Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) thrilled fans with the battle royal they have been hoping for since the creation of the Monsterverse in Godzilla (2014), and Kong: Skull Island (2017). However, as the Monsterverse evolved through progressive movies, the depiction of the world pivoted from reality-based to one invoking technologies and environments which can only exist in fantasy. What this direction means for audience immersion and future story telling is yet to be revealed.
The dark tone and unsettling score of the Godzilla teaser trailer established Hollywood’s second portrayal of Japan’s premiere monster as a serious tale of our world coping with a creature of an incredible destructive force. Unlike the 1998 movie, which downsized Godzilla and all but stripped him of his power and radioactive breath, the new Godzilla stands taller than those proceeding him and does not hesitate to crush or incinerate anything in his path.
The suspension of disbelief in Godzilla and the M.U.T.Us (renamed Titans in Godzilla: King Of The Monsters) is strengthened by the revelation that there is nothing mythical or man-made about their nature. Titans are just really big animals who have resurfaced in the midst of human civilization. Research conducted by Monarch, a secret agency studying Titans, discovered they evolved when the Earth’s surface radiation was significantly higher, and migrated to the depths of the ocean and underground. Titan actually are sustained by radiation, placing them in the most extreme category of extremophiles.
The military might rallied against Godzilla and the M.U.T.Us are conventional modern day weapons. There are no laser cannons or newly developed, futuristic systems. The weapon of last resort is an old analog armed nuclear bomb, so it would not be affected by the M.U.T.Us EMP (electromagnetic pulse) aura. All of this supported the audience’s buy-in as they recognized the world where the events were taking place.
The strongest fantasy element of the film to me occurs near the end of the film. A team of soldiers have twenty minutes to save San Francisco by hefting the same nuke out of a pit, walking it 1/4 mile across a devastated landscape, and boating it out of blast range of the city. I just cannot see how they make it. Not in twenty minutes. Nope.
Godzilla: King Of The Monsters
Growing up a fan of Destroy All Monsters (1968), it was thrilling to see Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidorah back in action. I only wish Godzilla: King Of The Monsters featured Godzilla or the other classic kaiju battling some of the new Titans, especially Behemoth. The increase in number and variety of Titans remained within the scope of the world established in Godzilla. The deviation from the “real world” involved the technology utilized in the movie.
The Argo was featured as Monarch’s flying headquarters. At an estimated 50 meters long with 120 meter wingspan it would be the largest plane ever to take flight. The aircraft included a command center, sick bay, munitions, and hanger bay with three Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. Considering the Ospreys alone added nearly 100,000 lbs. to the Argo’s weight, the aircraft would be too heavy to fly. There are also the question of fuel consumption and re-filling. It would have to be an in-flight process as few airfields that can support a plane of this size.
The same argument can be made against the flying Titans, but the audience’s acceptance of their existence forestalls a need to justify their abilities. They can do what they do because they can do it.
Godzilla vs. Kong
To paraphrase the famous quote from The Treasure of The Sierra Madre, “Physics? We don’t need no stinking physics!” The recognizable world outside our window from Godzilla is gone in Godzilla vs. Kong, replaced by one designed to benefit the outlandish, albeit fun, story.
The concept of the Hollow Earth was introduced in Godzilla: King Of The Monsters, though discussions of the Titans utilizing a vast underground network are present in all the Monsterverse movies. These caverns extend down to near the Earth’s core, where the Hollow Earth region is protected by a mysterious energy barrier. Once inside the barrier, gravity shifts, allowing residents to walk on the floor and ceiling of the subterranean world.
There is almost too many questions here to address. How did the Hollow Earth form in the molten mass of the mantle? Why isn’t it impacted by the immense pressure and heat present at those depths? What is the energy barrier and where did it come from? What is generating the light and oxygen? How does the gravity inversion work? What’s with the glowing blue rocks? The mysteries of the Hollow Earth are a significant plot point which can fuel future movies.
To reach the Hollow Earth required technology of an equally fantastic nature. Our heroes follow Kong there in an H.E.A.V. (Hollow Earth Aerial Vehicle). This “prototype” by Apex Cybernetics is powered by unknown energies which manipulate surrounding gravity allowing it to float and fly. These energies also protect the occupants from the lethal effects of passing through the Hollow Earth’s barrier.
While one group of heroes travel to the Hollow Earth, our second team of heroes discovers an equally impressive feat of technology. In the lowest levels of the Pensacola, Florida location of Apex Cybernetics is a hyperloop system which whisks them away to Hong Kong, in time for the final monster battle. How this system was constructed, in secret, beneath half of the United States, and the Pacific Ocean, and across several major fault zones is a story in and of itself.
Godzilla provides the greatest leap of fantasy by employing his atomic breath to blast a hole 1,800 miles deep from Hong Kong to the Hollow Earth. The hole manages to penetrate the Hollow Earth’s protective barrier and not collapse from the surrounding magma and pressure of the mantle. Aside from giving Godzilla and Kong the opportunity to roar at one another across the vast distance, the hole serves the purpose of bringing the two apex Titans together, and as an escape route for our heroes.
The Monsterverse revisits the giant monsters of yesteryear and introduces new threats and opponents. The expanding disconnect with reality provides opportunities to develop fantastic stories extending beyond the boundaries of Earth and the known planets. An element of the classic kaiju movies yet to be explored is the involvement of alien races. These races usually presented themselves as saviors of Earth from the kaiju but were really using the monsters to subjugate humanity, until the tables were turned and they were defeated.
What if the mysteries of the Hollow Earth and the surprising technological leaps by Apex Cybernetics were due to alien infiltration? King Ghidorah was identified as an extraterrestrial life form. Where did it come from, and what other fearsome creatures soar between the stars? Its existence suggests either Titans evolution is common in this corner of the cosmos, or what we believe about the Titans and the Hollow Earth is a lie. If that is the case, what truth awaits us? I hope we don’t have to wait long to find out.
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