By Daniel Paiz
This might seem like a farfetched idea, determining that three main creatures featured in Godzilla v. Kong represent pride, rage, and technology in the USA. After all, what does a monster movie really have to teach us about ourselves or US society at large? It’s a valid question. However, everything has more meaning than you might initially expect it to; that is why we continue to be fascinated with King Kong, with Godzilla, and with all of the other kaiju we’ve seen over the decades.
Each monster strongly depicts the addiction attached to it. There might be some crossover for a couple of the titans being discussed, but a deeper case for each monster having all three vices will not be made here. What will be tackled, however, is how much gray area there is for the titans in terms of how each assigned vice is depicted. Black and white isn’t what life is about, and the giants depict it simply, yet well.
Fair warning, there are some spoilers below due to scenes that might be referred to as evidence. Pause now if you don’t want any kind of spoilers at all. If you don’t mind mild spoilers (and one big spoiler due to who the third creature is), then proceed at your own risk.
Briefly discussing the humans in the film
One last thing: the humans in this film aren’t discussed because they’re more representational of people across the USA. You have those who think there’s a conspiracy or something going on that shouldn’t. You have people trying to address problems but don’t have all the info or tools to do so. Lastly, you have the few who have the necessary knowledge, but have to attempt unbelievable tasks to get something done. All of that is secondary to what the monsters represent.
As an ardent Godzilla fan, I can admit Kong is the most likeable titan in this movie. It helps he’s given the most facial expressions and most screen time. He does make the most of it in part because of his bond with Jia, the lone native survivor from Skull Island. Pride is a funny thing. Everyone reading this likely knows a very likeable, engaging person from their life in some capacity. However likeable or “good” of a person they are, their pride blinds them in some way.
Kong, who is clearly still hurting in some capacity without his family or home, allows his to blind him. He appears to have no interest in being the alpha titan, and yet he continues to fight Godzilla each time. This might be due to the two titans’ ancestors having fought for such a long time; at this point, it seems like they’re only fighting due to custom.
Both titans don’t really have anything to gain from the fighting, other than pride. Kong might have a throne of sorts in Hollow Earth, but there’s nothing to really rule over. The axe comprised of a Godzilla scale again reflects pride over winning previous battles. Pride can reflect a certain nostalgia for earlier times and customs, and it’s abundantly clear that things currently for Kong are nowhere close to what he had before.
In some capacity, think of Godzilla in this film as the equivalent of a grizzled Batman, who’s been fighting for what seems like forever. Victories against King Ghidorah, Rodan, and multiple MUTOs has made the atomic breather wary; battling both Kong and MechaGodzilla adds to that wariness. Being tired and frustrated likely has added to the rage Godzilla has. Heavy is the crown worn by the Alpha titan, but it also has worn him down.
Throughout this film there are moments when it seems the wary giant would like to be left alone. He seems to be fighting to put an end to the other challenges he might be facing. While the main characters in the film seem to think he’s gone rogue, he can sense the doppelgänger being crafted to replace him. The tenuous at times relationship with humans likely has angered the atomic breathing behemoth. Rage results in frustration and being made to feel inferior.
Humans throughout the existence of Godzilla have done a wonderful job of doing those things to the ancient being. Imagine fighting other monsters that threaten this species that distrusts all of your kind, and then their response is to distrust you even more? These titans are not fools who are simply the feeble-minded monsters they were made out to be when first introduced to moviegoers so long ago. That should be evident with how long they’ve survived.
In this digital age where laptops and phones have lives that are down to years instead of a decade or so, technology reigns supreme. In the wrong hands, it creates headaches for all involved. In the right ones, things that were time-consuming or difficult are much easier now. MechaGodzilla is yet again the culmination of humankind’s obsession with control and power. But, like a lot of the technology of today, MechaGodzilla has plenty of flaws. The inability to really function without the radioactive power from Hollow Earth shows the limitations placed on our imaginations still.
The continued paranoia of singularity and robot consciousness is again played out with MechaGodzilla’s disconnect from pilot control. It’s odd though that, despite not seeming to need a pilot, Godzilla’s clone still had to be connected to the system ran by Apex. This again ties into the contradictory nature of populations such as those in the United States: overly connected and yet still fundamentally disconnected in many ways. As a favorite emcee of mine once said, “why rage against the machine, when you can just unplug it?”.
MechaGodzilla is the representation of US hubris, which it really shouldn’t be. Sure, more recent iterations have this metal titan as manmade. However, his first appearance explains that he is extraterrestrial; honestly that’s a bit more interesting, albeit harder to associate for fans and to this current explanation. That again is why he represents the current addiction and usage of technology today.
Why any of these takes matter
Monster movies are a reflection of the times. Godzilla came about after the use of nuclear weapons on Japan in World War II as well as the Lucky Dragon boat crew that was also impacted by nuclear testing after WWII. The times have changed, but the threat of “monster” actions has not. Whether critiquing American policy abroad or the tepid relationships between several nuclear arms-owning countries of today, things are still not much better than when Godzilla first hit theaters so many years ago.
Now of course, this is primarily meant to be entertainment. Writing this piece was a monster film aficionado asking readers to think about how these giants reflect modern society. The United States and those from “first-world” nations have an arrogance best depicted via pride, rage, and technology. All three things can do good and have their place. However, too much of these can also add strife to an already messy state of affairs.
One last takeaway is to think about these monster titans fighting each other, and how the vices they’ve been attached to here combat each other in this day and age. Pride and rage go together at times, and technology utilizes both as well. Perhaps that’s just another reason why these three titans go together in this film.