Not rated, but if any movie that involved mass carnage was made for kids, it's the Godzilla franchise. But wait! If there has ever been a Godzilla movie that has osmething offensive, it's probably going to be this one. Man, it's uncomfortable as can be, but there's just a mess of Blackface in this movie. I've never really associated Blackface than any culture other than America, but Japan apparently is very cool with Blackface.
DIRECTORS: Ishiro Honda and Tom Montgomery
I can't believe the Kong mashup happens so early! These collisions of franchises should take forever to get to. I'm entirely basing this on my gut and on Zatoichi movies. I mean, the current Godzilla franchise only had two movies before getting to Godzilla vs. Kong. I would say that they are just mirroring the original franchise with the new stuff, but we've already met Ghidora and Mothra, so that can't be an absolute thing.
I should absolutely read the history of this movie before writing this blog. King Kong vs. Godzilla was half an American movie, half a Japanese movie. My Criterion disc told me so. *insert snooty laughter here* Now, I have all kinds of theories that a quick Google search could probably solve. Did Japan make a King Kong vs. Godzilla movie that played differently? If so, why isn't thta movie on the Criterion disc? *snooty laughter* Did Japan start to make a movie and then America decide to make the footage work? Was it always planned to be split in half? Either way, the result is the stereotype we get about Godzilla movies, in the sense that they are poorly dubbed and barely function as films. That sounded harsh. It probably sounded harsh because it was harsh. I'm actually getting kind of cool with Godzilla movies. Maybe just watching enough of them has made me interested in the subject matter. Maybe the expectations of these movies has been so lowered that I can appreciate them for the serialized nonsense that they are.
For all my bluster that films need to be vulnerable and have a message, by this point in the franchise --only movie three! --it seems like the Godzilla movies have lost all of the relevancy that the first Gojira movie held so closely to the chest. I liked the allegory behind Godzilla. I liked that the Japanese were making entertainment while scolding the world on its use of atomic weapons. Now, I'm aware that since I'm seeing the American perspective on King Kong vs. Godzilla, I can't say that the Japanese have lost their messaging through the need to make fun monster movies. But the casualness of which people jump to the atomic bomb seems almost irresponsible. Listen, the crux of my argument lies on the notion that the Godzilla movies have lost their souls, but that makes for fine entertainment. I am aware that the people who say "Drop the bomb" on Godzilla are either evil or wrong. But when the notion of atomic destruction is used casually by people who know firsthand what the bomb is all about, it's a bit uncomfortable.
Remind me to talk about Blackface. I need to do that. I did a little bit in the MPAA section, but Blackface needs to get addressed. I'm still talking about the quality of the movie right now, so I need to discuss that first. King Kong vs. Godzilla makes so little sense as a concept. Because artistry is going downhill, so is quality of film. Yeah, I thought the movie was going to look worse than it did. That didn't mean that it didn't look really bad. But I'm more concerned about the shortcuts taken in a movie like this. Man alive, King Kong vs. Godzilla relies heavily on archetypes to get ideas across shorthand. I'm putting everything on the shoulders of Mr. Tako right now. He's not the only one, but Mr. Tako is representative of how lazy this movie was. I mean, this is borderline a clown in this movie. He's Jar Jar Binks (with all due respect to the actor who played Jar Jar Binks) in a Godzilla movie. There's literal jumping up and down in frustration. He is wacky and where did this come from? But do you know what archetypes are allowed to do that grounded characters can't do? Anything they want. The Mr. Takos of this movie excuse so much insane behavior that when the grounded characters do stupid things, it makes you forget them.
I think we need an example. I think it was Fumiko that does this. If it isn't, I'm so sorry. I was not paying attention to names during this movie. I allowed my brain to go completely numb for the monster fighting movie. For the sake of argument, Fumiko goes looking for another character in Hokkaido (which is pronounced correctly by an English-speaking Japanese character, but no other dubbed Japanese characters). It's stupid that she's going. All reports are that Godzilla is about to attack Hokkaido for the majority of the film. Ignore the fact that she's a moron for going to Hokkaido. It might be a noble and selfless character trait to look for someone who might be lost in the city. After all, I've never attacked other characters in other franchises for pulling an equivalent card. But do you know what doesn't make sense? There's a train going to Hokkaido. So much of the news has been about evacuating Hokkaido before Godzilla makes landfall that I'm pretty sure that any train headed for the town would be cancelled. But because this moment is excused because we have a bunch of Mr. Takos running around doing dumb stuff all the time. We tend to forget basic plot stuff when it comes to this.
Alright, Blackface! Why? Okay, I get why. It's 1963. The Civil Rights Movement in America is still in its early days and everything was permissable. Japan wasn't even American. I had an argument that Japan has as much culpability with old timey Blackface that America does. To a certain extent, that's not completely accurate. But I still argue that there is a culpability here. One of America's great tragedies that it doesn't get rid of racism. It can't. We thought we got close. In some ways, we're better now. In a lot of ways, we might be worse. But there is this notion of other cultures being backwards. It's why I kind of have a hard time watching Indiana Jones movies anymore. I don't think I've ever seen so much Blackface going on at once. Every person with Blackface was being described as a savage. The two men come on the island, looking for Kong. Kong could be this great god who can take down Godzilla. But they are instantly met with hostility. Okay, fine. Whatever. But these natives are placated with a radio and they give everyone cigarettes. I almost fell off the treadmill when the two Japanese men start handing the savages cigarettes and then gives one to the kid. Yeah, I'm over-exposing my White fragility right now, but could this movie be any more 1963?
Okay, so what's the takeaway? After all, by choice, there is almost no theme in the movie. King Kong vs. Godzilla is a movie that doesn't make a lick of sense, yet is still entertaining. This is me getting dumb, but that's only because the movie makes me stoop to its level. King Kong and Godzilla are mismatched. Godzilla is a strong giant who shoots radiation from a distance. Kong is a strong giant that can't get close to him. The movie even establishes that this is a terrible idea. Okay. So they just make something up at one point. They give Godzilla a vulnerability that, if you squint, might make a bit of sense. They make Godzilla fearful of electricity. I mean, I don't remember that being a bit in the other movies, but whatever. Then, they just say that King Kong is powered by electricity? How? How would they know that? King Kong lives on an island devoid of technology where he's the strongest one there is. Also, why would he be powered by electricity? He's an ape. Apes traditionally don't have electrical powers. Also, there's a lot of assumptions happening in this movie that we just have to accept. It's odd, because the recent remakes also do the same thing. Both versions of this movie assume that these alpha creatures would sense each other and be drawn into battle. That's...something. I know that apex predators, when in the same environment, fight for dominance. But they aren't called across great distances to defeat each other. It's really odd.
Do you know why Kong wins in this one? I mean, there's one really obvious reason: the movie has to end. If Godzilla is rampaging Tokyo and Hokkaido, that battle has to end somewhere. Kong is the hero and Godzilla is the villain of this one. Okay. Fine. But I get the vibe that there's a bit of symbolism here. King Kong represents America. He goes to New York where we take him down using planes. (I now realize how outgunned Kong should have been.) He's the story of the American. It's our OG monster movie and Japan can't have him. So there's Godzilla, who reminds us that we did this first. And then there's the American production company, Universal, who wants to sell this movie to Americans. After all, there are a lot of Japanese people in this movie and memory is long. So why not make a movie where the American OG star takes down the newest kid on the block? I wouldn't be surprised if Godzilla trounces Kong in the Japanese version and he just, you know, leaves. Or he gets trapped in a hole again. (Can I just say, trapping Godzilla in a hole seems to be the most effective thing against him? You aren't going to kill him. Just bury him.)
I'll also admit something else that I've hinted at. King Kong vs. Godzilla is incredibly dumb. But I also kind of liked it? It was so stupid and I had such low expectations, that I could watch another Godzilla movie today. It's a shame that this is where the franchise devolves. But I didn't really like the early ones, despite the fact that they checked off a lot of boxes for me. Either way, I don't regret watching these movies...yet.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.