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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

King Kong vs Godzilla

“There is more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” You know you’re off to a good start when a film about two giant monsters brawling starts with a quote from Shakespeare. Now King Kong is my all time favorite movie monster with only the Frankenstein’s monster getting anywhere close on the empathy meter (he never took on a T-Rex so he loses major points for that), so when as a kid I came across a film pitting my favorite monster up against Godzilla I just had to check it out. Of course a question that may have popped into the head of the casual viewer is, “Just how do you choreograph a fight between a forty foot ape and a 160 foot atomic fire-breathing dinosaur?” Well in 1962 Toho studios came up with a simple solution to that one, make Kong bigger, and say good bye to the brilliant stop-motion animation of Willis O’Brien, as in this film Kong, like Godzilla, is depicted by a guy in a rubber suit. Now the best way to enjoy this film is to divorce yourself from the idea that it is in anyway connected to the 1933 King Kong, as no reference is made to when this takes place, and unless we are suppose to believe Kong survived the fall from the Empire State Building, then this film must take place in an elseworld, a world inhabited by the likes of Rodan and Mothra, and not the inhabitants of the original Skull Island. Taking it for what it is, another installment in the Kaiju series, it is really fun and vastly entertaining.

The film starts with the announcement that a berry called soma has been discovered on Farou Island, and is some kind of chemotherapy wonder narcotic that has no addictive side effects. The natives of the island don’t want to part with this wonder-berry as they use it to placate the giant god of the island, who allegedly got big from eating the berries. I must say giving a giant ape narcotics is probably more effective in keeping the beast happy, than sacrificing tiny young women would be.

Needing better publicity the pharmaceutical company decides that while there on the island stealing berries they might as well bag a monster to help with their public image. (What’s really scary is this is almost like what happens in the 1976 King Kong only its oil instead of medicine. Sad to think of Dino De Laurentiss ripping of Japanese monster films for his ideas.) Meanwhile an atomic submarine, while investigating a glowing a radioactive iceberg, idiotically plow right into the berg, and release Godzilla who had been trapped inside. Godzilla of course heads straight for Japan.

The army, which proved to be not all that effective in previous encounters with Godzilla, is mobilized. They are of course ineffective this time as well as Godzilla melts the tanks, and stomps all who stand in his way. I’d just like to see one Godzilla film were the head of the military just tells his superiors to go to hell, instead of constantly sending his men to their doom. *special note* no reference is made to any previous Godzilla film, and in fact it seems like the scientist interviewed (who think he is a cross between a T-Rex and a Stegosaurus) theorize that he’s been frozen in the ice for millions of years.

The expedition to Farou Island has its agenda changed from publicity stunt seeking to egomania driven stupidity. The chairman of the pharmaceutical company enraged by all the news coverage of Godzilla declares he wants his own monster. So the company sends possibly the lamest outfitted expedition (two guys and one of them is comic relief) in the history of exploration, to bring back this legendary god. While searching for the Kong they encounter a giant octopus (was amazed to see a real octopus used here, and surprised at how well it moved on land) which has come into the village to get some of the great soma berry juice. Hearing his supply of juice is in danger Kong makes a grand entrance, and immediately attacks the octopus. For those of you who were wondering what a man in an ape suit would like wrestling an octopus…well you’re in for a treat. It’s a quick battle and after driving the sea creature away with a few well thrown boulders Kong decides it’s time to get hammered. He starts picking up and drinking jar after jar of soma, until he passes out in a drunken stupor. (Kong’s behavior reminded me a lot of the “King Homer” segment of the Simpsons: Tree House of Horror). While sleeping it off Kong is quickly bundled off onto a giant raft, and towed back to Japan. The Japanese government, not to keen on the idea of a second monster roaming their countryside, has the navy intercepts the boat towing Kong, and insists they return him to Farou Island. Then things go from bad to worse as Kong awakes, not in the best of moods, and starts to break free of the raft. As a precaution explosives were placed on the raft, but when detonated all they seemed to due is free Kong a little faster. Kong then proceeds to head on an intercept course for the rampaging Godzilla, the reason for this is Kong and Godzilla are apparently natural enemies (this is all explained by a scientist who keeps appearing through out the film making outrages and unsubstantiated claims), and Kong can some how sense where Godzilla is. So almost an hour into the movie the promised combat finally gets underway, but as fights go it is a bit of a let down. Kong is reduced to throwing a few boulders at Godzilla, who intern ignites the forest around the giant ape with his atomic breath, and causing Kong to run away. I’m guessing the makers of the film realized they had a bit of a problem pitting a fire-breathing dinosaur against a creature covered in hair, and making it seem like much of a fight.

With Kong on the run Godzilla continues his destructive rampage, while the military works on plans to stop him. A massive pit is constructed and filled with dynamite, and poison gas. Driven into the pit by rivers ignited by gallons of gasoline, the king of the lizards falls into the pit, and the charges are set off. Anybody out there think that had any effect on Godzilla? Didn’t think so. A second line of defense consisting of high tension wires containing one million volts is set up as final blockade. Scientist states that while Godzilla may shy away from electricity Kong actually grows stronger high voltage (Don’t ask me how they figured that one out). The electrical blockade does prove effective in turning away Godzilla, but then quickly news comes that Kong has entered Tokyo. After tearing through the high tension wires, chomping on the cables, and then absorbing the energy, Kong attacks a train, and for no reason I can see grabs a lone Japanese woman, and walks off with her. Well there actually is good reason, for the army a notified that Kong is carrying a girl and so they hold their fire (apparently hostage taking is something he learned in the jungle). Kong proceeds to climb a building and it is truly is a site to see, a 160 foot ape standing atop a 100 foot building. A brilliant plan is devised, involving a rocket and dropping soma juice on to Kong in the hopes it will put him to sleep. The plan works flawlessly, Kong falls asleep, the girl is rescued, and all seems right with the world…oh wait Godzilla is about to break through the blockade. So they decide to airlift Kong with huge helium filled balloons, and drop him in the path of Godzilla, with the hopes that they will destroy each other.

Come morning the helicopters towing the floating Kong spot Godzilla, drop the giant ape just as he awakes, and then sit back to watch the fireworks. The following fight resembles more of a drunken brawl than the battle between titans. Kong seems reduced to throwing boulders and tugging on Godzilla’s tail, while Godzilla’s atomic breath only seems capable of singeing Kong’s fur. Then Kong brains himself while doing a silly summersault, and then Godzilla proceeds to bury the dazed ape under rocks. Just when things look really bad for a Kong an electrical storm arrives, he is hit by lightning and is re-energized. With “shocking” grasps, punches, and a few cool judo moves Kong starts to kick the crap out of Godzilla. The two behemoths rage across the countryside destroying everything in their path, until they both tumble off a cliff into the sea, and disappear beneath the waves. There is a brief cataclysmic earthquake, that serves no purpose that I could discern, and then Kong appears swimming back home…apparently the victor. Though just as the last credit shows we hear the trademark Godzilla roar.

Not the greatest of its type but the completely idiotic dialogue and goofy premise make this a very enjoyable ninety minutes.

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