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Godzilla vs. Kong: Who Ya Got?

A new, heated trailer demands a new, heated debate

Warner Bros./Ringer illustration

Ever since the glorious release of the Godzilla vs. Kong trailer on Sunday, we at The Ringer (OK, maybe just me) have been in quite the emotional tizzy. Yes, the preview may have left much to be desired acting-wise, but guys—King Kong is fighting Godzilla. With this inevitable showdown approaching, it feels prudent to let the air out of the balloon before it explodes and tears down the entire website, much like Godzilla once tore down the city of San Francisco. So with that in mind, I asked my colleague Miles Surrey to join me in a measured debate about which mega-being will come out on top on March 26. Maybe “measured” is an overstatement. —Lex Pryor

Lex: OK, so I’ll cut right to the chase here: I respect Godzilla. He’s basically a radioactive dinosaur. He shoots blue stuff out of his mouth when he gets angry. And until the events of Godzilla vs. Kong, he seemed to have humanity’s best interests at heart. But I won’t let that respect get in the way of the facts. I simply refuse to believe that Kong, a being with arms proportional to his height, will lose in a fight with Godzilla, a being with the wingspan of a Chihuahua. Kong could put Godzilla in a chokehold. Godzilla cannot scratch his own nose. Kong has the capacity to lift objects and throw them. Godzilla can’t even use his arms to balance himself against walls and/or buildings. It’s just not feasible. The appendage advantage is simply too great.

Miles Surrey: Lex, you’ve clearly put a lot of thought into this Godzilla scouting report—and if the two titans wanted to settle things on a basketball court the size of an airport runway, I’d be inclined to agree with you. (Despite his size and soft touch in the paint, Godzilla would rebound about as well as Kwame Brown, which is to say: very badly.) But as far as I’m aware, this isn’t a supersized Space Jam. Having disproportionately small arms hasn’t stopped Godzilla from defeating all other titans on the way to being declared the King of the Monsters. Who needs to punch another creature in the face when your breath is the equivalent of nuclear hellfire?

Besides, when we’re looking at the intangibles, Kong can’t even pass the eye test. Is this the face of someone who thinks he can win a fight against Godzilla?

All screenshots and GIFs via Warner Bros. Pictures

IS THIS YOUR KING?

Lex: So he may not always have his game face on. I’ll give you that. Kong doesn’t just split his life between smashing cities to bits and hiding in a subterranean sea apartment. He’s not single-mindedly focused on battle. My guy is a lover at heart. He’s not afraid to show his emotions. But is that really a disadvantage? It’s 2021, are we still shaming titanic-sized primates for not adhering to the stoic hero archetype? Besides, fear is the greatest motivator.

Now, back to your first point. You’re right, this isn’t a pickup game (if it was, Kong would ball out). But their physical dimensions do matter. How will Godzilla have the energy to go all lightning-breath on Kong when he’s this out of shape? I know a few things about having a gut, and let me tell you, it is not conducive to long bouts of activity. All Kong has to do is tire the lizard version of fat Thor out for a little and then he can make his move.

Surrey: I’m sorry, did you just body shame Godzilla? Godzilla is thicc and proud, and his chonky frame underscores the fact that he’s not the kind of fighter who runs out the clock. If an inferior monster gets in his way, he’s taking them out with one majestic huff of his atomic breath, as we saw in his 2014 stand-alone film. (Sidenote: Based on the commercials, this is exactly what it’s like to chew 5 Gum.)

There’s another factor that works in Godzilla’s favor: his versatility. The biggest reason that Kong was left out of King of the Monsters—Warner Bros. wanting to save him for the next installment of their kaiju cinematic universe notwithstanding—is because he was incapable of leaving Skull Island. (I imagine he was just sitting around like John Travolta in Pulp Fiction.) He’s formidable on his home turf, sure, but we know what happens when Kong climbs skyscrapers. And if the two monsters are duking it out in the ocean, as we see in the trailer when Godzilla starts attacking the Navy ships? Well, that’d be like tossing a fisherman overboard and expecting him to defeat a great white shark. Kong’s out of his element, and Godzilla kicks plenty of ass no matter where he’s standing—or swimming.

Lex: The ocean is an obstacle, but it’s not like Kong hasn’t shown his chops before in an aquatic standoff:

Besides, what species on the planet is more versatile than primates? I didn’t want to have to get all speciesist but, Miles ... really think about it … Kong has opposable thumbs. He can build tools. He can hold shields. He can climb. Unless Godzilla happens to be packing a bunch of World War II–era planes and a highly problematic white woman, I’m just not seeing how he will be able to neutralize all of these moves. Plus, it’s not Kong’s fault that he didn’t cut his teeth fighting a bunch of titans around the globe. He had commitments and a family and a herd of giant water buffalo to protect back home.

There’s also the fact that Kong seems to genuinely care about humans more. Godzilla has always been willing to battle other monsters for the benefit of humankind, but he’s never been willing to fully cohabitate with them. Call it faith or compassion or stupidity, but when it’s all on the line and he’s facing down a weird skull-reptile, Kong has always found his strength from protecting the humans he bonds with. When has Godzilla ever displayed this type of affection toward a person? Kong seems to at least have a purpose in life—Godzilla has always given off more of a ruling vibe. There’s a reason they call him “King of the Monsters” and not “Friend of the Humans.”

Surrey: You’re just outing yourself as someone who’s clearly never owned a reptile. (Shoutout to Batista the Burmese python and Iggy the iguana; middle school Miles was sick at naming pets.) Godzilla’s affection for humanity is plenty understated, but it’s still there—lest we forget Ken Watanabe’s surprisingly emotional send-off in King of the Monsters. Godzilla also clearly expressed through his dinosaur-lizard roars in the film that Millie Bobby Brown can hang.

I will grant you that it’s a little concerning that Godzilla has apparently turned against humankind in the Godzilla vs. Kong trailer. As Kyle Chandler’s character (whose name nobody remembers) iconically says, “Godzilla’s out there and he’s hurting people and we don’t know why!” But there are two explanations for this dilemma: Either the humans are being misled by Godzilla’s actual intentions, or perhaps the most formidable apex predator on the planet is finally fed up with a lowly species that’s continually harming the planet. (God forbid we do anything to ruin his swanky subterranean lodgings.) I wouldn’t blame Godzilla—humanity kind of sucks! And Kong’s no slouch, either: Don’t forget about all those helicopters he swatted out of the sky.

Lex: They were being mean to him!

Miles: Nevertheless, I think we can both agree that (a) this is a Batman v. Superman situation waiting to happen, in which neither monster will technically “win” the showdown and (b) Godzilla and Kong will reluctantly team up in the final act against an even more formidable foe. (My money’s on MechaGodzilla, or, in my wildest dreams, Ecoterrorist Charles Dance in a homemade Gundam.) Godzilla and Kong inevitably working together is a message of intraspecies unity that’d make Joe Biden proud. Although I doubt the impetus for teaming up will be because both monsters had a mom named Martha.

Lex: I’d sign up for that but only if we’re not subjected to a villain as grating as Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor. Even though I truly believe, in my heart of hearts, that Kong would wash Godzilla, they would make quite the team. After all, the sight of the world’s most famous giant lizard and the world’s most famous giant ape working together to save the Earth is the type of cinematic gluttony that we can all get behind. They’re the rare instance of heroes that we both deserve and so obviously need.