Who Should Have Won 'Godzilla vs. Kong'?

Two Thrillist writers with a rivalry as ancient as Godzilla and Kong's go head-to-head.

godzilla vs kong
Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures

This conversation contains spoilers from Godzilla vs. Kong.

Way back in 2017, Godzilla vs. Kong director Adam Wingard promised that the battle between the two big guys would have a clear "winner." Frankly, we're calling bullshit on that tease. Now that the film is out in theaters and on HBO Max, it's clear that, while 'Zilla and Kong do punch each other a lot—seriously, that's their main move—they aren't really battling each other. Instead, they just have to learn to get along so they can take down Mechagodzilla, invented by the evil Apex Corporation using a skull from Ghidora, the three-headed dragon that tried to destroy the planet in Godzilla: King of the Monsters. In the end, Godzilla and Kong both win. It's a cop out. But, using the ancient power of film analysis, can we pick an actual victor? Let's try.

Esther Zuckerman: Emma, the first question I have for you is: Why are our good friends Godzilla and Kong even fighting? In my humble opinion, the movie never makes a good case for why they shouldn't be friends from the very beginning. It's just because they are two Titans with a long held rivalry? Whatever! Get over it, guys! Anyway, because of my love of this meme, I will be arguing on behalf of my good friend Kong. He may not have the nuclear ability of Godzilla, but he, indeed, is monke.

Emma Stefansky: If there's one thing we agree on, it's monke. The movie crams a lot of expository goop into its first 45 minutes or so, one element of which is that Godzilla and Kong, or, I guess, the two species of which Godzilla and Kong are members, have an ancient rivalry that has existed for as long as the Earth has been hollow. By which I mean, it has existed only for the span of this movie, because NEVER BEFORE in any of these OTHER MOVIES were we ever given any CLUES about ANY OF THIS (save for a post-credits scene or two). We knew lizard and monke would fight. That has always been the single purpose of the Monsterverse franchise, and the thing that all four of these movies have been building to. But this movie never really provides this seemingly epic showdown with a purpose beyond a couple of lines of explanatory dialogue.

But, since they do fight (twice!) and each gets in a few badass knockout jabs, which one do we think should have come out on top if they didn't have to unite against a common enemy?

godzilla vs kong
Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures

Esther: So let's break this down: Of the two big showdowns, the first is in the middle of the ocean when Kong is being transported to Antarctica, cuffed to a boat, so he can guide humans into the Earth's core. (LOL this movie makes zero sense.) One would think that Godzilla has the upper claw here, being that he can swim and Kong starts out in chains, but our oversized furry friend uses his limited resources to his advantage. He throws a fighter jet (person included) into Godzilla's back. He works with the humans in the boats who essentially "play dead" to get rid of this spiky menace. Look, Godzilla is way more powerful; I think we can all admit that. However, Kong is a way more strategic player. I really don't have as good a case for my beloved monke when he and Z are knocking down the entirety of Hong Kong. He gets wiped out pretty hard, but he's the winner of my heart. OK!!!!!!!!

Emma: I think Kong in this movie is helped by two things. The first is that he's majorly sized-up: In King Kong, he climbs the Empire State Building. In Godzilla vs. Kong, he could kick over the Empire State Building. (A dramatic size change that's mentioned, as this movie is wont to do, in another bit of throwaway dialogue.) He's a contender at least, especially once he retrieves that Zilla-spike axe from the Hollow Earth. The second thing is that he's very humanized in this movie, which is much easier to do with an ape than with a dinosaur. He communicates using sign language, he uses tools, he has a face that expresses emotion. You root for him! Where Godzilla is an enormous nuclear-powered lizard, the alpha dog of all the other titans, Kong is sort of a human proxy, and he definitely gets the hero edit—especially during that first encounter when it's clear that Kong, bewildered and under gallons of sedation, doesn't want to fight. He just wants to find a home, preferably somewhere far away from tiny, meddling humans.

The other issue that I knew this movie was always going to have was the fact that we as an audience like both of them. I don't think there are many people out there who genuinely want to see one of these monsters die at the hands of the other, which is why so many fans picked up pretty quick on the Mechagodzilla rumors. A kind of tradition with these monster movies that's been in place since the Shōwa era is that when there is a foe that must die, it's usually either manmade or from outer space. In his first-ever movie, Godzilla is awakened and antagonized by nuclear bomb testing in the ocean. Ghidorah is an alien. Mechagodzilla, originally, was manufactured by extraterrestrials, and in this movie was made by an evil tech corporation. Hedorah is a blob of pollution from space. Gigan is an alien cyborg. It goes on. And then you have Kong, who has always been portrayed as sympathetic, kidnapped, tricked, exploited. Of course they're gonna team up against something bigger and badder than themselves. The only way you could get more of an endorphin rush out of that would be to give them lightsabers like Rey and Kylo Ren in The Last Jedi.

Esther: Or, as this fantastic tweet suggests, have them team up for a big dance number like at the end of Chicago. (Instead of the "Hot Honey Rag," it's the "Hot Radioactive Breath Rag." I don't know.) Here's the thing: I think if we have to pick a "winner," it's Godzilla, right? Kong wouldn't be able to get up and wave his fancy axe at Mechagodzilla without the aid of Alexander Skarsgård's makeshift monkey defibrillator. I would have loved to watch a movie with the gall to choose a side and stick to it, but that's not this movie. It ends pretty much exactly the way you expect it to, and in the process, no one actually wins.

Emma: Yeah, I think Godzilla definitely comes out on top here, especially after he makes Kong "submit" to him by stepping on his chest and roaring like something out of a David Attenborough nature documentary. He had the chance to rip off Kong's big monke head and he didn't. One thing's for certain: When a greedy tech company makes a giant robot powered by the psionic waves of the most evil being in the universe, we all lose.

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Emma Stefansky is a staff entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @stefabsky.
Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.