Action films today are packed to the brim with CGI, special effects and tight stories that are intricately crafted with care and passion for the film. It’s a far stretch from the 1960s, where films like King Kong vs. Godzilla were released with such tenacity that it all starts to blur into one giant action-packed blob. I’ve got a real fondness for the Godzilla character, which is extremely odd since this is the second movie I’ve seen The King of Monsters appear in. Most likely not the best place to start my conquest of all the Godzilla movies, but certainly one of the more entertaining outputs this series will have to offer.
King Kong vs Godzilla pits two of cinemas most iconic characters in a battle for the ages to settle the big question on all our minds. What would win in a fight? A big monkey or a lizard with fire breath. The answer is so beyond the realm of plausibility that it’s hard not to lose yourself in a fit of enjoyment through one of the strangest and most engaging action movies to date. Director Ishirô Honda works well with what limited capacity he has to make monster movies. Returning from the original Godzilla movie released in 1954, the third in a series of too many Godzilla movies is a product of its time.
It’d be harsh to criticise what is arguably a very fun time to be had. The set design is a mixed bag of entertaining set pieces that pit great monsters against one another and boring human subplots that pad out the running time. Inevitably the climax of the film is that titular battle, but it takes a while to get there and pacing it out with news reports and coverage of the build-up really wasn’t the way to go. Somehow managing to fit the origin story of King Kong and the highly anticipated and feared return of Godzilla into only an hour and a half is beyond impressive. The film certainly loses something because of this, but the entertainment value begins to sway between impressive feats of ingenuity for the time and laughably bad moments that have aged terribly.
For every colossally funny fight scene is a boring performance from one of the many supporting characters that litter the movie. For a film that feels like it’s too low budget even for a late night ScyFy channel flick, King Kong vs. Godzilla really has to rely on the finale between its two monsters more than anything else. There are whole subplots and character arcs that are completely meaningless, but feel like they’re there just so the film can be more than two monsters fighting. If it were just two monsters fighting, then there’s no way it would’ve worked. There’s a surprisingly good balance between action and character driven narrative.
What is there to really say about King Kong vs. Godzilla? It’s a film where two grown men dress up as oversized fictional animals and batter each other over the head in the slowest and safest manner possible. It oozes of 60s nostalgia for those that grew up around the time of this film’s release, and for those that have a fondness for this series of films I truly applaud you. King Kong vs. Godzilla is a gold mine of hilariously over the top moments, triumphantly funny set pieces and some generally enjoyable destruction that you simply can’t get anywhere else.