It only takes one giant monster to destroy a city. Get two giant monsters together, and they’ll destroy the city twice as quickly while they battle each other for supremacy — and they likely won’t even notice where their rampage takes place, the devastation they cause, or the lives they take. Which raises the question: Why is a single giant monster in a movie terrifying, but a movie where two of them fight so much fun?
It’s weird when you think about it, because humanity doesn’t end up less annihilated while Godzilla fights one of his gargantuan foes. Cities still fall; countless lives are still lost. But somehow the tragedy fades away when this is a result of Godzilla taking on, say, King Ghidorah, the three-headed dragon and main antagonist of the newest sequel, Godzilla: King of the Monsters. It’s like Tokyo (or wherever, but often Tokyo) stops being a city of living, breathing, helpless people, and gets turned into a giant MMA ring. It’s the reason why Godzilla and his brethren — often referred to by their Japanese name, kaiju — quickly transitioned from being singular agents of destruction to part of an ensemble.
In fact, after Godzilla made his debut in 1954, courtesy of Japan’s Toho Studios, he fought the Ankylosaurus-inspired monster Anguirus the very next year in Godzilla Raids Again. From there on, with the exception of the 2016 Japanese reboot Shin Godzilla and the execrable 1998 U.S. adaptation by Roland Emmerich, Godzilla has never lacked for a giant co-star through 35 movies. Clearly, fights between titans are what people want to see. The question is why.
Of course, there’s enjoyment to be had watching one giant monster — or giant monster collectives, like the ants of Them! — try to kill us. People love disaster movies. A massive creature roams about the land, callously destroying human civilization, as implacable and dispassionate as an earthquake or tsunami. We’re ostensibly there to watch the human characters try to survive the destruction and defeat the threat, but that’s not why we…