The Monsterverse’s latest installment pits Doom Inevitable against the Eighth wonder of the world. So is it a knockout?

BEWARE OF SPOILERS

The film starts off with Kong waking up on Skull Island, chillin’ and maxin’. We quickly learn there’s more to the situation than meets the eye, mainly: the habitat is artificial in nature, maintained by one of the human characters: Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall). Why? Don’t know.

 

Said doctor does exposit that Jia (Kaylee Hottle), the young deaf girl she’s taking care of, lost her tribe when a terrible storm swept the island. Perhaps the habitat was created to prevent either Kong or his human observers from befalling the same fate, but the movie never explicitly states this. It also seems rather unlikely, since in Kong: Skull Island it was established that the island is shrouded by fierce storms. This means that both Kong and the indigenous tribe would have weathered severe storms on a regular basis.

Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård), A hollow Earth expert, is approached by Apex CEO Walter Simmons (Demián Bichir) to aid him in finding Hollow Earth. Not only is Simmons obviously the bad guy, this is also where things start looking a little… familiair.

 

EVANGELION

Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of the most critically acclaimed franchises in the history of anime. The story revolves around humans using mecha to battle powrful beings called Angels. The first similarity with Godzilla vs. Kong is that the Hollow Earth theory reminds of the Geofront, headquarters of the defense organization NERV in Neon Genesis Evangelion. Now obviously this could be chalked up to pure coincidence, since Evangelion didn’t invent the Hollow Earth theory (this concept has been around for millenia), but things get a bit clearer when Kong goes for a cruise.

The Gaghiel Incident

The humans transport Kong across the ocean to an Apex facility via cargo ship. This ship is accompanied by a fleet of (battle)ships, much like Eva unit 02’s transportation from Germany to Japan.

Transporting Kong via the water seems like a monumentally stupid idea, even before Godzilla attacks. Although the film deserves credit for pointing out that Godzilla’s usual hangouts were marked and avoided. Somehow, the behemoth sensed Kong and took the fight to him.

This battle makes a solid argument for the theory that the makers of Godzilla vs. Kong have watched – and were inspired by – Evangelion. It shares many similarities with the battle between unit 02 and Gaghiel, the 6th Angel:
the protagonist faces an aquatic foe, who has a clear environmental advantage.

The arrival of a smug female character

the protagonist proceeds to play hopscotch on several battleships

Going up...
...coming down

During one jump, several fighter planes aboard an aircraft carrier are lost to the ocean depths

There’s a face off on one of the ships

Aquatic enemy pulls the protagonist into the drink

A plan involving underwater explosions is unfurled to resolve the dispute, and the hero lies exhausted on the deck of one of the remaining ships.

This one particular scene puts things in perspective, and reveals more similarities that came before, namely:

In the opening scene, where Kong throws a makeshift spear at the dome, it looks like Eva unit 00 throwing the Lance of Longinus at an enemy in orbit.

There is a certain dynamic between Walter Simmons, the head of Apex, and Ren Serizawa, Chief Technology Officer at Apex. It seems to emulate the relationship between Gendo Ikari and Kōzō Fuyutsuki, with both Serizawa and Fuyutsuki perpetually at their respective leader’s side.

 

The character of Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry) is a conspiracy theorists who runs a podcast, although most of his assertions turn out to be true. In this sense, he is reminiscent of Kensuke Aida.

In the Evangelion series, the dealings of NERV and the Evas are highly secret. Kensuke, a student obssessed with the Evas, has theories about NERV and their weapons, scrounged together from obscure sources, which turn out to be largely true, even if he doesn’t always know it. One of the major differences between the two, of course, is that Kensuke doesn’t reveal his knowledge over a podcast.

One of the more absurd notions in the film is that Bernie, who works at Apex, could regularly host a podcast that dishes out information on his place of employ, without ever being caught. This, despite his voice being easily recognized.

Also, while Kensuke has a few very comedic moments on the show, Bernie’s dialogue falls flat, a trait he shares with many of the other human cast.

The facility where Bernie works is attacked by Godzilla for as yet unknown reasons. The scene where the seemingly secure section is blasted by Godzilla and the humans are surprised by a sudden explosion accompanied by a flash, is reminiscent of Shinji in a shelter after the Angel Zeruel attacks in episode 19.

After the flash, Bernie sees a mechanical eye, much like Shinji looking at the eyes of Unit 02’s head.

Bernie later teams up with Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) from the previous movie, and newcomer Josh Valentine (Julian Dennison). The diner where the two meet has elements from the bar that Misato, Ritsuko and Kaji from Evangelion frequent.

Bernie and the kids eventually stumble upon a secret Apex testing facility that, much like NERV’s central dogma, is far underground. The section of the facility where a new weapon is being tested is also similar to the activation test of Unit 00 in Evangelion.

 

Both Mechagodzilla and Unit 00 also have two activation tests, one successfull and one a failure.

A news report revolving around Godzilla’s rampage has a very cheesy headline, this one really shows not a lot of thought went into the writing outside of the monster fights.

While over the course of the Toho films, Godzilla has been recognized as a protector of humanity, this seems devoid of any contemporary skepticism and reeks of naivete.

The new weapon is aptly named Mecha Godzilla, but the execution could’ve been handled better. Josh names the weapon, even though there was nothing shown for him to pick that particular name.

The weapon itself is never named by Apex itself. But, names need to be dropped quickly so the fighting can commence, one supposes.

During the test, Mecha’s opponentis held in a grip much like featured in Unit 01’s battle against Sachiel, the third Angel.

It is revealed that Mechagodzilla uses a neural interface system linked to one of the erstwhile Ghidorah’s skulls. Obviously, this is similar to the Evangelion ‘graveyard’ and the interface system that the pilots use to synchronize with the Evangelions. The pipes and wiring also share similar traits with the system in NERV’s Terminal Dogma. The pilot’s cranial gear is also reminiscent of the additional firing equipment used on special missions in Evangelion.

This is, however, not the first time such an interface system was borrowed from the likes of Evangelion. 2013’s Pacific Rim used an interface system built around the use of Relay Gel, a liquid fed into the helmet to allow improved communication through electronic impulses. The relay gel is obviously based of LCL, the liquid which allows pilots to link with the Evas.

One of the many failings of the script is also apparent here, as three humans run through a highly secretive test area without being detected, either by sensors or the very eyes of the many people monitoring the test.

 

Another question arises when Mechagodzilla takes out the Skullcrawler. Its blast has been shown to be particularly powerful, yet the facility sustains no visible damage when the beam goes right through the monstrous sparring partner. Cool shot, but logic says there should be a huge gaping hole in your ceiling now.

Bernie and the kids come across an Apex Lock system which has a design similar to the Magi, a trio of supercomputers featured in Evangelion. A lock which Madison all too easily disables.

Back at sea, in an effort to avoid another confrontation between Kong and Godzilla, the humans opt to transport Kong through the air. This brings to mind Evangelion episode 18 where unit 03 traveled to Japan via airlift, and Unit 02’s arrival by plane in the movie Evangelion 2.22. Which makes you wonder why Apex didn’t settle on this option in the first place, considering what could go wrong.

The team eventually make their way to the Hollow Earth environment where Kong’s discovery of a makeshift temple alludes to Evangelion’s concept that the Geofront is more than it seems.

At this point, Godzilla has been absent for some time. He shows up in Hong Kong and blasts a hole to Hollow Earth, sensing that it’s Kong’s current whereabouts. The way Godzilla blasts through the ground is similar to how the Angel Ramiel tried to drill a way into NERV HQ.

By having the ground team send the unique energy signature to Apex HQ, Simmons is able to replicate a perpatual energy source and power Mechagodzilla. How exactly does sending a particular signature allow you to copy a form of energy? Don’t know, but fights gotta fight.

 

Get in the Robot

Get in the robot (or get in the f*****g robot) is a phrase used by Evangelion fans to denote Gendo Ikari’s relentlessness in getting his son Shinji to pilot the Evangelion Unit 01. There’s a plethora of memes online and Godzilla vs. Kong alludes to this trope in its own way.

Of course something goes wrong and Mechagodzilla goes berserk, much like the Evangelions sometimes do. As previously stated, this alludes to the two activations for Unit 00. For Mechagodzilla the first test was successful and the second a failure, whereas for Unit 00 the reverse is the case.

In the ensuing dread, the creation kills Simmons, biting the hand that feeds it.

This prompts a response from Bernie in similar sarcastic form as Misato’s after the Jetalone robot went berserk.

Much like in the activation test of Unit 00, the pilot is rejected. Mechagodzilla proceeds to electrocute and kill the pilot.

During its escape, we revisit the concept of the Geofront. The outside of the Apex test facility that houses Mechagodzilla, much like the Geofront, sports a particular pyramid shaped design.

The escape also represents a rather dire situation, much like Unit 02’s loss to Zeruel.

Downtown, Kong takes care of business and puts the snotty brat out of her misery. The way he exacts his vengeance is similar to how Unit 01 defeated the final Angel.

Godzilla and Kong, realizing they can’t let this man made knock-off show them up, take on Mechagodzilla together. During the fight, Kong is gravely injured, requiring the humans to jump start his heart. Reprogramming the power conduits is much like Misato attempting to return Jetalone’s carbon rods.

Kong also has to reset his injured left arm, much like Unit 00 had to regenerate its left arm after it was broken by Sachiel.

Fate has it that Godzilla and Kong are forced to team up to take down MG and the final death stroke is delivered in a pretty clever way. In the end, Godzilla heads back to the depths of the sea, after what alludes to the admission of begrudging respect between the two titans. Kong settles in Hollow Earth where a new Monarch observation facility has been set up and he is regularly visited by Jia. Everybody lives happily ever after. Except for whoever has to foot the bill for property damage.

 

Big Fights

The movie delivers what it promises: big monster fights. There are several battles between Godzilla and Kong, and they’re done very well. The CGI, camera work and choreography make every one of these battles much fun to watch and it never gets old seeing the two titans find new ways to take each ther down. The night time battles also take place in neon lit cities, eliminating the problem from previous films: too dark to tell what’s going on. The final battle against Mechagodzilla has a few clever moments to it, as well.

The one minor flaw in the final fight is Mechagodzilla’s insistence on firing his beam down Godzilla’s throat. This mirrors how Godzilla defeated MUTO in 2014’s Godzilla.
Although this was a crowd pleasing move, seeing variants of it in King of Monsters and again in this film is redundant and takes away from its uniqueness.

Playing the hits is the least of the movie’s problems, however. As with most Monsterverse entries, the problem is usually the same.

 

The Humans

The majority of the humans featured in Godzilla vs. Kong are not very interesting. In fact, it’s mostly a patchwork of cliches.
Simmons is the corporate bad guy with a complex, his daughter the spoiled brat, Lind is the socially awkward scientist and Bernie is a neurotic conspiracy theorist. Oh, and he has a dead wife. Why isn’t clear, since this plot point is never revisited to give Bernie some depth. Brian Tyree Henry is somewhat wasted in this film, as the dialogue he’s given to work with is over the top and more hit than miss. As with most of his projects, however, he does give the role his all.

The inclusion of Madison and her father from the previous film feels unnecessary. We could’ve been shown Apex’s plot to build an alternative to Godzilla without Bernie and the kids having discovered it. They have no arc and seem to be there simply to move the plot along and pad the runtime.

The dialogue is, for the most part, somewhat mediocre and the characters are one dimensional. Simmons speaks in a pretentious manner that you’d be hard pressed to find in the real world. This could simply be part of his hubris and savior complex, but a little more detail would’ve brought that out.

 

The character of Ren Serizawa is also actually the son of Ishirō Serizawa, played by Ben Watanabe in 2014’s Godzilla and 2019’s Godzilla: King of Monsters. It seems strange to have him related to a known character, yet not touch upon it.

 

This results in most of the humans being rather unappealing. In fact, I’d write off the entire human cast if it wasn’t for one particular individual.

 

Jia

Jia is by far the most interesting human in the story. She builds a rapport with Kong and secretly teaches him to communicate via sign language. It’s apparent that without her, Kong would have no motivation to lead the humans to Hollow Earth.

However, it’s clear she’s more than just a plot device. She refuses to be spoken to condescendingly and even drops some truth on Kong during the final battle. Hottle also brings a wonderful degree of grace and confidence to the role. It’s refreshing to see Hollywood cast a deaf actress as a deaf character, shooting down the misconception that people with disabilities aren’t skilled enough to play these roles.

 

Final Verdict

Unfortunately, the human characters provide a less than entertaining distraction from the ferocious fisticuffs. Their stories obviously take a back seat to the monster fights, but a little more fleshing out would have made the waits in between battles more enjoyable. Nevertheless, the movie’s FUN! It delivers exactly what it says on the box: monster fights between famous two powerhouses, even if it does follow the familiar recipe of ‘we’ll team up at the end.’ The battles themselves are of such an extent that there’s no need for too complex a plot, and homages to Evangelion are always a welcome addition, even though it would’ve been nice to see these homages acknowledged.

Score

Not Half Bad

7.5