After being put on the backburner following the release of Godzilla Raids Again in 1955, Godzilla would eventually return when Toho revived him with the help of the orginal director, Ishiro Honda and American director, Tom Montgomery in 1963. The purpose of this was to have the icon square-up against the western world’s king of the monsters, King Kong.
Following the events of Godzilla Raids Again, a submarine is attacked when Godzilla erupts out of the melting ice burg he was sealed within during the 1955 film. As expected, his first course of action is to head over to Japan to cause as much damage as possible. While the Japanese government fights against the UN, refusing to allow the use of nuclear weapons on their country again, even in use against Godzilla, a greedy corporation dispatches men to Skull Island where they hope to capture King Kong and exploit him for monetary gain. Eventually Kong escapes and conflict between him and Godzilla is soon to follow.
Though essentially an on-the-nose mash up of Godzilla’s (1954) and King Kong’s (1933) plots, it’s the execution that makes King Kong vs Godzilla shine, because it recognises it can’t fully develop either plot and so doesn’t draw much attention to the stakes, and refuses to take itself seriously. Though it marks a crucial point in Godzilla’s history, because of how it took on a very tongue-in-cheek tone, this is for the best; You’ll be hard pressed to find another film in the series that’s got as much personality as this one has. It’s always hilarious watching Godzilla giggle, and maniacally clap his hands whenever he thwarts a human plot to stop him, or scores a lucky hit on Kong. It’s also quite humorous to watch Kong become increasingly more and more fed up and annoyed of Godzilla’s antics; Often stropping and taking a moment to look himself up and down whenever his fur is set on fire by Godzilla’s atomic breath.
But let’s not beat around the bush here, the highlight of this movie and the reason anyone watches it is for the finale, which features one of the most eccentric monster fights in the franchise. Moments like Godzilla drop kicking Kong, Kong force-feeding Godzilla a tree and the two of them summersaulting down Mount Fuji are iconic and easily become engrained in your mind. The first time I saw this movie I recall being in hysterics caused by the bombastic nature of the finale, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It was a sheer blast to watch!
And while there isn’t a lot of tension in this film as a whole, it is substituted for fun and creativity and that isn’t a bad thing in this case; This film embraces its silly premise and takes advantage of it to entertain, rather than awkwardly rolling with its odd tone as some of the future films would. So, although let down by out-of-place scenes of members of the UN literally looking into the camera and explaining the plot to the viewer, this movie is hard to look away from while the monsters are on screen and the humans are scrambling for a way to stop them.
Overall, I’d say King Kong vs Godzilla is one of the stand-out movies in the franchise, and it lay the ground-work for some of my favourite Godzilla movies to come. It’s a must see movie for anyone interested in Godzilla, Kong or any other Kaiju. I hope the remake of this film, “Godzilla vs Kong”, scheduled for a 2021 release, can reach the same levels of sheer fun and absurdity as this film did.
At the end of every review I’ll be rating the Godzilla movies from best to worst. The updated list is below:
- King Kong vs Godzilla (1963)
- Godzilla (1954)
- Godzilla Raids Again (1955)