SPOILERS to follow for Godzilla vs. Kong
On a superficial level, a giant-monster movie like Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) could easily be dismissed as mindless spectacle. Even as a lifelong Godzilla fan, I freely admit that the plot of this latest entry in the franchise is simply bonkers! The suspension of disbelief required to be immersed in the action will likely be unsustainable for less forgiving moviegoers. Most of the human cast is superfluous. Their only task is to provide the exposition necessary to contextualize the intermittent monster battles. Despite all this, I heartily enjoyed the film. Like the previous “Monsterverse” installments, Godzilla (2014), Kong: Skull Island (2017), and Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), this movie hit the sweet spot of nostalgia for someone who grew up on a steady diet of Japanese giant-monster (kaiju) films and other assorted “creature features.”
Surprisingly, a closer analysis of the themes and subtext of Godzilla vs. Kong reveals some unexpected connections with the teachings of Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical letter Laudato Si’, which stresses the human responsibility to care for nature. Godzilla vs. Kong is continuing an established franchise tradition of environmentalist commentary. In the film that started it all, Gojira (1954), the radioactive mutant dinosaur is a metaphor for the human and environmental toll of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as the hydrogen bomb tests then being conducted by the United States on remote Pacific atolls. In the infamously psychedelic Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971), Godzilla battles the Smog Monster, a literal incarnation of marine pollution. In a more recent Japanese entry in the series, Shin Gojira (2016), the plot is an obvious allegory for the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and its aftermath.