Ranked

Every MonsterVerse Film, Ranked

As Godzilla vs. Kong arrives on digital platforms, we cast our gaze back to this mega franchise's hits and misses to date...

Godzilla has been a consistent icon in pop culture for close to 70 years, ever since he first appeared in the original 1954 Toho flick as a giant metaphor for our increasingly dangerous relationship with all things radioactive. Since then, there have been countless films of varying quality, but let's face it: our obsession with this giant lizard has rarely dimmed across numerous decades.

In 2014, Legendary Pictures unveiled a new version of Godzilla that seemed poised to kick off a new, somewhat seriously-minded franchise about the “King of the Monsters.” Thus, it was eventually and appropriately christened the “MonsterVerse” (they were not messing around), promising interconnected, Marvel-like stories of giant Titans and the petty, blandly-drawn humans forced to grapple with them.

This week, the fourth MonsterVerse picture, Godzilla vs. Kong, has launched onto home viewing platforms, drawing together these two icons of this rebooted franchise for the very first time. To coincide, we look back at the explosive movies so far in order to ask: which one reigns supreme?

 

4. Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2018)

Where to watch it: Various digital platforms

It's hard to think of a film that exemplifies the worst traits of the modern blockbuster than Godzilla: King of the Monsters. A incomprehensible, meaningless swirl of CGI, strung together with the most overwritten but somehow snooze-inducing narrative, set mostly inside darkened control rooms. This movie is packed with endless, meaningless talk, the script laced with terrible, generic lines of dialogue, and empty human characters. The monster battles – of which there are an excessive amount, even for a movie based around them – are impossible to make out, while the direction itself borders on incompetent (a main character dies in this movie and it’s barely noticeable). Two hours plus is made to feel closer to six, as the movie piles on more and more but only succeeds in making itself less coherent. If you can make it through this film in one, continuous sitting, hat's off to you. A disaster.

 

3. Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)

Where to watch it: Various digital platforms

The newest entry in the MonsterVerse (and maybe the last?) is an improvement on its predecessor in every sense: while it doesn't manage to jettison the faceless human entities who proved detrimental to King of the Monsters, it succeeds in the most important aspect: the iconic showdown of its title. Director Adam Wingard – best known for his clever and subversive genre flicks – proves a more anonymous filmmaker here, but he at least ensures the throw-downs between Godzilla and Kong are coherent, imaginative, and thrilling. This is a very weird movie that completely sheds any trace of the 2014 Godzilla's attempt to treat the Lizard King with any seriousness, throwing in an unexpected, underground fantasy dimension and giving Kong a giant, magical axe as a weapon. Somehow, it isn't quite trashy enough: the script is basically abysmal, and the performances are too straight-laced and lacking in the necessary self-awareness. That said, Kong does hurl a jet fighter at Godzilla like a dart, so who's to complain? (read our full review).

2. Godzilla (2014)

Where to watch it: Various digital platforms

I had plenty of reservations about this movie when I first saw it in 2014 – and still do. Yet, a recent rewatch put things into perspective – or perhaps it was mere exposure to the soul-crushing spectacle of King of the Monsters that made this one seem almost artful in its execution. Monsters and Star Wars: Rogue One filmmaker Gareth Edwards helms this reboot with a reverence for his titular lizard that's admirable in an age of soulless blockbusters. Godzilla is, admittedly, a messy and convoluted film, with far too much “plot” and not enough Godzilla. But where this one really succeeds is in the way it builds the entire movie around the idea of scale. Godzilla feels huge in this outing, as Edwards' decision to shoot most of the action from street level, from the perspective of the tiny, insignificant humans just trying not to get squashed, pays dividends. This movie retains a grand majesty that's lacking from more recent outings, and features some genuinely breathtaking sequences (the skydiving scene stands as an overall franchise highlight). Godzilla isn't as fun as it should be, but it sure leaves an impression.

 

1. Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Where to watch it: Various streaming platforms

It would be obtuse to pretend that Kong: Skull Island is a movie without problems (its thinly-veiled attempt as an allegory for the Vietnam War doesn't really work), but for my money this is still the most plainly enjoyable of the four MonsterVerse features to date. To actually sit down and sit through, this is the entry that offers the most entertainment across its two-hour runtime. Channeling the eerie, Vietnam-based antics of Apocalypse Now, Kong: Skull Island finds a crew of ragtag soldiers and their associates – Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson – stranded on the titular island and facing off against the God-like ego of Kong. Here, the movie treats the entire cast of characters more like Kong's playthings, and so it has the advantage of never appearing to be high-minded about its ridiculous premise. Instead, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts settles for outright pulpy fun, packing his film with thrilling set-pieces, actual jokes, and actors – Sam Jackson and John C. Reilly best among them – who really know how to chew the scenery and inject some life into this sort of picture. It makes all the difference.

Godzilla vs. Kong is now streaming on various digital platforms.

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