Skip to main content

He’s probably paranoid, high-strung, doesn’t like daylight. You know, has a lot of crumbs in his beard, if he has a beard.

Godzilla vs. Kong
(2021)

(SPOILERS) I’d like to report I had a blast with Godzilla vs. Kong. It’s lighter on its oversized, city-stomping feet than its slog of a MonsterVerse predecessor, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and there are flashes of visual inspiration along with several engaging core ideas (which, to be fair, the series had already laid the seeds for). But this sequel still stumbles in its chief task: assembling an engaging, lively story that successfully integrates both tiny humans and towering titans.

Ilene: The myths say that their ancestors fought each other in a great war.

Kong: Skull Island has fared best in this regard, even if that’s still rather damning it with faint praise. Adam Wingard is directing from a screenplay by Max Borenstein (all prior Monsterverse entries, so there’s at least some continuity of concept, for what that’s worth) and Eric Pearson (currently a go-to Marvel guy, especially for uncredited rewrites; I’m guessing the funny lines here are his). I can’t say I’ve followed Wingard’s career devotedly, but I liked The Guest, and you can see the R-rated guy just about behaving himself here, and also someone less slavish to genre and more eager to have fun than Michael Dougherty (punctuating the picture with tracks from The Hollies, Elvis and Judas Priest makes for a distinctive and sometimes surprising touch). It sounds as if he had an influence on the screenplay, but evidently not to the extent of Dougherty (who won a credit for both King of the Monsters and this). The question remains as to who suffused Godzilla vs. Kong with conspiracy lore – Borenstein’s been doing the interviews round, and the ones I’ve glanced at are dull and unrevealing – but it sounds like Wingard had input into the writing of the action and the depiction of the Hollow Earth.

Madison: Godzilla left us in peace. You provoked him into war.

Action-wise, I can readily see why Godzilla vs. Kong has been positively received; it more than does the business, if massive monster smackdowns are your thing. And I don’t underestimate the logistics of designing this kind of over-sized mayhem, even more so managing to invest the viewer in it. Such spectacle largely hasn’t worked for me thus far, not in Transformers and not in the MonsterVerse, but Wingard at least makes his spats spatially coherent, however logistically absurd. The picture’s punctuated by several substantial set pieces prior to the big showdown, with a Godzilla attack, then Kong vs Godzilla at sea, before the antagonists finally join forces to defeat Mechagodzilla. Attempting to string a plot together that facilitates this is expectedly hit and miss; you have two dangerous – but sympathetic – monsters who through contrivance must be positioned at loggerheads (see also Batman v Superman), and you have to get the humans involved in a way that offers larger motivation.

Bernie: That’s robot Godzilla!

Understandably then, this is varyingly successful in plot terms. Having Godzilla’s attacks misconstrued as his reverting to gnarly type when he’s actually responding to the activities of the Apex Cybernetics is reasonably effective. Less so is the proposal to locate Hollow Earth’s power source, the one the that will give Apex Cybernetics the means of defeating Godzilla; send Kong down there and like salmon spawning or pigeons homing, he will find it. I can see no reason why Dr Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) would assume Kong would know it was there or that he needed to head there (it would be a bit like suggesting salmon or pigeons would instinctively make for the Sun). But I also know I should resist analysing this too much (those Kongs are pretty advanced, construction-capable apes to build a throne room, and axes from dead Godzillas, along with the Hollow Earth equivalent of palm scanners for their doors, provided you also give them a push).

Nathan: Looks like Round Two goes to Kong.

The action occasionally amuses – Kong ripping a winged creature’s head off and drinking the green blood from its skull (“That’s gross”); Kong resetting his dislocated shoulder against a Hong Kong skyscraper; Kong leaping from an exploding ship in a pose that appears to be copied from John McClane’s jump from the roof of Nakatomi Plaza in Die Hard. Godzilla blasting a hole through to the Hollow Earth, and he and Kong exchanging greetings through it. Mostly, though, the insurmountable hurdle is how obvious it is to the eye that this is all CGI. So few directors are able or have been able to blur this line – Spielberg, Michael Bay, Roland Emmerich, whatever you think of the merits of their respective movies – that it’s simply par for the course, but you know it is possible to do better.

Bernie: I’m just saying Greenpeace wishes, is all I’m saying.

I mean, the effects are by no means bad for this kind of thing, but there’s a cumulatively suffocating effect from all these pixels, such that you’re unsure which has more CGI, the Hollow Earth or the surface, the latter lit as it is by artificially skies and synthetic lens flare. I’ll come to the picture’s explicit conspiracy material shortly, but this kind of thing, and its prevalence in Hollywood fare, puts one in mind of loveable Bill Gates’ project to block out the Sun (you know to halt that nasty Global Warming business Greta’s handlers have been doing so much to promote); predictive programming to prepare us for unnatural skies ahead (in contrast to the natural ones you can see currently, when they aren’t obscured with chemtrails)?

Bernie: All right, Mad Hatter. Down the rabbit hole.

The principal disappointment here is that Wingard has essentially uber-surrealistic opportunities yet does very little with them. It’s hardly a sign of imagination, amusing as it is, to throw in a 2001 stargate homage when entering the Hollow Earth, and the depiction of the landscape once we arrive there is disappointingly mundane. Floaty Kong might have a flavour of Ang Lee’s Hulk but Wingard lacks the same eye for the uncanny (instead, we have to settle for – again, amusingly – a Looney Tunes locking of bemused eyes between Alexander Skarsgård and a passing Kong as gravity’s reversal effects take place in this new realm). I suspect Jordan Vogt-Roberts would have accomplished something more striking in that regard.

Mark: That podcast is filling your head with garbage.

Wingard at least handles the humans better this time, which as with my praise of Kong: Skull Island isn’t saying much, but it does put it streets ahead of Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Most boring man on Earth (or in its hollows) Kyle Chandler is barely in it this time, which is a blessed relief. Last week’s news Millie Bobby Brown is in it a lot, but fortunately she’s diluted, or overwhelmed, by the combined comic camaraderie of Madison’s pal Josh (Julian Dennison) and uber-conspiracy theorist Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry). The latter in particular is exactly what the humourless stodge of the series’ non-CGI characters needed, reeling off enough hot takes to rival Jerry Fletcher in Conspiracy Theory (the only other Hollywood movie that springs to mind in serving such a surfeit of examples).

Walter Simmons: I love crazy ideas. They make me rich.

Everyone else is largely forgettable and so lend the sense of a cast treading water. Skarsgård’s Hollow Earth theorist makes as little impression as the actor usually does when he’s in a “star” role. Rebecca Hall bafflingly – unless she has a very large mortgage – continues to show up in big-budget movies despite their doing her no favours at all. Demián Bichir is the tech empire villain you’ve seen a million times before and lacks the sufficient something to make him a half decent one. Generally, then, they could be worse, and have been – King of the Monsters – but they could be a lot better.

Josh: I just don’t think it’s a good idea looking for some secret weirdo off the Internet. I mean, we just had an assembly about this.

The part of Godzilla vs. Kong that succeeds in mustering interest – not enough, but nevertheless, it’s something – is the “soft disclosure”. Of course, it’s only disclosure if what is being disclosed is real, rather than the perpetuation of disinformation or (and this can’t be ruled out) filmmakers having a laugh since, in this case, the movie is expressly permeated with disparate conspiracy theories on account of Bernie’s character. There are numerous references here, but how coherent any of them are (in terms of the movie) remains open to debate. That may be the point, such that one is unable to sift through them with any confidence of pertinence. This is, after all, a series with a “benign” central agency named Monarch, also surely not coincidentally the name of the MKUltra mind-control programming technique (since the makers are evidently au fait with the conspirasphere). The entire MonsterVerse may be designed to elicit exactly the degree of credulous commentary found here.

Bernie: Tap or no tap?

Hollow Earth has featured in the series’ mythology since Kong: Skull Island, of course, and it’s here that the wait pays off. Provided, that is, you were eagerly awaiting a realm awash with the splendour of CGI. Obviously, Hollow Earth has featured prominently in movies before, most notably adaptations of Journey to the Centre of the Earth (the James Mason one and the Brendan Fraser 3D-fest) and At the Earth’s Core. Wingard may be referencing the latter, with its realm of Pellucidar, when Mahar-like flying creatures attack the Maia (Eiza González) and co as they attempt to raid the inner world’s fuel source. Mostly, though, we’re offered the “factual” – as in, not because he didn’t go, but because we don’t know how much of the accompanying claims can be trusted – Admiral Byrd expedition to Antarctica. At least, I’m assuming this is the opening credits’ 1926 Hollow Earth expedition, as Byrd first went in 1928. As per Byrd, Godzilla vs. Kong’s entrance to the Hollow Earth is via Antarctica. Science has, of course, debunked Hollow Earth.

Ilene: Kong bows to no one.

In tandem with this, we’re offered another suggestion of the Earth’s properties being other than we’re generally told, in this case via the dome that traps Kong and so sentences him to a simulated environment. Reflective of our simulated environment (The Truman Show)? You know, the one in which rockets are unable to break through the firmament because there’s no outer space? The movie does not, however, suggest a Flat Earth (and there’s definitely outer space – because how else would King Ghidorah have got here – and functioning satellites). Indeed, Hollow Earth models are shown as a globe within a globe.

Walter Simmons: Don’t worry, once the Hollow Earth sample is uploaded, our power troubles will be over.

The quest for Hollow Earth’s free energy supply is a curious one, as Apex Cybernetics can already boast an abundance of suppressed technology, including energy-producing ones. One wonders just how much juice Mechagodzilla needs if he runs down so quickly, since we’re informed of the HEAVs that “The anti-gravity engines alone produce enough charge to light up Vegas for a week”. This secret/advanced tech idea is a recurrent one, be it Tesla’s free wireless electricity or the Nazi Bell device and saucers. Here, Bernie marries it explicitly to the machinations of the Illuminati (rather limply personified in Simmons, it seems, as there are no other obvious candidates).

Bernie: I mean, the Illuminati running shadow economies all to fund a hidden colony for the Elite in case any of these governments and megacorporations accidentally hit the doomsday button.

Nevertheless, Bernie appears to have his suspicions confirmed on the very masonic Sublevel 33: “It’s a breakaway civilisation”. It’s unclear if he thinks this civilisation is based off-world or somewhere else on (or in) Earth, but the idea has been much mooted for decades (see Laura Eisenhower and her being offered a place on Mars, or Alternative 3). Bernie’s suggestion that they might “accidentally” wipe everyone out seems quaintly naïve in the face of global puppeteering, but the shadow economies mentioned link neatly with Catherine Austin Fitts and the missing $21 trillion (and doubtless then some).

For good measure, he also namechecks aliens, without feeling it incumbent to clarify. There is a “Maglev Shuttle to Roswell, New Mexico at 900 hrs” (of the type they hitch a ride in) and Bernie asserts that “Lizard people build all their facilities the same way” (the Illuminati therefore equated with such types). This is likely a necessary inclusion, in case – amid all the oversized reptiles and primates slugging it out – you thought Bernie was altogether sane and found yourself reaching for the bleach.

Josh: Oh, I drink tap water.
Bernie: Yeah, I kind of figured that.

Yes, Bernie’s an abundant source of conspiracy theories. These include the dangers of GMOs (although, the apple he points out appears to have been unfairly maligned) and fluoride (“They put in the water. Learned it from the Nazis”). However, Bernie and Madison appear agreed that it makes you “docile, easy to manipulate”. No mention of it being used to calcify the pineal gland? Bernie’s also particularly concerned about endemic surveillance tech, having discovered a radio transmitter in his toaster.

Josh: Oh! Yeah, I shower with bleach. No, what?

He announces “Spy dust is real, people” and that it is invisible to the naked eye. He’s evidently talking nanotech. As prevention against this “organic tracking technology”, he showers with bleach. Which struck me as a somewhat irresponsible insertion on the part of the filmmakers, given that, while Bernie is a “wild and wacky” conspiracy nut, he’s also established as conspicuously correct in his central thesis. Notable is that the conspiratorial angle is diluted here too; Bernie makes no mention of nanotech being spread via chemtrails, or the idea that this tech is designed to infuse our systems (and may result in conditions such as Morgellons).

Obviously, Godzilla vs. Kong was signed and sealed before the plandemic hatched, finishing production in early 2019 and subsequently having its release delayed from last November. So it’s interesting to note a couple of tiny pointers towards subsequent disarray. Bernie proffers “Hand sanitiser I made from my own garden” (so doubtless free from poisonous chemicals, and maybe from that spy dust too). More amusingly, if you substitute a certain “deadly pathogen” for our Monsterverse’s marauders, the posters on the walls of Madison’s biology class warning “Titans are everywhere. Stay awake” and “Stay Safe!” take on much more sinister proportions. And perhaps "Mask or no mask?" is the new "Tap or no tap?" (a whole range could apply there, up to an including the jab).

Bernie: Well, if there’s a corporate friendly term for “sacrifice pit”, I’d say we are in it.

Intentional or otherwise, Bernie and the juniors’ arrival at Sublevel 33 parallels the Hollow Earth discovery of the Kong temple. There, humans are picked off by low-flying Mahar types. Here. Bernie surveys a scene of extraneous body parts and tells Madison and Josh they’re in a sacrifice pit. Now, it’s evidently describing a pit to pit Mechagodzilla against opponents who will test his metal mettle, but it would be surprising, what with overt references to Elite practices and proclivities, if one weren’t expected to put two and two together and make more than good harmless spirit cooking.

Bernie: That’s Monster Zero. Ghidorah. They hardwired its DNA. Self-generating neural pathways capable of learning – it’s a living super computer.

The main deal in this (deep) underground (non-military) base is reserved for overt transhumanism, however. In an echo of Pacific Rim – also from Legendary Pictures, the sequel to which also had Pearson as an uncredited rewriter, while Steven S DeKnight, Uprising’s director, has said he’d like to link up the universes – humans control the giant robo-mech suits. Albeit with a genuine monster-ish component here, one that proceeds to override the human psionic interface (a bit like Robocop 2, then). Yes, this is a cautionary tale about the dangers of transhumanism, whilst imprinting upon the viewer that this new dawn is altogether inevitable.

Curiously, Godzilla vs. Kong finds the mammals and the reptiles, sworn enemies since V at very least, teaming up against the transhumanist agenda. And winning. Curious, since Legendary’s former CEO Thomas Tull – Chinese Wanda Group now owns the company – also founded Tulco LLC, which “uses artificial intelligence and other technologies to guide investing”. The assessment regarding Godzilla, that “They’re trying to replace him”, pretty much sums up the transhumanist agenda. A new, improved, augmented model; Apex’s creed is “to push past the limits of human potential” (“Robotics, the human mind, artificial intelligence”).

Walter Simmons: It’s not only Godzilla’s equal, but his superior.

In this regard, perhaps the most interesting reference Godzilla vs. Kong drops is to Rudolf Steiner. We see two Steiner publications on Bernie’s desk, with a picture of Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) between them. I’m unsure Emma is significant in this regard, although one might suggest, given she awakened the Titans in a misplaced desire to heal the Earth from the damage inflicted by humans, that she is opposed to The Ahrimanic Deception and has taken heed Steiner’s warnings concerning The Incarnation of Ahriman (the two volumes present).

Nathan: “A sci-fi quack trading in fringe physics.”

Steiner presented the Ahrimanic influence as one that encouraged intellectual-materialist obsession and debasement (he set this in contrast to the other, Luciferic extreme, which attracted the false mystical, distracting one from a personal soul-ful purpose and experience of the divine). The significance of Steiner’s perspective in a movie that suggests established science is both very wrong about some fundamentals and the terminal direction in which its precepts are taking it should not be underestimated: “... it is of the utmost interest to Ahriman that people should perfect themselves in all our illusory modern science, but without knowing that it is illusion”. He went further still when he suggested that “... by intellectual or modern scientific reasoning today, one can prove anything and equally well prove its opposite”.

Bernie: I thought you said you were a hacker!
Josh: I said I took a HTML course at summer camp.
Bernie: HTML?
Josh: Yes.
Bernie: Was it a '90s camp?

Key to Steiner’s thesis on Ahriman was that the demonic being was shortly (in the early twenty-first century) to incarnate on Earth, in much the same way Lucifer had millennia previously. He is, if you like, Steiner’s Antichrist. The nature of Ahriman’s incumbent form is open for debate, but given the emphasis on materialism and the way in which Steiner stressed transhumanism as a very real concern for the future, the following is interesting:

Amid the perpetual stresses of war and other tribulations of the immediate future, the human mind will become very inventive in the domain of physical life. And through this very growth of inventiveness in physical life — which cannot be averted in any way or by any means — the bodily existence of a human individuality in whom Ahriman can incarnate will become possible and inevitable.

One interpretation of this is cloning, but another is that of Artificial Intelligence. You know, Thomas Tull’s bag. And that of Apex Cybernetics, who have only gone and created a robotic aberration to replace the organic original, and which relies for its embodiment on the fusion of man – via the neural network – or beast – King Ghodira’s DNA - and machine.

Bernie: It’s unfair. I really wanted to hear the rest of that speech.

So Godzilla vs. Kong may come across as a big dumb movie – and make no mistake, it is – but some of the influences that have finished up into the pot, no matter how ineptly it has been stirred, are far from daft. I’m grateful, if slightly surprised, that there was no end-credits tease for a further MonsterVerse instalment. Perhaps Legendary thought better after King of the Monsters underperformed; Godzilla vs. Kong looks as if it will suffer no such shortfall, though, so maybe we’ll get to see that breakaway civilisation yet.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Maybe he had one too many peanut butter and fried banana sandwiches.

3000 Miles to Graceland (2001) (SPOILERS) The kind of movie that makes your average Tarantino knockoff look classy, 3000 Miles to Graceland is both aggressively unpleasant and acutely absent any virtues, either as a script or a stylistic exercise. The most baffling thing about it is how it attracted Kevin Costner and Kurt Russell, particularly since both ought to have been extra choosy at this point, having toplined expensive bombs in the previous half decade that made them significantly less bankable names. And if you’re wondering how this managed to cost the $62m reported on Wiki, it didn’t; Franchise Pictures, one of the backers, was in the business of fraudulently inflating budgets .

White nights getting to you?

Insomnia (2002) (SPOILERS) I’ve never been mad keen on Insomnia . It’s well made, well-acted, the screenplay is solid and it fits in neatly with Christopher Nolan’s abiding thematic interests, but it’s… There’s something entirely adequateabout it. It isn’t pushing any kind of envelope. It’s happy to be the genre-bound crime study it is and nothing more, something emphasised by Pacino’s umpteenth turn as an under-pressure cop.

You absolute horror of a human being.

As Good as it Gets (1997) (SPOILERS) James L Brooks’ third Best Picture Oscar nomination goes to reconfirm every jaundiced notion you had of the writer-director-producer’s capacity for the facile and highly consumable, low-cal, fast-food melodramatic fix with added romcom lustre. Of course, As Good as it Gets was a monster hit, parading as it does Jack in a crackerjack, attention-grabbing part. But it’s a mechanical, suffocatingly artificial affair, ponderously paced (a frankly absurd 139 minutes) and infused with glib affirmations and affections. Naturally, the Academy lapped that shit up, because it reflects their own lack of depth and perception (no further comment is needed than Titanic winning the big prize for that year).

The wolves are running. Perhaps you would do something to stop their bite?

The Box of Delights (1984) If you were at a formative age when it was first broadcast, a festive viewing of The Box of Delights  may well have become an annual ritual. The BBC adaptation of John Masefield’s 1935 novel is perhaps the ultimate cosy yuletide treat. On a TV screen, at any rate. To an extent, this is exactly the kind of unashamedly middle class-orientated bread-and-butter period production the corporation now thinks twice about; ever so posh kids having jolly adventures in a nostalgic netherworld of Interwar Britannia. Fortunately, there’s more to it than that. There is something genuinely evocative about Box ’s mythic landscape, a place where dream and reality and time and place are unfixed and where Christmas is guaranteed a blanket of thick snow. Key to this is the atmosphere instilled by director Renny Rye. Most BBC fantasy fare doe not age well but The Box of Delights is blessed with a sinister-yet-familiar charm, such that even the creakier production decisi

I must remind you that the scanning experience is usually a painful one.

Scanners (1981) (SPOILERS) David Cronenberg has made a career – albeit, he may have “matured” a little over the past few decades, so it is now somewhat less foregrounded – from sticking up for the less edifying notions of evolution and modern scientific thought. The idea that regress is, in fact, a form of progress, and unpropitious developments are less dead ends than a means to a state or states as yet unappreciated. He began this path with some squeam-worthy body horrors, before genre hopping to more explicit science fiction with Scanners , and with it, greater critical acclaim and a wider audience. And it remains a good movie, even as it suffers from an unprepossessing lead and rather fumbles the last furlong, cutting to the chase when a more measured, considered approach would have paid dividends.

You seem particularly triggered right now. Can you tell me what happened?

Trailers The Matrix Resurrections   The Matrix A woke n ? If nothing else, the arrival of The Matrix Resurrections trailer has yielded much retrospective back and forth on the extent to which the original trilogy shat the bed. That probably isn’t its most significant legacy, of course, in terms of a series that has informed, subconsciously or otherwise, intentionally or otherwise, much of the way in which twenty-first century conspiracy theory has been framed and discussed. It is however, uncontested that a first movie that was officially the “best thing ever”, that aesthetically and stylistically reinvigorated mainstream blockbuster cinema in a manner unseen again until Fury Road , squandered all that good will with astonishing speed by the time 2003 was over.

How do you melt somebody’s lug wrench?

Starman (1984) (SPOILERS) John Carpenter’s unlikely SF romance. Unlikely, because the director has done nothing before or since suggesting an affinity for the romantic fairy tale, and yet he proves surprisingly attuned to Starman ’s general vibes. As do his stars and Jack Nitzsche, furnishing the score in a rare non-showing from the director-composer. Indeed, if there’s a bum note here, it’s the fairly ho-hum screenplay; the lustre of Starman isn’t exactly that of making a silk purse from a sow’s ear, but it’s very nearly stitching together something special from resolutely average source material.

Remember. Decision. Consequence.

Day Break (2006) (SPOILERS) Day Break is the rare series that was lucky to get cancelled. And not in a mercy-killing way. It got to tell its story. Sure, apparently there were other stories. Other days to break. But would it have justified going there? Or would it have proved tantalising/reticent about the elusive reason its protagonist has to keep stirring and repeating? You bet it would. Offering occasional crumbs, and then, when it finally comes time to wrap things up, giving an explanation that satisfies no one/is a cop out/offers a hint at some nebulous existential mission better left to the viewer to conjure up on their own. Best that it didn’t even try to go there.

You cut my head off a couple of dozen times.

Boss Level (2021) (SPOILERS) Lest you thought it was nigh-on impossible to go wrong with a Groundhog Day premise, Joe Carnahan, in his swaggering yen for overkill, very nearly pulls it off with Boss Level . I’m unsure quite what became of Carnahan’s early potential, but he seems to have settled on a sub-Tarantino, sub-Bay, sub-Snyder, sub-Ritchie butch bros aesthetic, complete with a tin ear for dialogue and an approach to plotting that finds him continually distracting himself, under the illusion it’s never possible to have too much. Of whatever it is he’s indulging at that moment.

We got two honkies out there dressed like Hassidic diamond merchants.

The Blues Brothers (1980) (SPOILERS) I had limited awareness of John Belushi’s immense mythos before  The Blues Brothers arrived on retail video in the UK (so 1991?) My familiarity with SNL performers really began with Ghostbusters ’ release, which meant picking up the trail of Jake and Elwood was very much a retrospective deal. I knew Animal House , knew Belushi’s impact there, knew 1941 (the Jaws parody was the best bit), knew Wired was a biopic better avoided. But the minor renaissance he, and they, underwent in the UK in the early ’90s seemed to have been initiated by Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers, of all things; Everybody Needs Somebody was part of their That Sounds Good to Me medley, the first of their hits not to make No.1, and Everybody ’s subsequent single release then just missed the Top Ten. Perhaps it was this that hastened CIC/Universal to putting the comedy out on video. Had the movie done the rounds on UK TV in the 80s? If so, it managed to pass me by. Even bef