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Sunday, July 7, 2024

The Rogues' Tavern, poverty-row '30s film; review includes newspaper clips

 


By Doug Gibson


"The Rogues' Tavern," 1936 black and white film, directed by Bob Hill, produced by Mercury Pictures and released by Puritan Pictures, is one of the reasons I love film. It's just a stroke of luck, and a blessing, that this low-budget, 70-minute C-movie is still around for film fans to enjoy. It's like stepping into a wonderful time capsule, and getting a glimpse of what your grandparents watched in the 1930s before the "A" picture was shown.


Let's see some old newspaper clippings that involved this great film. Above is a newspaper ad from the The Kokomo (Ind.) Tribune, of Dec. 15, 1936. You see that starting Wednesday at the Wood theater is Rogues' Tavern. "IT'S FIRST RUN ... and its described as "A Roadside Inn Turned Into a Trap of Doom!" A few paragraphs down is a clip ad for both 'Rogues' and a Noah Beery film, 'Stormy,' in the Warrensburg (Mo.) Daily Star-Journal of May 22, 1936. I love the admission prices back then, 10 cents, 15 cents. My dad was telling the truth when he told me you could spend 25 cents, see the movies and have a hamburger way back then. Finally, a few paragraphs down we see a feature/review clip of 'Rogues'. It was in the May 9, 1936 edition of The Moberly (Mo.) Monitor-Index and Moberly Evening Democrat. It provides a feature of star Wallace Ford's life and then seques into a positive review. 


Enough reminiscing, here's the plot. Wallace Ford (Jimmy Kelly) and Barbara Pepper (as Jimmy's fiancee Marjorie Burns) are detectives heading to the Red Rock Inn to meet a justice of the peace and get hitched. "It is a dark and stormy night" with lots of whistling wind and there are quite a few eccentrics in the tavern. They include the renters, Mr. and Mrs. Jamison (Clara Kimball Young and John Elliott), a mentally-challenged handyman, Bert, (Vincent Dennis), and a collection of nervous, shady characters, including a nervous, but very beautiful Mexican lady named Gloria Rohloff (Joan Woodbury). Finally, there's also a dog, Silver Wolf, running around.

 


For reasons known only to themselves, the Jamisons deny Jimmy and Marjorie two rooms, or one if the justice of the peace arrives. The couple, who are a poor man's Nick and Nora -- for those who recall William Powell and Myrna Loy of The Thin Man series -- settle down in the lobby, which boasts a very impressive fireplace. (According to the book, Forgotten Horrors, the film was lensed at RKO-Pathe Studios, which was favored as a place for low-budget production companies that liked the fireplace as a prop)

 

Back to the film: One by one, the nervous, shady characters start getting murdered. Jimmy, with typical Wallace Ford bravado, starts to take charge of the investigation. Fiancee Marjorie, a very pretty blonde who acts a lot like Lucille Ball, tries doggedly to help her slightly sexist love interest. At first the dog is the chief suspect, but interest soon coalesces around a mysterious "Wentworth," who apparently called the endangered characters to the inn, and later a mysterious "Morgan." We soon learn that the nervous character at the inn have a history of jewel thievery.

 

That's all the plot I'll provide. This is an "old dark house" programmer, common for the era. What makes "The Rogues' Tavern" special is that it's better than the average C-movie programmer. The murders are well plotted, it' a bit goofy, Ford and Pepper are talented actors with good comic timing. My favorite lines of witty dialogue involve Pepper, after reflecting on the romantic fireplace, exclaim to Ford, "I feel so poetic, I could make love to a snowman." Ford retorts, "If that justice of the peace doesn't show up, you'll have too!"




In fact, Rogues' Tavern boasts an excellent cast. Besides Fox and Pepper, Kimball Young and Elliott were silent film stars. Woodbury wears a very slinky dress that thumbs its nose at the Hays Commission morality censors of that era. Her breasts, while not shown, are quite well defined despite being covered. The producer is Sam Katzman, who worked at Monogram with Bela Lugosi.




 

Ford starred in the legendary "Freaks" for Universal but was mostly a C- and B-movies star. He was a good actor with comic timing and may be best known for his role in the Bela Lugosi Monogram effort "The Ape Man." Woodbury was a steady actress who appeared in the Monogram film, "King of the Zombies." Pepper, who was a friend of Lucille Ball's, later in her career was a regular on Green Acres.

 

The film is fairly easy to find. It can be purchased at oldies.com and Sinister Cinema and is part of a 50-film set that can be bought cheaply. You can watch it free on the Net and it's the type of film that should pop up on Turner Classic Movies. I've been lobbying TCM to air it. The sets are better than an average C-programmer, which probably was filmed for less than $40,000.

 

The film has a lot of twists, some clever, some clumsy. It's about 10 minutes too long, particularly in the last third, with too many red herrings and static scenes. But the climax is fun, and a bizarre surprise, and the first 45 minutes are very entertaining in its mixture or murder and comedy mystery. Thanks to my friend David Grudt, of Long Beach, Calif., for providing the newspaper clips.




Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Part Three - A Nuanced Deconstruction of Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire


By Joe Gibson

The following is the third part of a larger Godzilla x Kong The New Empire review focused on act three.  You can read the first two parts here: https://planninecrunch.blogspot.com/2024/06/a-nuanced-deconstruction-of-godzilla-x.html and here: https://planninecrunch.blogspot.com/2024/06/part-two-nuanced-deconstruction-of.html

 

One-Eye reaches Skar King, who then mobilizes his army in the same amount of time it takes Trapper to examine Kong’s arm.  Trapper will then run to the HEAV, fly that to Outpost One, find Project Powerhouse, hook it up to a M.U.L.E., fly back in the M.U.L.E., hook Project Powerhouse up to Kong’s arm, evacuate the Iwi, fly back to Outpost One in the M.U.L.E. to retrieve the HEAV and then use that HEAV to find Vertacines and bring them back to Malenka in the same amount of time it will take Skar King’s army to go to Malenka.  Much of that happens after Suko sees Skar King and Shimo at the sinkhole.  That is bad.  It would be possible to re edit this to make more sense, but that did not happen.  I will not go over every moment that Skar King should have arrived, but just keep in mind that Jia has a costume change, the Iwi awaken Mothra, and Godzilla and Kong have a whole rematch as Skar King and his army cross a distance One-Eye could in the time it took Trapper to walk down to Kong and look at his frostbitten arm.

 

The novelization attempts to fix this pathing inconsistency by having the Iwi give Trapper an escort, but we have no reason to think that they would do anything except slow him down.  Within the Mothra temple ruins from earlier in the film, Trapper noticed that only the top steps were lacking moss, presumably due to use.  If the Iwi ever have any reason to leave the barrier of Malenka, it makes sense they would go as far as their irrigation system for water and also because that irrigation system leads back to their city if they get lost.  Whether or not you read into Trapper smelling rotting flesh in the tree mimic as there being previous Iwi prey caught in there, there is either no evidence the Iwi can navigate the flora fauna or evidence to the contrary.  Far more likely is a displaced Wartdog or any other animal is the carcass Trapper smelled, and, again as no one else smelled it, he might be psychic anyway. The novelization also lampshades the convenience of the armory being intact with an intact M.U.L.E. out front by having Trapper worry about it on the way over.  That does not fix that contrivance. 

 

I cannot tell which arm the blueprint of Project Powerhouse is supposed to be, so it may not be that they happened to make the correct arm needed so much as that they made both.  As for the material attributes of the Glove, Monarch would have been able to observe Kong’s ineffective punches against Godzilla and makeshift shields in the axe and that circular piece of building in Hong Kong, so there is not a great issue in the B.E.A.S.T. Glove being both a punch-enhancement and makeshift shield.  It is contrived that the Project Powerhouse B.E.A.S.T. Glove contains the necessary fluids to cure his frostbite, though, to be in best faith as possible, I will acknowledge that the only other time Monarch would have observed Kong near snow and ice was in Antarctica in GvK when they were confident he would not last long there (he did, in fact, start shivering very quickly), so it’s just an absurdly contrived failsafe rather than impossible.

 

I want to explain that there is a difference between Trapper, amid contrivances, bringing Project Powerhouse to Kong, and Nathan Lind in the previous movie detonating the last HEAV to revive Kong.  The latter came as the final escalation to a character arc based on attributes of the HEAV established at the beginning of the film, but the former comes in conveniently with very little buildup disconnected from any of the character arcs.  They are similar only in aesthetic and mark a noticeable downgrade from Wingard film to Wingard film.

 


In any case, the B.E.A.S.T. Glove and accompanying injections take Kong from a wounded, beaten animal back to a pumped up battle-ready warrior.  In the same way it got us on Kong’s side to see the Skar King win unfairly, it is very cathartic for the audience to see Kong returned to full health and strength, do better against Godzilla than before, and win the final battle against Skar’s forces.  That said, the arrival and utilization of Project Powerhouse this abruptly and riddled in contrivances weakens the structural integrity of those great moments.  This raises the question: would the film improve if Kong remained weakened through the end of the film?  In a way, this is almost the Titan Avengers or Justice League.  Skar King’s army would be an extraordinary threat for any individual monster, but Kong and Suko have already thinned out the available Red Stripes to a more manageable number with Evolved Godzilla and Mothra also available to help our good apes, this team-up stacking the odds against our villains and making the heroes look impressive.  Since Skar King is already weaker than Kong, a weakened Kong fighting him while Godzilla takes Shimo and Mothra keeps the other apes webbed up would carry more tension than the actual final fight in Rio (wherein during the scramble for the crystal, Skar King actually starts to strangle Kong, but the latter ape actually starts to get out of the chokehold, meaning he would have won regardless of Suko’s intervention) while circumventing the associated plot issues.  Trapper, as a simple Titan vet, could still just diagnose and attempt treatment of Kong to keep his character relevant (because of the previous gravity manipulation scenes, the Iwi organizing a makeshift sling for Kong would be feasible and help show this series’ previous theme of coexistence with the Titans).  Just because simple fixes are available does not mean we can afford to accept them, because the filmmakers chose not to implement them.

 


Kong goes to bring Godzilla down into the Hollow Earth, roaring at Godzilla, who hears it on Gibraltar, in Egypt.  Godzilla makes the trip to Egypt in record time, and they fight.  This would not make much sense without Godzilla King of the Monsters, which established Alpha calls by Titans can be heard across the world and that Godzilla uses a system of interconnected fast track tunnels to get all over the Earth quickly.  Just disregard that those tunnels were said to be the Hollow Earth in that film and that those tunnels have never showed up on the full Earth scans showing Hollow Earth.  Godzilla King of the Monsters underperformed in 2019, mostly due to the film’s competition, and, since Godzilla vs Kong was both in production at the same and incurred many reshoots, that film pivoted away from a lot of KOTM’s story beats.  I may write an essay about this eventually, but KOTM was full of incredibly ambitious concepts to put into the universe right before the team-up, so I find it forgivable that Wingard dropped them, especially because this new film is acknowledging them. 

 

As well as the aforementioned plot points, the KOTM “17 and counting” Titans are back including Mothra, Scylla and Tiamat (whose CGI model in this film originated in 2019), and the hints toward conflict between Monarch and the world’s governments are back (even though KOTM’s ending credits implied rather speedy resolution).  I am not sure whether or not it counts as a hint to the future of the franchise if the film is just paying lip service to previous sequel teases, but we should watch with interest in the upcoming seasons of the Apple TV+ spinoff shows and the movies to see if these ideas get further elaboration.


The fight itself is mostly well done with Kong fighting defensively and intelligently.  Both Godzilla and Kong knock each other out once and, the sand terrain saves Kong from getting his heart stopped by Godzilla stomping on him, and Mothra saves Kong from Godzilla’s atomic breath, appearing at the exact right moment.  Now, it took some time for Jia to recreate Mothra, with the bug seemingly rematerializing out of energy (the last time we had seen full-sized Imago Mothra she had dematerialized into energy to give Godzilla his Burning power-up, so not following up on the very minor KOTM end credits Mothra egg tease is forgivable), but I think it is strange that they took the time to dress Jia in Iwi garb before resurrecting their Goddess. Was it really part of the prophecy that the Iwi girl from Skull Island (undoubtedly a slightly different culture based on how long they’ve been separated) would have to fully assimilate the Hollow Earth Iwi before she could raise Mothra? Kong almost dies because Mothra did not get there sooner.  Once she is there, the three monsters stand together, making a tripartite pact against the Skar King.  There has been some confusion about the subtitle of this movie: The New Empire.  The ape kingdom is neither new, nor an empire.  It is this alliance here: Godzilla, King of the Monsters, Mothra, God Queen of the Iwi and Kong, eventual King of the Apes all aligned together.  And, of course, while we are here, people complain that Godzilla is only looking at Jia, not Mothra, when he and Mothra have deep relationship in this universe.  Godzilla does actually squint and look at Mothra after recognizing Jia, but Godzilla also had a connection with humanity in KOTM that other fans complain this movie ignored, so I am forced to conclude that to a certain extent and not even because of this film’s flaws, people will complain about it no matter what it actually does.

 


Bernie explains the Iwi gravity manipulation, and it seems feasible the way he says it.  A human society left alone long enough with gravity oddities would find a way to harness them (especially since for the past recorded history, Mothra would have been on the surface in stasis, unless this is a different Mothra, which we have no reason in film to believe).  Even so, there are larger issues with the film.

 

Skar King finally reaches Malenka and has Shimo destroy part of the organic barrier. To buy everyone time, Trapper has brought a herd of Vertacines with the HEAV, and they emerge from somewhere in Malenka.  I do not know how Trapper brought them through the organic barrier, given that both they and the barrier are bio electric.  I can only assume he navigated them through whatever hole he would have made with the M.U.L.E. (however, there is nothing at all to suggest that the Iwi didn’t just open it for him with the wheel with the B.E.A.S.T. Glove, and they cannot have done that now since Malenka is being evacuated, taking us right back to the question of how this happened).  The Vertacines are effective, but animal lover Trapper has just murdered a large population of animals by putting them up against Shimo.  There is no sense of regret for doing this, and he just continues to quip, ever the fun character.  So, at this point, I will say it.  Trapper isn’t just “not a serious person,” he is not a person.  His established attributes are expressed inconsistently, simply to keep a sense of fun in the film.  He has no arc to ground our perception of him in a lesson, and he cannot represent a wholly good paragon or mentor character because of his moments of irresponsibility that betray his character, such as the mosquito and these Vertacines.  He is arguably the worst character in this film, and it’s not necessarily close either.  Dan Stevens is a good actor with a good rapport with Adam Wingard and the rest of the cast; I just hope his writing can improve if he ever comes back. 

 

Because humor is entirely subjective, the way that I evaluate comic relief characters is if their actions and dialogue naturally come from their characters and are things they would say and do based on what we know.  Bernie is a consistent character in that he primarily reflects his conspiracy interests but also can express other emotions the way a human would (it also helps that Brian Tyree Henry based a lot of Bernie’s character on Adam Wingard’s style and mannerisms, so even the subtle parts of Bernie’s characterization have some thought behind them); whereas, I still cannot tell you what Trapper knows about the creatures he loves, how much he values them and how much that changes his actions.  Based on the idea of Trapper as the animal lover with a vested interest in Hollow Earth who knows the HEAV controls and also might have some psychic powers, he should have stayed in Malenka, while Bernie, the guy only down here to bring back proof for his blog and who has been consistently uncomfortable with the flora, fauna and even Malenka, should have been the one to leave at the end of the film (as I’ve alluded to earlier, Bernie has some semblance of the first two thirds of an arc where he realizes he doesn’t have to provide proof for his blog and becomes enamored with Malenka’s gravity manipulation, but it does not finish, meaning he remains the character that would be most likely to leave).

 


The gravity trap activates, and Kong, Shimo, Skar King and Godzilla are all thrust around.  The HEAV also malfunctions, and Trapper has a very imprecise reaction to what has actually happened to the point where I question whether or not he is skilled enough at flying the HEAV for these scenes to work.  Nathan Lind was able to fly HEAVs in the previous movie because he had been studying Hollow Earth entry as his life’s work, and he does not pull off time sensitive maneuvers.  Trapper is a dentist, who should not have even entered Hollow Earth before, least of all have a dedicated seat in the HEAV for him to control the biomimicry.  (As for how he flew the HEAV and flipped the biomimicry switch in the backseat at the same time, it is not impossible, just something that would take more time than it is given.  The editing solution is to have his Vertacine save come much later in the anti-gravity fight.)

 


Godzilla swims through the air, which makes sense (Wingard’s Godzilla crawled like a crocodile at the end of GvK; he would thrive in a simulated ocean environment).  He smacks apes with his tail (the same tail that has evolved to have Stegosaurus-like thagomizers.  This would have been the opportunity to show those off, and the film did not).  We see Kong and Skar King figure out how to fight here, and Mothra webs up apes and saves the HEAV crew.  Now, there is no indication that any of the three apes she webs are supposed to have died. (Unlike the disappearing ape from the 4 v 1, there is no indication they would be able to break out of Mothra’s webbing.  King Ghidorah only could by having the head that got the least of it start unraveling the webs, and, even then, Godzilla still had to barrel through the building he was webbed to.  The other apes are much weaker than Kong to the point where a single point blank punch could knock a guard out in act two, and Ghidorah is stronger than Godzilla, who is stronger than Kong.)  One-Eye and Suko square off, and One-Eye is implied to die because when everything starts falling, Suko kicks him underneath a very large crystal that may or may not also be falling (even if that crystal was stationary, they are higher up than the other apes were with debris falling around them).  Shimo freezes Godzilla, and Mothra saves him, the two female monsters acting according to their best interests and Godzilla for some reason not spamming his beam.  For some reason, everything is falling slowly, so I doubt anyone is falling fast enough to inherently kill them via terminal velocity because our four lead monsters are able to swim through the vortex.

 


The monsters land in Rio, where Skar King and Shimo make it out first and start attacking.  The surface is too bright for Skar King’s cataracts, so he orders Shimo to block it out with a storm.  Godzilla and Kong arrive shortly after, and the fight is mostly Skar King vs Kong and Godzilla vs Shimo with Skar King occasionally using Shimo to get Kong on the backfoot.  Shimo swings Kong around and throws him more powerfully than Godzilla did in Hong Kong and yet Kong’s shoulder is not dislocated this time.  There is an excuse for why Godzilla chest stomping Kong in Egypt was not as effective as it was in GvK (sand as a softer terrain), but there is no such apologetic here: the monsters are not being treated with the same weight of GvK anymore (a film where Kong could jump between naval vessels). At one point in the fight, Godzilla runs through a building to tackle Shimo, and, even one film ago, going through buildings hurt Godzilla substantially but not anymore.  Godzilla, in this film, is generally impervious, meaning the stakes are somewhat lacking in all of his fights.  The film will actually show Godzilla knocked out in a moment, but it is not the focus of the scene and is not treated with more weight than his Egypt knockout to the B.E.A.S.T. Glove.

 

Shimo knocks Godzilla out by throwing him very far, so the B.E.A.S.T. Glove has to hold off Shimo’s ice breath until Godzilla wakes up and destroys the whip holding Shimo’s control crystal.  I am not convinced the glove would do better than the axe at protecting Kong, but that is what the film decided.  Based on what we can see, the glove has a lot of exposed areas, and metal itself should not do that well against cold.  There is a potential fix: when Trapper put in Kong’s tooth replacement, he talked about the strength of it being great because it was made of the same material as the vehicle heat shields.  It is very strange to me that they would design a tooth with that great of an insulator and not the glove.  If Trapper would have namedropped Project Powerhouse alongside the vehicle heat shields, that would have both given the exposition that Powerhouse exists to Trapper’s knowledge (if you add in an awkward look from Andrews towards the Vortex, also the knowledge that it is in the Hollow Earth and everyone else is more reticent than Trapper with it) and given relevant feats to the B.E.A.S.T. Glove.  Again though, it is not our place to write the film for the writer, and having Kong’s part of the final battle consist of the weapon he logically should not have received hold off the weapon that previously hurt him to a sustained degree that should be impossible rather than having Kong use his intelligence once again is contrived and actually very lazy.  I think most of the complaints against this fight are mere matters of opinion, but it does not live up to the potential of the previous fights in this film and franchise, when it easily could have been the best.

 


Skar King evades Godzilla similarly to Kong in Hong Kong, and he is very expressive when he gets his crystal back.  Suko, using Kong’s axe, is the one to destroy the crystal, finally defeating the regime that stifled and abused him.  Skar King goes right back to abusing Suko by strangling him, so Kong saves Suko, Shimo freezes Skar King, and Godzilla clears away all of Shimo’s ice with a very warm beam.  Now that the crystal is gone, it is worth saying that it needed to be better explained.  A weaker villain having a crystal that controls a dragon is a well-established trope, but in a story where said crystal is the only reason the villain wins the early encounters and is a significant part of the final fight, its parameters needed to be better established. 

 

I have not seen people make the following argument for the crystal, but I think it is inevitable, so I will address it here.  If a later film is so inclined to explore and explain this crystal, those explanations will not fix the issues with this film.  That seems obvious to me, but I also have an example.  The Heisei Gamera trilogy is regarded as the best kaiju trilogy ever made, but the second film abruptly introduces a new power for Gamera to win against Legion at the end.  Technically, the film’s context allows for that to be less damaging than the crystal here, and the third film devoting a good deal of time for that explanation keeps the trilogy’s worldbuilding intact, but on a film by film basis, it is a massive Deus ex Machina and blemish on an otherwise perfect script there.  If a later film explains the Shimo control crystal, that will help the larger Monsterverse, not this film. 

 

I have alluded to the Monsterverse’s worldbuilding and lore consistently being inconsistent as both caveats attached to praise and deflections of criticism for this film and think the topic deserves its own essay, but, basically, the retcons from film to film have sometimes stacked in improbability and other times undone each other.  There was already a systemic problem before this movie, so, while it makes the movie slightly worse, it would be unfair to emphasize it here, except insofar as some of the retcons here are worse than prior examples.

 


Kong returns to the ape kingdom, Suko finally has a smile on his face, and Shimo is no longer going to be abused.  Boots looks at his new king.  I would like to reiterate here that the minimalist aesthetic of the ape kingdom works if these other apes are meant to be less human than monkey (though Kong, at this point, is basically an absurdly large Australopithecine).  It also presents the possibility for contrast later if their culture develops under Kong, but that would raise sizable questions as to why culture did not under Skar King however long they were down there.  It will take either subsequent installments or deeper analysis than mine to come to a conclusion on whether or not this is an acceptable plot point.  If Boots is the standard average of these Hollow Earth apes, following films should flesh out his capacity for intelligence.  It also would be nice for Kong to have an ally outside of Suko in the kingdom, especially one that would have an interesting dynamic with the former guards if he gets a boost in the hierarchy.

 

Regardless, Kong’s journey was, overall, well done in this universe.  In Kong: Skull Island, he conquered the loneliness of being the last of his kind by protecting the Iwi.  Then, he lost the Iwi except one and fought to protect her, finding relics of his people, then spending all of his time searching for them until he found them, and they attacked him.  He fought tooth and nail not only to liberate his people but also redeem them by putting up with Suko’s assassination attempts because he legitimately wanted to help that child and the rest of his people.  Both of Wingard’s films especially have leveraged the inherent sympathy we get for seeing a benevolent humanoid character get hurt while chasing good goals in Kong.

 

Godzilla meanwhile returns to Rome to sleep, Mothra goes deeper into the Hollow Earth after repairing the organic barrier, and Trapper takes the HEAV and leaves Andrews, Jia and Bernie in Malenka.  Andrews is finally willing to give up Jia to the Iwi, but Jia, after this cathartic experience, thinks she can handle life with Andrews.  I am not sure why they stay in Malenka, but they do not get on the HEAV with Trapper, so how long they will stay down there is unclear.  People say that their subplot lacks stakes because there was not sufficient conflict for Jia against Andrews or cost for either of them staying or leaving.  That is wrong on both counts. 

 

The subplot’s focus is not on Jia but Andrews and her uncertainty in dealing with Jia’s worsening assimilation when Andrews is technically an outsider to Jia’s culture, adopted Jia in traumatic circumstances unexpected for both, learned Jia was keeping secrets about Kong’s sign language previously, left the Hollow Earth between films where Jia was happy to live with and study Kong, witnesses Jia spiraling out of control even with Andrews doing the best she can, and watches Jia finally at ease with the Iwi.  To say that this arc does not work because the characters are not in greater conflict is the same kind of logic that Godzilla Minus One does not work because Noriko does not take a stand against Shikishima’s treatment of their cohabitation.  There is more than one way to write a character arc; the issue with this one is Andrews’ passive nature and constant retcons to what the Iwi culture was originally.  As for the consequences, Andrews is, for reasons I still do not understand, staying down in the Hollow Earth where they cannot contact Monarch when Andrews is the main PR presence in Monarch, and the world governments will have massive issues with Monarch and the lack of Hollow Earth regulation.  Andrews just chose Jia over the entire world, and that has nothing to it except consequences.  Following films really should address it, and they don’t even need Andrews on the surface to do it: just have the governments decide to take greater action against Hollow Earth and Titan neutrality, which seems to be where the series would be going anyways after Monarch failed to evacuate Egypt and Rio.

 

While there are great moments within this final act, the overall contrivances weigh down its score considerably.  I would rate this at 3 out of 10, which brings the average score of this film a 5 out 10.  I think that is fair, but I would also be willing to go down to a 4.  The film need not be perfect for me to enjoy it, and it also need not be the worst or best film ever for its flaws and merits to matter.  Of the Monsterverse films, this is probably the low point in writing overall and yet also a high point in characterization for including Kong and Suko.  At the same time, this film had the best box office worldwide of the Monsterverse, so the momentum can carry this onward to new films.  Whether they will improve or double down, we shall see.  After Godzilla vs Megalon and Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla (1974), we got Terror of Mechagodzilla, and, after Godzilla vs Spacegodzilla, we got Godzilla vs Destoroyah.  It is entirely possible for this franchise to bounce back into better consistency, and I will watch and wait.


Edit: 7/3/2024.  The actual review is over.  I alluded to the confusing nature of what is backstory for this film and the rest of the Monsterverse based on how little this film gave us.  It turns out expanded material related to the film has given us a little more.  We should not have to rely on outside material to understand a film.  If you are uninterested in reading me try to piece together the Monsterverse timeline briefly, you do not need to read this part.



Apparently, from guidebooks and the Artbook for Godzilla x Kong, the intended explanation of events was that Godzilla beat Shimo 1,000 years in the past after she tried to destroy Malenka, trapping her down in the Hollow Earth in such a way she was restrained so that, Skar King could then, after also getting trapped down there in some nebulous time, remove a crystal from her (since the novelization indicates that is where the control crystal came from).  Because none of this is in the film (and the film itself both implies Skar King didn't have Shimo when Godzilla fought the apes in dialogue and that he did through the drawing showing him brandishing his whip the same way as in modern day in the ancient battle), the confusion I demonstrate in this review is valid, and I will not remove that speculation and analysis, since this version of events also has problems.  


Shimo is most likely supposed to have either directly or indirectly frozen King Ghidorah in the ice we find him in at the start of KOTM.  Like the crystals as a light source, that was an idea Wingard's team had and dropped late into the production, but it still probably should be counted as intent.  That finally places the ancient Ghidorah events most likely before the ancient rivalries with the apes (the implied multiple Godzillas vs multiple Kongs in GvK and shown one Godzilla vs many apes in GxK, most likely meant to be the same event now based on Skar King's familiarity with the Godzilla dorsal fin Axe Kong found in the previous film).  If it really only one was Godzilla against all of those apes (and also against Ghidorah), the mutual destruction of the Godzilla species and MUTO species that serves as the backstory for Godzilla 2014 would happen before any of that (I hope you understand my previous comments about how confusing and inconsistent the Monsterverse has always been in lore and worldbuilding).  Godzilla had an ancient society worshipping him that we see the ruins of in KOTM, and now it seems he also protected the Iwi in Hollow Earth.  This is a lot of protecting of humanity for Godzilla to be doing before Skar King wages war on the surface world (since, remember the Iwi lore in GxK is that the apes were the guardians of humanity until that happened), so that already is strange but it gets worse.


If expanded material is on the table and crucial for this film, then we have to look at the prequel comic Godzilla Dominion, and these pieces will stop fitting.  In that story, Godzilla had a previous home wherein a similar, maybe offshoot society worshipped him (the abanoned art is very similar to the KOTM temple).  Another ape, nicknamed The Rival beat him up and took his home.  This is said to be a part of Godzilla's youth, so it would be very strange for this to happen after Godzilla defeated Ghidorah in ancient times, but we are given no information on why The Rival was there.  The only reason we can even guess that The Rival would be outsed is if Skar King took control, and The Rival took on a Kong in Act Two of GxK role of failing to beat Skar King and barely escaping with his life.  (Of course, that only happens in GxK because Skar King as Shimo, and he would not yet, so this relies on Skar having a physical prime we never see.)  That is potentially fine if Skar King was working on building the Godzilla axes while everything else went down, except insofar as Skar King's age.  Shimo can't be trapped until 1000 years before GxK, which is also after Godzilla is capable of defeating creatures as strong as Shimo and Ghidorah.  Kong went from a teenager to middle aged between 1973 and 2024 (and started to gray in fur by 2027), meaning despite the fact that Skar King is framed as quite old in GxK, it is impossible for him to be old enough to kick out The Rival before Shimo attacks Malenka (but Skar King has to be the ape that turned the others to conquest from being protectors of humanity).


The only timeline I can make would go like this.  The Titans are the guardians of nature and Apes are protectors of humanity, distant past.  The MUTOs and Godzillas wipe each other out.  Some circumstance arises where Godzilla is directly worshipped by multiple groups of humanity, and a Kong invades his place of worship, which becomes ruins.  Skar King arises and should live and die in the time it takes for Godzilla to mature from being beaten by an ape to beating Ghidorah and Shimo around 1000 years ago (something needs to have happened about the apes protecting humanity since Godzilla is the one doing it now).  Skar King and company need only find one Godzilla corpse to design all of the axes and build the throne room above the Hollow Earth energy source (but Godzilla being down in the Hollow Earth activately defending against threats mean that it is a very short timeframe he will allow that, since he can sense every moment those axes are charged).  That fight has to happen, and the best faith assumption is that this all is happening in modern history just under the surface of the Earth, again, otherwise Skar King would live and die many times before this film, so that the Kongs and Iwi that get displaced to Skull Island can be as recently as possible (this also does not work with expanded material pertaining to Kong Skull Island but seems possible based on the Godzilla vs Kong novelization).  


Godzilla then has to dump Skar King in a pit where Shimo is restrained, not the apes.  I talked in the review about it making sense to drop the apes into a Shimo pit where they will not survive, but he actuallly restrained her, allowing Skar to take a crystal from her and control her.  This is strange.  Even though Shimo was a destroyer by nature, if we take into account Dominion and the end of GxK, he has leniency for destroyers (he helps out destroyer cephalopod Titanus Na Kika, and of course lets Shimo go after her control is broken).  That seems like the opposite of what he should have done, since, outside of one attack on Malenka, Shimo was an incidental ally, freezing Ghidorah, while Skar King and the apes would not only resemble the rival he hates but have harnessed weapons of at least one fallen Godzilla (technically, the set that made the axes could be Godzilla's own, but then he would have even more reason to kill them).  This is the most workable order I can contrive, but Legendary would need to make the appropriate retcons or make a Monsterverse film that references no ancient backstory.


While this is all a mess, adding back in the prequel comic Godzilla Dominion mitigates one perceived issue with Godzilla x Kong The New Empire.  In that comic, Tiamat nearly kills Godzilla after he tries to go back to the home The Rival destroyed (the reason he is finally going back is that his KOTM home got blown up in that film). Tiamat also looks different once she reappears in GxK, meaning that from Godzilla's perspective, she was already evolving in her GxK home, meaning she was most likely planning on a rematch.  People complain that Godzilla kills Tiamat in this movie, but, from every angle, it is the kind of thing he would justify without character assassination, especially because she came the closest of any KOTM lesser Titan to killing him.


As I have been implying, this mess is not solely because of Godzilla x Kong but the entire Monsterverse adding things that would have been impossible in the world of Godzilla 2014 and never officially reconciling them.  Consequently, it has been best to ignore the novelizations and prequel comics and just focus on the films.  But since this film makes that impossible with cut content, then it should hold up to all of it or at least as much of it as possible.

Saturday, June 29, 2024

Part Two - A Nuanced Deconstruction of Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire



By Joe Gibson

The following is the second part of a larger Godzilla x Kong The New Empire Review focused on act two.  A link to the first part can be found here: https://planninecrunch.blogspot.com/2024/06/a-nuanced-deconstruction-of-godzilla-x.html

 

Act two begins with Kong encountering the scouting party as they are returning to the Hollower Earth.  In it are Suko, a young monkey Kong takes on as a son, One-Eye, an older ape that is low on the hierarchy but determined to rise in the ranks by being as loyal as he can to Skar King and two guards, presumably meant to keep those two in check.  Kong encounters Suko first, confusing through the mist Suko to be a much larger ape than he actually is.  When Suko reveals himself to Kong, Kong lowers his weapon and tries to touch fingers with the child.  This is where the greatest subversion of the film happens.  From the marketing, everyone expected Suko to be the token cute baby character, but he is actually a jerkish bastard, biting Kong’s finger and generally being a feral pill.  He will take an active role in the fight, but his appearance to Kong was meant as a distraction and trap.  As Kong chases after Suko, One-Eye comes from the back and the guards from the sides.

 



Kong loses his weapon as the guards hold him down but uses a rock to hit one of them off him and navigates One-Eye’s attack into the other.  While that one is down, the first has recovered, swinging a club as One-Eye grabs Kong’s axe.  Suko is readying himself to leap and attack Kong’s face, which will happen after Kong disarms the soldier and One-Eye back to back, knocking the armed soldier into the one that is just getting back up.  At this point in the battle, all five characters have consistently been taking the proper actions one would expect in a fight, rather than just taking turns as happens in so many modern fight scenes.  Suko’s attack blindsides Kong, but he adjusts by grabbing Suko to use as a weapon, knocking out the other three apes.  

 

The two soldiers recover, and Kong beats down one of them, with the other attacking but falling off the cliff.  Kong rescues the fallen soldier, who retrieves one of their weapons, prompting Kong to kick him off the cliff.  The other guard ape has disappeared, and that is the first major issue of this part of the film.  We do not see his unconscious body anywhere, suggesting he recovered from Kong’s assault but then chooses not to fight. However, Kong was distracted and physically by the Cliffside, and that guard could have killed him there.  With both guards gone, One-Eye retreats, and Suko hides in a tree, where Kong finds him.  Interestingly, it seems Suko and One-Eye did not have weapons during the start of this fight.  Kong notices that and offers Suko one of the knives.  Suko refuses, not trusting Kong but also unable to escape him unless he can get the big guy killed.

 

Andrews looks at the footage from the Outpost One camera at the ape that destroyed it, presumably One-Eye, when the electrical disturbance SOS happens again, knocks out the HEAV controls, and Jia senses the approximate location in a ridge.  Bernie’s motivation for going into Hollow Earth is to document his findings and prove his importance to trolls on the internet, and, 40 minutes in, this is the start of the scenes that will cut to him filming a mock documentary.  His arc in regards to that never exactly finishes, but it brings him closer to Trapper for scenes of comic relief and also works to explain Mikael’s increasing disdain for the pair of them. Among the comic relief bits is Trapper allowing a mosquito to bite him, which could start any number of disease outbreaks.

 


Trapper senses something wrong near a tree mimic, and Mikael is frustrated but asks Trapper what is wrong and checks his own sensors, still clearly annoyed but rational.  Trapper proceeds to insult Mikael and offer no real answers for what is wrong, prompting harsh words from Mikael.  Bernie, coming to Trapper’s aid, starts a freakout from Mikael, which alerts the conveniently placed tree mimic to food.  As a tree suddenly swallows Mikael, I am left to reflect on a character with a very small role but genuinely good character progression scene to scene.  Trapper, meanwhile, after the group has run away, indicates that the tree mimic cannot follow them that far, revealing he knew what it was the entire time and somehow did not notice it right behind Mikael.  This is the start of my issues with Trapper.  He is an expert on the Vertacines and tree mimics but only insofar as the plot demands. Bernie actually does react realistically to the traumatic death.

 

As Godzilla hunts after Tiamat, Hampton talks to a submarine crew following him to learn more information, and they have a file on Tiamat to pull up.  Once again, this is good integration of understandable exposition.  Tiamat, it turns out, is Titan 19 of at least 23 active, sitting on the largest energy stockpile in the world and an aggressive destroyer.  People criticize Godzilla evicting and killing her for the energy.  These same people missed the opening credits where it showed many Titan events already happening and did not consider that from Godzilla’s perspective Tiamat would be planning something by living near an energy stockpile.  There is no issue with Godzilla being as harsh to Tiamat as he is.

 

Jia finds man-made Iwi ruins, and hopefully Trapper is regretting the incident with the mosquito.  Andrews will identify the ruins as Iwi, which she should not be able to do given the difference in architecture that would arise from hundreds or thousands of years of isolation between the Hollow Earth Iwi and Skull Island Iwi.  That said, the larger issue with the scene is that we as the audience have no idea how far the group has traveled from the HEAV or if they even know how to find their way back since they ran off in a hurry from the tree mimic.  Later payoffs will require Trapper to run back to that HEAV from even farther in record time.  Now, the film will introduce the idea that the Iwi, Godzilla, Mothra and the great apes have some level of psychic energy that varies but allows them to know what is going on.  Technically speaking, the film implies Trapper to have this as well with him sensing the tree mimic instead of seeing it, sensing the camouflaged Iwi village guards later and sensing the Iwi psychic energy, but that does not fix the issue, since his abilities are vague, more of a Spider-Sense to danger than premonitions to guide the way.  So any farther into uncharted territory these characters go, the larger the issue is.

 



The characters take a few steps to ruins that double as a place of worship for Mothra and the Iwi’s irrigation hub.  Trapper notes that only the closest steps lack moss, and he clears away moss on a Mothra mural, seemingly the same Mothra mural from China in Godzilla King of the Monsters.  With that in mind, Andrews’ surprise at seeing Iwi architecture does not make sense, since, implicitly, the ancient Chinese are now Iwi too if they perfectly replicated unique Iwi drawing.  The other Mothra temple has a unique Mothra mural to these, meaning this issue was entirely avoidable.

 

A small glowing butterfly appears on the irrigation button for Jia to press.  No one else reacts to the insect, so one could make the case that this is a spiritual encounter for Jia since she will eventually be Mothra’s tether to full return.  However, there is nothing in the film to point towards that reading, and it is unnecessary since much of that meaning is already conveyed.  This insect is Mothra, specifically Fairy Mothra, a form Mothra could either send out as an emissary or collapse into a bunch of in the 90s films.  This reference is well integrated into the plot, being foreshadowing for Mothra’s return requiring psychic spiritual energy.  Many people criticize this turn, but Mothra was already spiritual in Godzilla King of the Monsters.  Following Fairy Mothra’s instructions, Jia starts the water, which leads very quickly, only past a couple turns, to an organic barrier that hides the Iwi village.  Jia rips open part of the barrier, Andrews and Trapper help her, and Bernie just witnesses this, slightly uncomfortable.  That sentence is the best single encapsulation of their subplot I am now realizing.

 

Returning to Kong and Suko, they observe a flock of Warbats, large winged snakes from the previous film, flying overhead.  In Godzilla vs Kong, they traveled in pairs but now travel in much larger packs.  This could either be an inconsistency with grave consequences (if the previous film had held consistent to this new pack structure, Kong would have died) or merely meant to foreshadow the kingdom of Kongs.  In Godzilla vs Kong, there was no indication of more than two Warbats existing anywhere, and Kong killed them.  But now the subterranean realm shows off many more, just like the previously thought extinct Kong species.  

 

We also see Hellhawks from the previous film, now in all colors of the rainbow, but the scaling is far more difficult to determine here than with the Leafwings earlier.  Hellhawks are supposed to be roughly human sized, but they are too far away from the one hundred foot Suko and trees or 300 foot Kong to be able to tell.  Honestly, they look far larger.  The original plan for the Hellhawks in Godzilla vs Kong was to have one far larger specimen, and I cannot tell whether this is a retcon to return to that scaling or not.

 




Suko is clearly uncomfortably leading Kong and wastes very little time leading him to water he knows contains the deadly Drownviper.  To convince Kong to enter the lake, he dances around in it, incidentally washing off Skar King’s red paint from his chest.  All of the other apes we have seen thus far have paint on their chest if lower in the hierarchy or on their face if a guard.  The Drownviper attempts to eat Kong, and Suko attempts to flee, but Kong foils both.  Suko expects Kong to beat him, but he is just retrieving his axe.  Suko trips on both the axe and a rock.

 

Kong, having chopped up the Drownviper is enjoying a meal.  Suko begs for food, but, even as Kong gives it, Suko is distrustful.  This is a good way to show off how hard and uncaring life is under Skar King, since Suko does not have the basic need of a child to trust adults yet.  Skar King is introduced very late into this film, but the conflict between him and Kong is present even now.  Kong offers the food to Suko, expecting nothing and not planning to hurt the child.  Suko eats it and finally begins to trust Kong, sitting a little closer to him.  As I alluded to, this film explores fatherhood with this relationship since the authoritarian control of Skar King contrasts with the authoritative parenting of Kong, and we see the change in Suko from those different influences, all done without words.

 


Godzilla attacks Tiamat.  Again, the fight is in character for both parties involved, and the submarine crew’s exposition is reasonable.  Now that there have been two very short fights involving Godzilla traveling across the world, it is worth labeling this what it is.  While Kong is adopting a son and freeing his people, the other side to this movie is Godzilla’s “Little Final War.”  In Godzilla Final Wars, he fought most of his 60s and 70s supporting cast in extremely quick bouts that did not seem to increase in difficulty or relevance.  While there are issues with how that film handled it, here, it is a valid way to communicate Godzilla’s strength, tease that the final opponents must be even stronger, and worldbuild that there are other monsters attacking at all times.

 

Returning to the human characters, it is annoying how unclear it is how far the characters have traveled in the Iwi village, because, again, Trapper will have to run this distance later and make multiple trips to Outpost One and back in a very short timeframe. In any case, he senses Iwi guards that bring them into the village, called Malenka in the novelization, at spear point and take a special interest in Jia, who they connect with telepathically.  It is a little odd to have the Iwi’s psychic nature both include the ability to read minds and have premonitions, but that vague generalized powerset is what makes me believe Trapper is meant to have some degree of it with his Ace Ventura sixth sense.  By this point, Andrews and Jia have shed their jackets, either indicating it was hot the whole time down there or that all of the running they did has overheated them.  I still do not like that Trapper took off his jacket far earlier, seemingly only to get bitten by that mosquito and doom the Iwi people to disease.

 

Malenka’s pyramids are made of quartz, and they will use other chemicals and minerals to shift them, including something that may be mercury later on.  In Malenka are several vortices to the surface world, and this is where it is appropriate to talk about the retcon that has just occurred.  In Godzilla vs Kong, each Hollow Earth vortex was a tunnel with a clear point A and point B.  In that film, it was a little contrived that the energy source for Hollow Earth was directly underneath Hong Kong, but in this film, Malenka can lead both to Rio and Egypt.  Introducing the concept of a Hollower Earth and stating at the beginning of the film that they only explored less than five percent of Hollow Earth in Kong’s earlier film trek from Antarctica adjacent to Hong Kong adjacent means that geographically, it is impossible for these to still be tunnels.  The softer terrain of the Egypt fight will allow Kong to survive his rematch with Godzilla, and there is no effect of Rio’s terrain so the fix would be just setting both surface fights in Egypt.

 

The Iwi Queen emerges with less than an hour remaining, so, again I consider her a tertiary character.  She views Jia’s memories and shows our cast to both the Iwi beacon’s source and a second Mothra temple where Andrews can translate the Iwi script and Jia’s sign language to give exposition about Skar King, Godzilla, and a prophecy about Jia reviving Mothra.  If you accept what the film is saying about telepathy, in broad strokes, there is no large issue with this.  The exposition explains that Hollow Earth was on good terms with the surface world and that the apes protected humanity until Skar King took over, wanting to reach the surface world.  Once Godzilla sealed them away, there was no real reason for the Iwi to keep isolating from the rest of the world, but Mothra’s people in the Toho movies often had isolationist policies, so it is not the worst convenience in the world.  The previous Iwi SOSes that Monarch had on file corresponded to previous Titan events, and so, it makes sense that the Iwi are not omniscient and might have thought their great prophecy was coming to pass then.  The specific list has some issues, but it is not irreconcilable.  Godzilla, in the distant past, beat and imprisoned both the army of apes and Shimo, the frost Titan, seemingly in separate fights.  Now, granted, it makes a lot of sense to dump the apes into what you have already turned into a Shimo pit.  Godzilla would have no reason to believe Skar King would somehow be able to tame Shimo, and the Iwi must have informed him that Skar King now has, since the film shows Godzilla’s evolution corresponding to higher heat output.  This whole timeline has some issues, but the Monsterverse has always retconned the timeline in each installment, so we will have to wait and see if anyone can coherently organize all of the events we now know have happened.

 

Suko finally leads Kong to the ape kingdom, past a bone bridge of a creature so massive, Kong’s 300-foot stature means nothing (This is the most egregious scale issue in the film).  More importantly, they reach the kingdom, where well-fed guards command emaciated slaves to move rocks, infants play in the background, and the severed heads of dissidents remain on pikes as warning.  All of the guards have a cocky tempestuous personality, but the Red Stripe apes that receive characterization in this scene are One-Eye, Suko’s caretaker and weak slave Boots (so named by Wingard because he gets kicked for dropping a boulder), as well as The Skar King himself.  Kong is horrified to see his people enslaved and helps Boots, knocking out a guard.  Suko is incredibly stressed, and his caretaker attempts to comfort and later protect him from the Skar King.  Interestingly, once Suko has located his caretaker, he separates from Kong.  One-Eye notices all of this and alerts Skar King to Kong’s presence.  Seeing the abuse he suffers at the hands of Skar’s guards contextualizes why One-Eye is so driven to be so dependable and rise through the ranks.  The film definitely could have and debatably should have done a lot more to show how the ape society functions, but it is not impossible for negative alpha males to maintain control of chimpanzee groups if they have strong allies and control the hierarchy and breeding in the real world, which we do see in this film with Skar’s harem and Red Stripe hierarchy.

 


Skar King makes a grand entrance, paired with Suko’s nervous screeching.  Skar King shows off a lot of personality as an abusive dictator who strikes poses to look cool and mocks Kong for having a silver tooth.  When he notices Suko, he attempts to punish him and then kills his caretaker, when they try to step in.  Kong does not grab his axe until Skar King threatens Suko, indicating that he would have been willing to reason with the mad king, which is very interesting.  If the film were not structured under an ideological conflict between Skar and Kong within Suko from the beginning, it probably could have included scenes of these two bonding before Kong realizes the flaws in the kingdom.  People proposing this change without also rewriting Suko’s previous scenes are not improving the movie however.  Skar King killing Suko’s only other caregiver while staring Kong in the eyes enrages him, and they fight.  This fight is just as well choreographed as the previous 4 v 1 except here no other apes are unaccounted for since Skar King tells them all not to intervene.  One-Eye is the first one to start pounding the floor tribally, once again attempting to be Skar King’s most enthusiastic soldier.  The death of Suko’s caretaker represents a turning point in the boy’s arc.  He bonded with Kong out of necessity before, but now Skar King is pushing him by removing the only other person Suko had left.  From this point on, it makes perfect sense why Suko will work with Kong, and this was expressed all without dialogue contained to the second act of the film.  Suko will help Kong find the exit, set off Kong’s trap to wipe out Skar King’s hunting party (save One-Eye on account of using a guard as a shield), and help Kong to walk, perfectly coordinated partners just like Andrews and Jia.

 


Kong’s fight with the red king is interesting, since Skar’s agility and use of a whip initially catches him off guard, but Kong adjusts and wins the fight.  Skar King then reveals his Shimo crystal and nearly kills Kong by having Shimo give his arm frostbite and aim her ice beam after him.  One of the common criticisms of this film is Skar King being as weak as he is, but this is a benefit to the character writing.  This scene is so unfair that Skar King is instantly hateable, and we rally behind Kong.  Back to back, Skar King kills a defenseless ape, cheats in a fight, steals Kong’s axe and abuses an ice lizard.  This is effective characterization, especially when the effects of his actions have also been shown clearly through Suko and One-Eye.



The other apes chasing Kong out of the subterranean realm to an area where Kong has placed traps is a rather large problem.  Not enough time passes in Malenka to allow for Suko and Kong’s previous path to be tread again.  All that happens is that the Iwi get back to working their jobs and invite Jia into ritual play.  Others have suggested that Suko took Kong the long way and there is a more direct shorter path.  That doesn’t work to fix this because Kong would not know any other path.  Suko only has time to point to an exit of the cavern before the hunting party is chasing Kong.  Kong kills a couple guards with his traps, but One-Eye notices the larger trip wire and avoids it until Suko activates that trap on them anyway, and One-Eye only survives by using another guard as a shield.  It would seem that One-Eye got a promotion for his efforts, as he now carries a knife.  The wounded Kong gets from the sinkhole to Malenka in only a few minutes, but, come act three, the remainder of Skar King’s army will take far longer to get there.


Trapper calls out Bernie for wanting to publish his documentary for the consequences it will have for the Iwi, and this is the last that plotline is mentioned.  The film will show that only Trapper leaves Malenka at the end, but if Bernie were anything more than a secondary character, he would need proper resolution here.

 

Kong and Suko have somehow found the Iwi.  In the film, they say Kong must have sensed Jia, but, given that he lived with the Iwi for decades, it is more likely he sensed a mass of the telepathic people he once protected.  The issue arises insofar as he has never sensed them before when they are presumably close to the sinkhole, and he has been looking for people or apes to protect this entire time.  I also do not know how the Iwi can open and close their organic barrier with a wheel, but that has to happen for One-Eye to see Malenka’s vortices.  One-Eye will run back to Skar King much quicker than his army will reach Malenka.  Kong collapses in front of the humans with Suko, and Skar King mobilizes his forces to attack.  This is the darkest hour in the film, Kong thoroughly beaten and the bad guys with everything they need to win as Suko runs off.

 


Act two progresses Kong’s journey but really serves to show off Suko’s character arc extraordinarily well.  Rather than expecting the audience to enjoy the cute infantilized mascot, Adam Wingard and company crafted a dynamic character that the audience can hate, learn about and then love over the course of an hour.  It is for that reason that I would pick Suko as the best character in this film, a nearly flawless gremlin-to-hero journey that perfectly encompasses the themes this movie is trying to portray.  However, at the same time, the larger problems with this film are starting to set in, ones that will affect much of the third act, so I would rate this third a 5 out of 10.


Part Three will release in three days.