Alongside anime and baseball, there are two things they love over in Japan: Kaiju (that’s Japanese for strange beast) and professional wrestling. It hasn’t escaped me that the Americanized forms of these Japanese pastimes, Warner Bros/Legendary’s MonsterVerse and the WWE, are both in the relevancy limelight.
The WWE’s annual showcase, Wrestlemania, airs next weekend on the brand new Peacock app. Every year at this time, the sports entertainment giant uses the event to grab new fans outside of their weekly wheelhouse of regulars. It’s a spectacle of quality matches, with each wrestler striving for victory.
Wrestling has a unique duality to it, and I’m not talking about the obvious. Everyone knows wrestling is …n’t fake, right? What goes on in the ring is real. These are real athletes performing, and what you see in the ring does indeed hurt and break bones. Only the outcomes of the matches are predetermined. Well, that and the “soap opera” aspect of it, the scripted reality dramas going on backstage and in the ring between competitors, building up their matches.
But these stories told between matches are only one aspect of storytelling in wrestling. This is where the duality I mentioned before comes into play. You see, the wrestlers themselves tell a separate story in the ring: the story of the match itself.
Like any story, the one told in the ring has a beginning, a middle, and a clear end. The opening may start with a hammer striking a bell, signaling the match is underway. Or it may kick off as soon as the entrance music for one of the competitors hits. It ebbs and flows, with each competitor gaining the advantage at points in the match. You may notice placement of objects throughout the match that one or the other might utilize, often not with the expected results. And this all leads up to the grand finale.
There’s a term in pro-wrestling speak: “Go Home.” It means to wrap the match up for “the finish.” “Workers” (wrestling talent) will generally wait for the referee to give them a signal when they are nearing the time allotted for their exhibition. At this point the predetermined outcome is played out through pinfall or submission. A good, exciting finish, will often feature a “run in” by a rival wrestler, forgeign objects (like chairs, trashcans, or sledgehammers)
GODZILLA VS. KONG is classic Vince McMahan booking (the “Booker” is the guy who determines the outcome). The underdog little guy, Daniel Bryan, versus Braun Stroman. Or for old school fans, this is The luchador Rey Mysterio vs. the 500lb Big Show or Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant from Wrestlemania III.
Even the build up to the movie has been the same as a Wrestlemania main event, with genre fans choosing sides, #TeamKong and #TeamGodzilla. I’m Team Kong. Always have-always will be, in spite of Godzilla effigies outnumbering Kong in my house at about a 3 to 1 ratio.
Adam Wingard’s entry into the modern resurgence of kaiju films is a spectacular CGI slugfest. It’s glorious to behold. A visual feast of monster versus monster. And, like all the MonsterVerse films, at all costs, do NOT pay attention to the story.
Hold up. I really can’t say that. It depends on the story you watch. You see, all the story beats are here, as established in the franchise-both good and bad. Much like the WWE, the MonsterVerse films are a weird juxtaposition of bad, and good, story. It’s almost as if the writers have tried to make the stories as bad as those surrounding the original TOHO kaiju films. And GODZILLA VS. KONG is no different.
Retro pop songs to soothe the savage ape, ala KONG: Skull Island (It’s as if Kong has his own signature WWE entrance music!) Wacky conspiracy theories and conspiracy theorists. There’s Bobby Milly Brown doing what Bobby Milly Brown does. What’s that? Why she breaks into top secret facilities. There’s scientists with hard science fiction technology! Rebecca Hall as Jane Faux-dall, Kong’s zoo keeper on Skull Island. Oh, and I can’t forget Alexander Skarsgard reprising his role as …Alexander Scarasgard! And a cast of redshirt bad guys, including the gorgeous Eiza Gonzalez and Demien Bicher, (channelling the World’s Most Interesting Man) who get squished by giant monsters throughout.
It’s not the people and the ridiculous narrative stitching the monster fights together. It’s the story the fights between the Kaiju tell. The in-ring story is what matters here- the fights between kaijus and the story told in each battle. And that’s what matters in this film and each previous entry in the franchise.
Wingard, and both Vogt-Roberts and Edwards before him, are stylish directors, skilled at creating drama during action sequences. In GODZILLA VS. KONG there are ebbs and flows in the fights, the same as any wrestling match. And there is the convenient placement of the foreign object (Kong’s Dino-Axe), to be utilized in the finish.
Kong and Godzilla is the franchise’s Battle of the Babyfaces (Babyfaces in wrestling are good guys). Each gets their moments in the spotlight, and each has their low points. We get a false finish ending with a heel run-in, a fan favorite. A wrestling match of this epic proportions would surely bring a pop (loud response) from the 70,000 wrestling fans in the stadium.
Or the 300 people sitting in the IMAX theater.
Or even just me and my dogs watching from the couch.
GODZILLA VS. KONG is a call back to the kaiju movies of yore, complete with awesome monster battles and a bad human story linking them together. And that’s OK. It’s the main event we cared about, and GODZILLA VS. KONG delivers what it promised.
There’s no place like home.
Now give me KONG: HOLLOW EARTH!