Logo for Byte Magazine at Ball State University

Big Monkey Fighting Radioactive Lizard: The good, the bad, and the disappointing

by Sam Shipe

Everyone likes a good movie, but what exactly makes a movie good? That’s definitely a topic for debate. A movie can easily be so bad that it’s good. One example being The Room which is objectively a horrible movie, but that attribute is what makes it so entertaining and elevated it to a cult classic. For those who don’t know, a cult classic refers to a film that likely did not do well upon release, but for some reason or another, developed a huge following that launched it into mainstream pop culture. As an example, The Room grossed less than 2,000 dollars when it opened for two weeks in only two theaters in Hollywood, but now it has midnight showings worldwide and had The Disaster Artist released as the story behind the film. The Disaster Artist featured high tiered actors such as James and Dave Franco, and became incredibly well received by critics and fans alike. Sadly though, not all bad movies get this honor, like Cats— which is just plain bad. A simple way to find both objectively and subjectively “good” movies is to check both critic reviews and audience reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gives you both for a reason. So, why in the world am I talking about this? Big monkey fighting radioactive lizard, that’s why. Godzilla vs. Kong for those of you who didn’t immediately get it.

Breaking down each previous 'Godzilla'

As a huge Godzilla fan, I’ve seen every movie. I was lucky enough to watch Godzilla vs. Kong for Byte on the Couch and it was a little disappointing. Godzilla movies aren’t supposed to be good in the critical sense. There’s supposed to be big monsters fighting—that's it. Sure there’s always a bit of lore or trashy subplot, but it should be minimal or ignorable. I will be using the three Godzilla movies by Legendary Entertainment for reference: Godzilla, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and Godzilla vs. Kong.

Image from Collider

The 2014, Godzilla didn’t do horribly amongst critics, but fans felt it to be lackluster. Probably because Godzilla got basically no screen time. There were few scenes where he wasn't visible at all and sometimes you only got a view of his back or some other part of him. Without risking spoilers, I will say he gets to beat up the monsters that are the real antagonists of the movie. However, in a movie that is 123 minutes long, he is on screen for roughly ten—if you want to count the scenes where he is barely visible.

The sequel Godzilla: King of the Monsters was amazing. At least in the eyes of the fans. It had a subplot that didn’t really matter to the overall story, but it didn’t distract from what everyone was there for: big monster fighting big monster. It was chock full of fights and they were between a plethora of monsters. I was lucky enough to see it in IMAX, and everyone stood up and cheered every time the monsters would swing at each other. 

Bring in the monkey 

Then came Kong.

Godzilla vs. Kong had all the ingredients it needed to become a smash hit for fans, but it failed. Don’t get me wrong, there were some straight-up awesome moments. In efforts to not spoil it I’ll simply say that the fight on the boat in the trailer is just as cool as they hype it up to be, as well as any other time these titans fight in general and not just each other. It just so happened that the first half of the movie only had one good moment, which was the boat fight I mentioned earlier.

Image from Free Press Journal

There were three subplots and two of them were unnecessary. Most subplots in a Godzilla movie are unnecessary, and just an excuse to move the story along, but these were tragically bad. We follow Millie Bobby Brown’s character, Madison Russell, as she befriends a crazy conspiracy theorist to try to infiltrate the villains lair. Another subplot has us following the caretakers of Kong and whatever they’re going through; including exploring the hollow Earth because that isn’t a crazy conspiracy in this world it happens to be real and where Kong and Godzilla are from. We also cut to the villain of the film who has made Mechagodzilla through means that make zero sense. Can you see why some of that, if not all of that, is incredibly unnecessary? The more time they spend on these humans and subplots the less screen time the real stars get on screen to duke it out. If anything they should have just focused on the villain and given him more screen time.

The villain is apparently a big bad CEO Walter Simmons, played by Damián Bichir, who is behind the creation of Mechagodzilla to defeat Godzilla. This is only mentioned somewhat briefly and the one thing given less air time are his motives. According to Rotten Tomatoes, I may be an outlier as their audience score is through the roof on this one, but it was a step back from King of the Monsters. Definitely still worth the watch, but not as pressing to see in theaters. So go forth and enjoy! As always, I will still be an advocate for good, bad movies.

Sources: Facebook, IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes, Vox

Images: Collider, Free Press Journal

Featured Image: Emily Hanes