Battle of the Battles: 2014 vs. KOTM4,262 Views2 RepliesAdd A Reply
One of the most common criticisms of Legendary’s MonsterVerse–particularly in regards to its two Godzilla films–is that the movie cuts away from the kaiju action to the humans far too often for people’s liking. After all, who wants to see the boring human drama when there’s some perfectly good monster fights to be seen instead?
Well, obviously, the humans are gonna be a part of it no matter what. That’s just a fact of the franchise, and cutting away from the monsters to go back to the humans is nothing new. I recently watched GMK for the first time, and, after years of just watching battle montage clips, I was somewhat surprised by how much it cut back to bystanders and military personnel and such. So the problem isn’t that the cutting away happens. It seems to be more how it happens that’s the issue.
Personally, I was a lot more satisfied with KOTM’s battles than I was with 2014’s, even with all the cutting back to the humans. But what was the difference? What changed? According to a few people I’ve heard, second for second, KOTM actually has less screentime devoted to the monsters than 2014. So what was it about KOTM that clicked with me over 2014?
It was only recently that I realized the two deciding factors. And those two things are time and place.
Allow me to elaborate. I’ll start by going back to the first confrontation of the 2014 film.
The Male MUTO wreaks havoc in the Honolulu airport. He tosses an attack helicopter into a jumbo jet, setting off a massive explosion that destroys at least two others on the tarmac. The people inside the terminal are screaming. And then suddenly, his foot stomps into view. The crowd goes silent in awe and fear and everything between. The MUTO turns and sees his opponent. He roars a challenge and spreads his wings in an effort to make himself look bigger, more threatening. The camera cuts back, and pans up, up, up…
Godzilla is back. 10 years since his appearance in Final Wars, and the moment every G-fan around the world has awaited has finally come. The King of the Monsters looms tall over us, looking bigger and better than ever before. And he ROARS, that famous roar we all know and love, different but the same, and it sends our hearts into a pounding fit, music to our ears. The roar fades into a growl, and he steels himself for battle, as we, the audience prep for the first big kaiju fight in 10 years. We lean forward anxiously in our seats, aaaaaaaand…
…and then it cuts back to young Sam Brody sitting on a couch, sleeping away while the TV drones on. His mother comes in and tells him to turn it off, and we see what’s on: shaky phone and news crew footage of the Honolulu fight. And it is with a sinking disappointment that we realize that there will be no battle; at least, not one that we’ll get to see. We feel cheated, tricked, backstabbed, and quite honestly bamboozled.
And the rest of the movie goes in a similar fashion. The Female MUTO awakens and attacks Las Vegas; she rips open the roof of a casino and roars down at the screaming gamblers within…and it cuts to minutes after the attack, where she can be seen treading off into the distance, a swath of destruction in her wake. Godzilla and the Male re-engage in San Francisco, only for the doors of a subway shelter to close just as the fight is getting started. The final battle is, thankfully, a bit more rewarding, but now suffers from a different flaw; as Ford Brody and a special military team race to retrieve a hijacked nuclear warhead in the center of the city, this final clash, although kind enough to grant us a few moments of un-interrupted action, is all-too often witnessed from a distance; from rooftops or streets. Up until the Female MUTO comes barreling down upon the troops, it feels as if the human side of the battle gives the monsters a wide berth. Which I suppose is a smart survival tactic, but that’s not the point.
This is the crucial flaw of 2014’s human cuts. They either happen after the action has happened, or they happen in such a way that they skirt around the monsters entirely, without giving us a good view of what’s happening. Except for a few select points–namely when Ford goes to blow the nest or when the Female notices the boat powering up–the humans never once feel in any real danger.
Now we move onto KOTM. In spite of everyone’s dreams of having uninterrupted fights, it still cuts away from the action to focus on the humans–who, depending on who you ask, are arguably worse than 2014’s, but that’s a debate for another day. Regardless, the cuts still happen.
But wait. Something’s different this time. And I will illustrate, as with 2014, with the first big monster rumble.
Godzilla erupts from the Antarctic ice, the classic theme blaring over the scene, literal music to our ears. He and Ghidorah exchange snarls, their hate for each other on display. The music reaches its peak. Godzilla roars, Ghidorah roars back. They charge. Col. Foster tells everybody stranded in the downed Osprey to brace for the oncoming collision. Godzilla kicks the copter with his foot as he charges, and the people inside are thrown around like ragdolls. Up above, Godzilla grabs one of Ghidorah’s heads, ramming it to the ground and sending the Osprey skidding again, and…
…and I’m going to stop the recap now because right away the difference should be plain.
We’re still here.
And that, dear readers, is KOTM’s edge. Or at least, it’s what made it’s battles more satisfying to me as an individual than I was with 2014’s.
Unlike 2014, which developed the aforementioned nasty habit of cutting to after the battles or attacks, or having its characters stay at a safe distance most of the time, KOTM does almost the complete opposite. When the fighting starts, it stays for the duration, and it keeps it’s characters squarely in the midst of the action. It doesn’t feel like much is lost, because everybody’s in the same place in the same scene. Take a look at the Battle of Boston; while Mark and G-Team are frantically searching for the ORCA in the ruins of the stadium, Godzilla and Ghidorah are quite literally clashing directly on top of them. Seriously, there’s one shot where the camera pans up and they’re quite literally at their feet. When Emma rescues them in a Hummer and they drive away, they find themselves dodging a whole myriad of hazards, from falling jets and helicopters to Mothra and Rodan doing barrel rolls up above. The gods are fighting and all we can do is scurry beneath their feet like ants.
And this right here is why I vastly prefer KOTM’s battles to 2014’s. I never once felt like I’d been cheated out of a battle, because we were almost always there for the full thing.
All of the above being said, I wouldn’t exactly live up to my little motto if I didn’t acknowledge the negatives of KOTM’s battles, or even 2014’s positives.
KOTM’s cameras stay for the duration of the battles, yes. The downside is that the fight scenes feel short. Like they could have gone on for longer. Perhaps that’s a sign that I was invested enough that I wanted more, or perhaps they really did need to be longer. I think most G-Fans will agree with the latter.
Secondly, and going on the principle of the previous negative, there is one glaring exception to KOTM’s “stay on the scene” rule; the Rodan vs. Ghidorah fight, which cuts away from their clash to Mark and Sam trying to help safely land an Osprey in the Argo’s hangar deck. In this case, it falls back into the 2014 formula, and perhaps worse so. The tension is no longer about Rodan and Ghidorah’s battle; now it’s about landing the copter safely. It’s not a bad action scene–I’m always down for a good crash-landing–but between the two events, I think we can all agree which one we would have preferred to watch.
Lastly is physics. I’ve seen one or two people saying that KOTM got the Pacific Rim: Uprising treatment in regards to the monsters’ sense of weight. And you know what? They’re right. One of the things that I loved about 2014 (and one of the few things about it that I still love) is how the monsters actually felt as big as they’re supposed to be. They had a sense of weight to them, and I loved that; it made them feel more real. KOTM lacks that in quite a few scenes, and it was actually a minor disappointment to me. And I say minor because Godzilla’s never really been good at realistic physics, so one more time shouldn’t be that big of a complaint if you ask me.
So yeah, I’m not trying to say that KOTM’s battles are perfect. I’m just pointing out the things that made them more tolerable than 2014’s in my own opinion. This is strictly a matter of personal enjoyment, and other people–quite a lot, actually–are likely to disagree with me.
And that’s not to say I want to see better in future films. I’ve heard unconfirmed rumors that the grand finale of Godzilla vs. Kong will feature a five-minute, uninterrupted battle between the two titular combatants. And if that’s the case, then I’m all for that.
The more the merrier, as they say.
A true fan can acknowledge the bad while still appreciating and cherishing the good.
I completely understand your thoughts on this matter and several of the points you made. I personally prefer the end battle of G14 mainly for different reasons, and I actually don't really compare the battles in terms of cutting away that much. However, I do believe the cutting away in G14 is more elegant and stylized than KotM's, and I'll try to explain why.
I completely agree that any Godzilla battle needs that tension between the monsters and the little humans running around below their feet. This is something that, in my opinion, is almost completely missing in both G14 and KotM because, let's face it, we don't really care about the humans. In KotM, I really didn't care when Vivian died (and neither did the characters, but that's besides the point), and I definitely did not care when Emma died. I did care about Serizawa, but he didn't even die in a battle, although I am happy he didn't.
In G14, like you said, there was that scene in the underground egg chamber that was quite long and far from the action, not really adding any tension between the monsters and humans. However, for me, this is what actually keeps me invested in the battle, believe it or not. We have two god-sized creatures throwing down in a city of ruins and fire. Put the humans directly in the battle, and what happens? We get dirt, rubble, and fire thrown at the the audience left and right, as well as ugly, awkward angles of monsters fighting directly above us. I know I'm sounding way to harsh and salty than I really should, but yes, I am referring to KotM's battles. Never once do we get to see these epic monsters in their entirety, throwing each other into buildings and stepping on each others bodies. Nearly every shot is as close to these creature as it can get, resulting in (like I said) awkward, jumbled shots, not to mention the shaky camera. Just once during the fight scenes during KotM, I wanted that beautiful wide shot of Godzilla and Ghidorah, or Mothra and Rodan fighting. This is what takes me out of the battles in this movie. Those shots in G14 that you said were too far away from the battles are actually the kind of wide shots I wanted in KotM, but unfortunately never got.
Sure, G14 definitely needed more of those monster/human interactions. The momentswhere the female MUTO takes notice of the humans are pretty cool, such as the bridge scene, right before the first atomic breath scene, or right before the second atomic breath scene. These parts are well directed and do have some tension, but once again, Ford is not a super emotive or special character, something that could really add some good tension to these moments. I do believe that it's a bit different during the actual battle sequences, however. Like I said before, putting humans between the feet of the monsters can go pretty wrong. Maybe having them be a bit farther away--still within distance of serious danger--and making certain wide shots to where the audience can actually see the both humans and the monsters clearly while also feeling a sense of danger and suspense... maybe that could work (and of course we still have to care about the humans). Overall, I prefer the G14 battle simply because of the direction, cinematography, and action in general... if there isn't a sense of tension between the monsters and humans, there is deffinately a sense if tension between the monsters fighting.
Also, just go gonna mention that this was very well written. You really elaborately explained your thoughts and compared the actual battle scenes in full detail while also staying unbiased, which I appreciate. This really helped me to understand why the KotM battles are better in your eyes.
"What’s so great about discovery? It’s a violent, penetrative act that scars what it explores. What you call discovery, I call the rape of the natural world."
— Dr. Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park (1993)
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