle (2005)
The crew from the Kong animated show is back … with the worst kind of upgrade.
I’ll be honest. I was probably half paying attention to this movie. There was something about an evil billionaire trying to create a zoo that he would really use to release animals in New York City for the ultimate hunting experience. The animation drove me crazy in this one. Rather than the flat cartoons of the last one, the animation team layers the cartoons on 3D models that move around like LEGO robots. It looks awful. The songs here are a little more catchy than the last one. That’s about it.
Method of defeat: Kong actually saving New York City this time
America gets another try at the Lizard King, and this effort is much, much better.
In Universal’s MonsterVerse kick-off, we meet the group Monarch, which is dedicated to tracking down and analyzing the titans that once ruled our world. One mysterious titan wakes up and causes mayhem at a nuclear power plant in Japan, causing an American operator stationed there (Walter White) to sacrifice his life to contain the meltdown. Years later, he is arrested trying to break into the quarantine zone, and his son (MCU Quicksilver) returns to Japan to break him out … and then break him back in to the zone. They discover Monarch there, monitoring what we call MUTOs (Massing Unidentified Terrestrial Organism), which soon wakes up and creates another path of destruction in search of its mate.
As the MUTO heads to America, so does Godzilla, who appears to be in charge of maintaining balance among the titans. The monsters brawl, wrecking San Francisco, but ultimately the Army is able to destroy the MUTOs eggs and Godzilla dispatches of mom and dad.
This movie hits all of the right notes and is borderline sophisticated, especially for a monster movie. The human characters are well-written and acted (Bryan Cranston absolutely sells out for his role). We even get a Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver sighting (aw) in this movie as married characters (gross?). Ken Watanabe’s character is a wonderful nod to the Godzillas of yore with the name Ishirō Serizawa (first name is after frequent Godzilla director Ishirō Honda; the surname is that of the scientist who created the oxygen destroyer in the original). There are so many beautifully shot scenes, but the standout has to be the HALO jump scene.
I know people had complaints that the scenes cut right before the action got started, but honestly, that left me wanting more. And you end up getting the payoff in the end. If you were constantly getting that action, the end might not have been as impactful and fun.
Method of defeat: Nuclear blast to the body/throat
Shin Godzilla (2016)
Godzilla is back in Japan for the first time since 2004. Missed opportunity to call this “Godzilla: Homecoming.”
A mysterious organism appears in Tokyo Bay, destroying boats that get near. As the government tries to determine the next course of action, the beast makes its way onto land, and the beast has a name we are all too familiar with at this point: Godzilla.
Except Godzilla has flippers on the front and gills. At least, until he starts evolving.
The Japanese government is at a loss on how to save the cities Godzilla is destroying, but they determine that he has to return to the sea to cool down his nuclear reactions. They scramble to hold back his next attack, but when Godzilla returns, he is much larger (and looks more like the classic Godzilla) and wipes out defense forces and most of the government with his duo mouth-and-tail nuclear blasts. The UN and the US want to nuke the beast out of existence, but a ragtag group of scientists and academics works on an alternative method to freeze Godzilla from the inside and spare what they can of Tokyo. Ultimately, the latter plan succeeds, freezing Godzilla in place, allowing Tokyo more time to learn how to deal with him should he wake up again.
This one is quite the unique departure from previous Godzilla films, and while it takes some acclimating, the alternative take is ultimately a welcome one. The evolving nature of Godzilla is fascinating and ups the stakes, and, while a significant chunk of this movie is spent on government officials trying to figure out what the next move is, it feels like an indie film that takes Godzilla and asks what would this look like in the real world. The shot of Godzilla’s tail at the end is straight out of a body-horror nightmare.
Method of defeat: Freeze tag with Godzilla, but no one will unfreeze him (sad!)
Kong: Skull Island (2017)
Kong gets rebooted—again, and back to the ‘70s.
Expanding on the 2014 Godzilla, the MonsterVerse formally adds Kong to the mix of titans, where he inhabits Skull Island to hold back the titans that dwell in the Hollow Earth and have an escape through Kong’s island.
Only, Monarch doesn’t know that. Using a Hail Mary attempt to save itself from being de-funded by the government, a Monarch leader (John Goodman) gathers a ragtag group of Viet Nam soldiers returning after the war ends (led by Nick Fury), scientists, a photographer (Captain Marvel), and an ex-British Intelligence spy (Loki) to go to the last uncharted place on the planet to see what resides there.
They arrive, start dropping seismic charges to get the lay of the land, and Kong ain’t having it. He wrecks the helicopter crew, incurring the wrath of Samuel L. Jackson. The survivors of Kong’s attack are split up, and some of them find an old World War II pilot (John C. Reilly) who lives with the natives of the island (much nicer than Peter Jackson’s natives) and tells them that Kong is actually the last of a line of defenders who kept the Hollow Earth titans at bay. The humans try to meet up and get to the evac point on the north end of the island, all while being chased by the bloodthirsty Skullcrawlers (that name is humorously skewed in the dialogue). Kong takes the Skullcrawlers out, and the few humans who remain are safely taken back to the United States.
While the cast is pretty loaded, the first act of the film does a terrific job setting them all up in a consumable way to the point where you care about how most of them fare by the end of the movie. The second act gets a little draggy to the point where the final act isn’t as fun, but overall, a solid effort. My biggest complaint, honestly, is that Kong is merely boiled down to “ancient protector” status and we don’t get to explore any deep thematic elements about his place in the world.
Method of defeat: Kong is not a good dentist for the Skullcrawlers
Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters (2017)
This is the first of three anime “episodes” from Netflix with a post-apocalyptic sci-fi setting.
Planet Earth is a wasteland, and Godzilla is to blame (or is he?). Two alien races—the religious Exif and the technologically advanced Bilusaludo—offered humans help to deal with the kaiju (never accept deals from aliens trying to take out Godzilla!), but they are now with humans wandering through space looking for a new home. However, after 20 years, humans have no choice but to return to Earth and see if it is inhabitable.
Traveling several lightyears back to Earth, the survivors learn that 20,000 years have passed on Earth due to relativity, which gives them the hope that Godzilla is long dead. Their hopes are dashed, however, when recon drones pick up a familiar cry. A scout team is sent to determine if they can inhabit the planet, but they are attacked by Godzilla. They learn to defeat him by taking out his shield that resides in the dorsal fin. And that’s when they wake up the actual Godzilla, who has grown to a colossal size and nearly wipes them all out. In the after credits, our main hero Haruo wakes up in a hut … with an Earth-dwelling human looking over him.
This re-interpretation of Godzilla as a pure existential threat in a post-apocalyptic world was a pretty decent effort from Netflix—the animation is stunning (especially Godzilla), the sound is enthralling, and the world building is believable enough to allow you to be a part of the journey. As far as characters go, I was much more involved in the overall group of survivors and their plight more than I was in any individual characters, which is kind of a backward approach to storytelling. But with two more entries to go, I figured there would be enough time to build more empathy for the individuals involved.
Method of defeat: Messing with Godzilla’s spikes
Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle (2018)
Part two that very much feels like part two.
Our human survivors on Earth learn they are not alone; a tribal race of humans called the Houtua have been left on Earth, dealing with a planet that is slowly absorbing Godzilla’s DNA into every living aspect. They live underground and worship an Egg (gee, what could that be?). The human survivors find each other after Godzilla’s attack and learn that the Houtua make their weapons with a metal that comes from a leftover Mechagodzilla that was created by the Bilusaludo.
They travel to the source and learn the surviving Mechagodzilla head created a whole city. They camp out there, scheming on how to take out Godzilla using fast-producing technology. As they get into battle with Godzilla, however, we learn there’s a price to victory: the Bilusaludo believe that perfect existence means allowing the technological metal to posses everything on the Earth, including individuals. Haruo makes the difficult decision to allow Godzilla to live, unleashing him to destroy Mechagodzilla city.
Since this is the middle entry with more world building to establish, this movie felt a little more exposition heavy. But the climactic battles are a sight to behold, and the difficult decision that Haruo had to face was morally ambiguous enough to where you feel a good kind of conflicted by the end of the movie.
Method of defeat: Rejecting modernity and embracing the atomic blast of tradition
Godzilla: The Planet Eater (2018)
The final entry of the anime adaptation that ultimately makes this a satisfying trilogy.
Haruo’s decision has consequences, and the Bilusaludo (and many humans) on the mothership in space are enraged that he would betray them and allow Godzilla to live and wipe out their technology. That allows the cultish Exif to swoop in and use Haruo for their schemes, which is the summon their god to save the Earth. Only, their god is more like a king, and instead of saving the Earth, he definitely means to destroy it. That’s right, the Exif are devotees of none other than King Ghidorah.
The humans and the Houtua work madly to stop the Exif, but none of their technology or weapons can register Ghidorah, who appears as three energy-based heads that snake out of black orbs from space. Ghidorah begins to feed on Godzilla, who is helpless. Haruo confronts Metphies (the Exif cultist who summons Ghidorah using a strange talisman he forces into his eye socket) and goes on a trippy journey where Metphies tries to explain that Godzilla is a human mistake and Haruo will maintain his humanity by allowing Ghidorah to continue to feed. Our hero ultimately resists the temptation, breaks the talisman in Metphies’s eye, and Ghidorah is suddenly vulnerable to Godzilla’s attacks.
Years later, the human survivors and the Huotua reproduce to grow society, and Godzilla lies dormant due to their lack of Earth-harming technology. Haruo’s doctor friend finds an old mech suit from the Mechagodzilla city, saying it can replicate old societies long gone, but Haruo recognizes this means opening up the Earth to another cleanse from Godzilla, so he sacrifices himself and flies the suit straight into Godzilla.
Overall, this was a worthwhile series that explores a lot of themes regarding our technological hubris and our stewardship of the Earth. I also liked the aspect of the two alien races that represent dogmatic extremism to religion vs dogmatic extremism to science, with humans caught in the middle representing the happy medium between the two. You could argue that the creators could swap just about any monster with Godzilla in this series, but a majority of Godzilla movies have explored themes of environmental responsibility and the sins of our thirst for deadly technology, so I’d say it makes more than enough sense to make Godzilla a catalyst in this story.
Method of defeat: Becoming Luddites
Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)
Here we are; we’re all caught up!
Back in the MonsterVerse, a scientist who survived the MUTO attack in San Francisco has dedicated herself to creating what she calls the Orca, a device meant to wake up and control other titans residing in the Earth. An environmental terrorist faction interrupts her first test on Mothra, but we later learn she was working with them the entire time. She wants to wake the titans, allowing them to release a “controlled burn” on humanity.
Meanwhile, her ex-husband is working with Monarch and the military to save her and their daughter (Eleven), but after the truth is revealed, their daughter steals a (conveniently unguarded) Orca and runs to Boston to try to reign in the monsters. The monsters, led by an awakened King Ghidorah, are uncontrollable and outmatch Godzilla, who is trying to defeat Ghidorah. The military tries to attack Ghidorah while he is fighting Godzilla with an oxygen destroyer (blast from the past!), but they succeed only in weakening Godzilla, who has to retreat to the Hollow Earth.
Meanwhile, Mothra wakes up, and along with Dr. Serizawa sacrificing himself to feed Godzilla nuclear energy, she communes with Godzilla and aids him in his fight against Ghidorah (and his loyal subject Rodan). The monsters brawl in Boston, and the wicked haht and meltdowny Godzilla annihilates Ghidorah and takes his rightful place as the king of the monsters.
While the special effects in this one make the battle scenes worth viewing with the sound cranked to 11, this movie isn’t nearly as good as the first entry—mostly due to a lack of interesting characters. They all feel like stock characters with minimal-effort backgrounds, and the ex-wife just straight up sucks. I was cheering for Ghidorah to kill her pretty much the entire movie.
I watched this movie in theater having seen only a few Godzilla movies. Watching it now with all of them behind me, I can say it was much more enjoyable this time around. With Mothra involved, we get at least a wink and a nod to the Shobijin/Cosmos with twin characters who come from a line of twin ancestors, the updated looks to a lot of the monsters are satisfactory, the implemented classic themes of each monster is a nice Easter egg, and even bringing back the oxygen destroyer is a fun nod to the original. Of course, all that fan service for the die-hard fans makes it not quite as accessible to new audiences.
Method of defeat: Big Nuke Energy Godzilla dethroning the alien king
So, that’s it! All the Kong and Godzilla movies summarized. What a journey it was … at least for me who had to watch all of these. I hope you get to experience all of these movies someday—the good, the bad, the atomically ugly—but I hope these brief snapshots help you get prepped for the showdown that drops in theaters and HBO Max on March 31.
With all that said, let’s get into some after-credit material (if you will). The most obvious titan in the room …
Who should win? Godzilla or Kong?
The question burning on everyone’s mind right now. I was going to defer to Kyle Chandler, who, funny enough, has had unrelated roles in both movies, but he’s unavailable.
The easy answer is Godzilla. I mean, come on, he’s a giant, nearly-indestructible atomic lizard. Kong is a big ape. But let’s use some of the knowledge gained in the movies to explore this debate a little deeper.
In terms of seniority, that one goes to Kong. He entered the collective human conscience in 1933, whereas Godzilla stormed in in 1954. So, Kong, if you will, is Godzilla’s older kaiju brother. Being the oldest brother myself, I’ve gotta say Kong wins here.
Kong in the 1933 version was a Claymation puppet, whereas Godzilla was a dude in a lizard suit. It takes a good amount of effort to do Claymation, but the suit Godzilla wears actually stands the test of time way more than Kong does, so that’s a point to Godzilla there. As far as their iconic roars, Godzilla’s roar was created by rubbing a pine tar-resin-coated glove along the strings of a contrabass, and then that sound was slowed down. Kong’s roar was created by mixing a bunch of big cat roars together. Kong gets points for ferocity, but Godzilla gets points for both creativity and the staying power of that roar.
When it comes to movie volume, there’s no question about the winner there—Godzilla runs away with a count of 35 to 11 on Kong (they share one). Godzilla also has far more iconic enemies, and while our current iteration of Kong acts to hold back lots of different beasties from the Hollow Earth, Godzilla’s history has him owning a huge variety of creatures that puts him over Kong. Plus, in addition to Godzilla’s theme music, a lot of his friends and foes also have some pretty catchy themes (especially Mothra).
Thematically, I love the different takeaways that swirl around King Kong. There’s a strange tension between Kong and Darrow that can definitely tap into discussions about sexuality and toxic masculinity, but I also see from Kong’s perspective a cautionary tale about man being too reckless in his attempt to domesticate and dominate nature. Godzilla also taps into man’s hubris as a picture of nuclear waste and unfettered technological advancement. Dissertations could be written on both, and I hate to do this, but I’d say the two beasts get a tie here.
Godzilla is said to be the villain in Godzilla vs. Kong, but, here’s the thing: Mechagodzilla is confirmed to be in the movie and, as we’ve seen once, Mechagodzilla was a ploy to make us think the actual Godzilla was on a rampage. So perhaps Godzilla and Kong team up to take down Mechagodzilla? Or another yet-to-be-seen titan? Who knows? But taking the title on its face, I’d say the edge goes to…
At least they’re bringing my mans Kong into the modern world. In live action movies, we’ve only seen him in the ‘30s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. Welcome to the modern day, bud.
And with that, I will leave you with two parting gifts: a list of essential viewing and some Kong vs. Godzilla-themed memes. Thank you for taking the time to read these titan-sized articles, thank you for being part of the Geek’d Out community, and let me know your thoughts on Godzilla vs. Kong.
Essential Viewing: Godzilla
- Godzilla (1954)
- Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964)
- Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)
- Destroy All Monsters (1968)
- Godzilla vs. Hedora (1971)
- Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)
- Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)
- Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995)
- Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002)
- Godzilla (2014)
Essential Viewing: King Kong
- King Kong (1933, 1976, and 2005)
- Kong: Skull Island (2017)