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Face-Off: Godzilla (2014) vs. King Kong (2005)

03.14.2017by: Matt Rooney

Welcome back to the Face-Off, everyone! Did you remember to set your clocks forward? Good, then that means you were probably able to catch KONG: SKULL ISLAND at an appropriate time. If so then you’re still probably craving some good giant monster carnage. This week we will offer you just that with our latest bout, the 2014 GODZILLA versus the 2005 KING KONG. Screw the eighth wonder of the world, this is the ninth, tenth and eleventh all in one.

Both movies were hotly anticipated, with the former promising to be a spectacular reboot for the legendary creature after he was sodomized in 1998. The latter was Peter Jackson’s directorial follow-up after reaping the glory from the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy. They were met with good-to-great critical reviews upon release, but ultimately audiences responded with a mix of groans and, maybe, slight nods of approval.

Both movies have their flaws, true, but they also have plenty to admire and behold. One may do things better than the other, but both took their legendary creatures to places no other film had...for better or worse. Now, let them fight!!

Cast
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Ford Brody
Elizabeth Olsen as Elle Brody
Ken Watanabe as Dr. Ishiro Serizawa
Sally Hawkins as Vivienne Graham
Juliette Binoche as Sandra Brody
David Strathairn as Admiral William Stenz
Bryan Cranston as Joe “Gone too Soon” Brody
Naomi Watts as Ann Darrow
Jack Black as Carl Denham
Adrien Brody as Jack Driscoll
Thomas Kretschmann as Captain Englehorn
Colin Hanks as Preston
Andy Serkis as Kong/Lumpy
Jamie Bell as Jimmy
DIRECTOR
No one can say Gareth Edwards doesn’t have a knack for shooting grand scenery. There are some notable, gorgeous moments that have an emotional weight behind them (the collapse of the nuclear facility from the eyes of a young Ford), and with magnificent sense scope (parachuting into the carnage). However, Edwards’ vision for the movie meant putting the human characters front-and-center, and though that may seem admirable to those who want something more than mindless chaos, it meant putting the monster mashing in the background. This was done to increase suspense and build to the giant lizards big moments, but in the end it just gave fans less of what they wanted, and more Aaron Taylor-Johnson.
Peter Jackson proved with the LORD OF THE RINGS movies he was able to handle much, much, much, much more than indie fare. He’s able to tell grand stories across a fantastical background and deliver spectacle the likes which we’ve never seen. His imagination may have got the better of him when he decided to make KING KONG the equivalent in length to the entire LOTR trilogy, but his goal was to turn the story of an ape taken from an exotic land only to wreak havoc in New York into an epic adventure tale that humanizes the legendary monster, and for the most part he succeeded.
STORY
For years a shadowy organization has kept its knowledge of radioactive monsters a secret from the public, UNTIL ONE DAY, when a nuclear plant is destroyed sending one worker, Joe Brody (Cranston), on a quest for answers. Years later, he and his son venture to the sight of the destruction, where they discover some kind of giant egg, which sprouts a giant, winged monster (not Godzilla). Very serious humans then start following this monster, and then Godzilla, on their path of destruction until the two beasts, followed by a third, start beating each other up. Basically it takes about an hour to see anything good.
In his quest to make the greatest motion picture ever, sneaky director Carl Denham (Black) loads his production crew and actors on a boat heading for a mysterious island. After their boat wrecks upon the island they come across some aggressive natives who eventually kidnap actress Ann Darrow (Watts) to give as an offering to the mighty Kong. The rest of the crew rush off to find her, venturing through the magnificent but perilous jungle filled with oversized bugs and dinosaurs. Meanwhile, Kong and Darrow form a special bond as only a woman and a 25-foot-tall ape can. The beast is then taken to New York where he starts bashing and climbing. Basically it takes about an hour to see anything good.
VFX
Aside from the monsters, and chaos they bring, there aren’t too many special effects to admire. Like I said earlier, there are some pretty terrific shots in here, but most of the budget went towards creating the big beasties and leveling San Francisco. Sadly, audiences didn't get to see as much of all that.
In contrast to Godzilla, once this movie hits Skull Island it’s nothing but a giant visual effects bonanza, and even though this film is over 11 years old it still looks astounding. The greens of the jungle are as vibrant as ever, the motion capture on Kong (Serkis) is stunning and the creatures look near-lifelike. Sure, not everything looks perfect anymore, especially during very fast and chaotic moments, but when Kong is onscreen or when we’re allowed to just marvel at the landscapes KONG still stands as a marvel of visual effects.
MOMENTS

Destruction of Janjira Nuclear Power Plant

Sad moment: The death of Bryan Cranston.

Mayhem in Hawaii

The first roar of Godzilla.

Train derailment

EMP causes planes to fall out of the clouds

Godzilla arrives in San Francisco

“Let them fight.”

The second, longer Godzilla roar.

Monsters! Fight!

La Flama Azul

Um…remember that one part, when…um…the flying one is coming at Godzilla and, like, he hits it with…with his tail. Um…remember that?

Eat my fire, bitch!

The ship crashes into Skull Island.

The natives don’t want Jack Black’s chocolate.

Darrow is taken by Kong.

The search party has to impossibly run away from a stampede of Brontosaurus.

Darrow has to pull a Chaplin to make Kong laugh.

Kong rocks the log, throws the gang down a crevice.

T-REX BASHING TIME!

Kong snaps the final Rex’s jaw!

The crew kills some big ass bugs.

The crew kidnaps Kong.

Kong gets his revenge and messes up some cars.

Kong and Darrow go ice skating.

Kong is taken down thanks to some old-timey planes.
BOX OFFICE & ACCOLADES

Box Office: $200 million ($529 million global total)

Zero Oscar Nominations

Two Golden Schmoes (most overrated movie and best trailer); two more nominations (biggest disappointment and best line for “Let them fight”)

Box Office: $218 million ($550 million global total)

Three Oscars (best sound editing, sound mixing and visual effects); one more nomination (best art direction).

Two Golden Globes nominations (best director and best score).

Two Golden Schmoes awards (best VFX, best action sequence for “Kong v. T-Rexes”); nine more nominations (best actress for Watts, favorite movie, best director, most overrated movie, coolest character, best music, best trailer and two for most memorable scene).
MONSTER MAYHEM
Though it takes some time to get to the ultimate showdown of monster glory there's still some cool monster destruction that leads up to it. When Godzilla does go toe-to-toe with the two MUTO’s it’s pure monster badassery filled with bashing, smashing and city-leveling. San Francisco needed a remodel anyway.
There’s a decent amount of action involving non-Kong creatures, but what everyone came to see was the big ape crush some punks. He does so, once, against some trick-ass T-Rexes. But then we must wait till the climax for him to take on some airplanes. It’s all great, but all the monster potential relies on Kong, and he spends more time f@cking around with Ann.
MONSTER LOOK
Unlike the iguana monstrosity that destroyed the city in the 1998 version, this Godzilla looks more like the creature from the Japanese films. Bulkier and clad in more menacing scales, this Godzilla looks like how a modern take on the classic monster should. Gotta dig that fire-breathing power-up, too.
A giant gorilla.
MUSIC
Composer Alexandre Desplat has done some marvelous work in the blockbuster realm (check out the woefully under-rewarded DEATHLY HALLOWS PART TWO score), but other than the opening track that plays over the news reel footage his work here is near unnoticeable. There's just not a lot here that lends any depth to the film, with a lot of the pieces sounding like generic blockbuster themes. Desplat is a tremendous composer, but the GODZILLA doesn't do him many favors.
Like GODZILLA, James Newton Howard's score kicks off KONG with a grand sense of mystery, featuring the kind of track that should appear out of nowhere anytime you come across an abandoned mansion or learn some terrible secret, like that your grandfather was a Nazi or something. The following score is one filled with exotic, intricate orchestrations that give the action a more thrilling sense of adventure, and the sweet moments a bit of soul. It's a great soundtrack, and one that stands high on the composers discography.
King Kong

I’m sure this was hard one for some of you to find anything to agree about. There are plenty of folks who dislike both movies, and for some good reasons. GODZILLA skimps on the Zilla goods for so long, and KONG is a bit too long, with some citing the relationship between Kong and Darrow as a bit schmaltzy. But both movies have their bright spots, and in this case KONG has so many more. Jackson, overall, did a terrific job at bringing the mighty ape into the new millennium by taking the original 1933 classic and expanding it into a rousing epic. He demonstrated the power of then-modern VFX, and gave the monster more soul, thus turning him into more than a destruction machine. In short, he honored the remake and injected his own twist on it, resulting in a magnificent adventure movie with fun moments and plenty of heart. It’s not perfect, but it can beat its chest proudly.

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