“The Myths Are Real.”


Godzilla Vs. Kong. “The myths are real.” The Jane Goodall character (Ilene Andrews played by Rebecca Hall) in the new film says this in the trailer, released yesterday or so – forgive me fans of the franchise for not having all the technicalities and terminologies exactly correct. But Hall is also gifted with the line, delivered with just the right amount of panache and finesse and cosmically foreboding countenance, “It’s Godzilla.” I thought, boy, you’re reading a script and you come across this part and you must think, okay (I don’t care who you are) this is the line of my career. If I do nothing else this is what I’m going to be remembered by. Or not. I mean, if the movie sucks, probably not. But for a moment or two, you have to think, how to nail this?

I’m a fan of Godzilla, too. I’m of the generation who literally grew up watching the old Godzilla movies or Spiderman cartoons or any of the other superhero and Warner Bros. and cartoon series. All the cartoons. The Three Stooges. Our Gang. The Flintstones. And with the exception of the Warner Bros. stuff – Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Foghorn Leghorn and all that – I recall never really enjoying any of it, though, as kids will do, I watched it all just the same. This is a quirk of childhood, of course, this attraction to anything with even a whiff of what might be called animation. Animals. Cartoons. People of all ages acting silly. It’s weird. Or, Wyrd. And advertisers, toy makers, video game creators, of course, all still attempt to cater to children and to this day I can’t grasp what it is that attracts a kid to that thing versus another except a general unhinged tastelessness, frivolity, lunacy and unselfconscious adventurousness.

But Godzilla reigned supreme. There was Ultraman and Gamera, too, all very freaky and disturbing and spellbinding in their loony Kaiju manner but they all seemed, in the end, a pale imitation of the king of all monsters. Perhaps it had something to do with Godzilla being in the movies – even as a child I recall the sense of gravity and substance that seemed to distinguish proper film making from the crass aspects of television. Kids are indeed capable of discernment; it’s just that they somehow seemed compelled to consume all the garbage adults through at them anyway.

Meanwhile, I have memories of how magical the world seemed to have become when, perhaps annually (I don’t recall and I haven’t done the research) the television seemed suddenly devoted to catering to the interests of Godzilla fans. There would be an entire week of after school broadcasts of the Godzilla films. It seemed somebody out there – those ineffable beings who were responsible for programming t.v. shows (who were these people?) – for whatever reason became keen, ever so briefly, to give us kids what we really wanted. Unhindered, full on access to Godzilla films, one after the other. Perhaps it never even really happened that way but that’s indeed how I remember it way back in the nineteen seventies. That is to say, I recall the experience even now as a strangely thrilling, direct connection between my wild imagination and the dull predictability and nagging insecurity that defined childhood.

Such is the power of myth. There have been examples in my own experience that seemed at the time to wholly supplant Godzilla, to render my little monster movie encounters as trite and corny and nothing more than quaint. Star Wars, for example. Especially the first two films, the mythology of which is fully functional, of course, in terms of awe, cosmology, sociology and pedagogical/supporting psychology. Whether Lucas deliberately intended to render the films as an expression of his reading of Campbell or whether he discovered soon afterwards that he had created something that mirrored Campbell’s conclusions and then rightly, to Lucas’s credit, sought the man out isn’t as important as the remarkably enduring mythos of that franchise. The idea of “the force” strikes me now as keenly attached to the modern idea of the so-called “spiritual without being religious” stance. Hey, whatever works; whatever gets you through, whatever helps you connect, participate in this world and endure outside of appropriating the freedoms of others and otherwise being a tyrant – whatever fuels your humanity and keeps you properly on the adventure – I’m all for it. Whatever provides for the experience of being properly alive. Mythology will find a way to be relevant.

I must admit that I haven’t been watching the Godzilla films since I don’t remember when. HWG, however, remains a staunch scholar of the genre and keeps me indirectly informed but in 2019 when I was enduring yet another miserable big-job, hotel-motel-make-you-wanna-cry[1] business trip (ugh, my biggest salary ever and, of course, my worst nightmare), this time to a little town in Ohio where the hotel was within a block of a movie theater showing Godzilla: King of the Monsters, I had no inclination to see it. The off-putting, plot-appropriating, overdriven CGI of all those films notwithstanding, the mythology just seemed tired. Contrived. In mythography terms: dysfunctional.

But this 2021 film? Somehow it’s got the vibe. As much as I return to the weight and mythological substance and quirky majesty of the first film Gojira, it seems to me that in 2021 the Kaiju mythology has been reenergized. How? Why? So much to discuss. Let me just suggest to begin with that (1) there are cave paintings – the deep past and, (2) the little girl, deaf I think, possesses a miniaturized Kong, a Kong doll that is apparently also a talisman, as these things so often are (an object of our confection?).

In any case (and I apologize for the brevity of this post but the day job beckons) when a film manages the magic trick of rekindling the psychology of a mythology – stirs you and strikes at your core – and gets you off your seat and makes you want to scream and yell and pump your fist at the images, well, I’m there. This is participation in the myth. This is a form of ritual. And it speaks to why the reviewers of the trailer on Youtube.com seem keen to voice their longing to see this film in theaters. As opposed to merely in their living room. Because Godzilla is nothing if not a cultural mythology.

King Kong? I never identified with the character except by way of the original 1933 film which possesses its own undeniable charm. But Kong was never that frightening to me. Tragic, yes. The weird beauty and the beast Fay Ray thing and hubris and greed of man transgressing Nature and all that, it’s good stuff. And the image of Kong clinging to the top of the Empire State Building with the biplanes terrorizing him? Oh, yeah, that’s undeniably affecting mythology. But I never “got” the connection filmmakers have been trying to make between Kong, a mutated ape of sorts, and Godzilla who is a manifestation. God versus King is an apt comparison that captures the nature of the dilemma. That is, no king can compete with a god.

But here I’m spiraling into analysis and that’s not the point of this post. I’m not the big G expert. But I am keen to follow the mythology and to analyze, even intellectualize the amazing relevance of this now iconic (and archetypal?) king of all monsters.

If you’ve watched any of the reviews, the “unboxings,” as it were, of the new trailer where folks are filming themselves reacting to the scenes, the affecting images as they unfold, it’s an amazing psychology-of-mythology study – do you want to know what awe looks like? Well, look at their faces! All in. One-hundred-percent investment and suspension of disbelief. Transported. Identification. We see… what? Everything that is going on in a person’s head that manifests itself in this unhindered stimulus response is fascinating to me. Film yourself watching the Godzilla Vs. Kong trailer and get a glimpse into the divinity within us all.

More on this to be certain – the film doesn’t drop until March? OMG. Meanwhile, I haven’t even begun to attempt to unravel the mythology of Big G.

[1] “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock and Roll)”, AC/DC, from the album, High Voltage, 1974.