‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ is an Absolute Blast
The fourth entry in the MonsterVerse is the “fast food” blockbuster we need right now.
Wow, was it fun seeing a big, dumb blockbuster in a packed theater! And by packed, I mean at fifty percent capacity, because…well…you know the situation by now. The experience was something both myself and the rest of the movie-going population have been yearning for since March of last year, and I can’t think of a better movie to bring us back together than Godzilla vs. Kong.
The fourth film in Legendary’s “MonsterVerse,” Godzilla vs. Kong pits two of the most famous movie monsters against each other in an epic battle of fisticuffs. And it delivers exactly what fans want. A chunky lizard with bad breath fighting a gigantic ape with a glowing battle axe in the middle of a neon-lit city that they reduce to shambles. Does the movie care about the countless human casualties that are caused by this destructive brawl? No. Does the audience?
The truth is, Godzilla vs. Kong is a movie that doesn’t concern itself with making a lot of sense. It has one purpose: to entertain. And it does that in spades. Gone is the grim, foreboding atmosphere of Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla (2014). GvK is a gonzo, no holds barred trip into sci-fi camp. Director Adam Wingard is clearly having a blast, treating both of his main characters with the utmost reverence. The humans in the movie? They don’t bode as well.
It’s an admittedly stacked cast. Millie Bobbie Brown and Kyle Chandler reprising their roles from Michael Dougherty’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Newcomers include Alexander Skarsgård, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, and Demián Bichir, among others. All of them do well in their respective roles, but the humans are all one note. The charismatic cast keeps their exploits for drifting into pure boredom, but there’s not a lot to say about any of them. I’d indeed be hard pressed to remember any of the humans’ names.
The standout of the human cast is deaf child actress Kaylee Hottle, in her first movie role. She plays Jia, a young girl for whom Kong has a soft spot. Their friendship is the beating heart of the film, as Jia advocates for the giant among people who don’t always have his best interests at heart. It’s cheesy, but it adds the appropriate amount of emotional attachment to a movie about two gigantic monsters fighting each other.
The plot is nonsensical and involves a big tech company, led by Bichir who is constantly swirling a glass of liquor and talking about humans needing to be “apex predators.” The rest of the humans are split between #TeamKong and #TeamGodzilla. Personal biases aside, Team Kong is much more entertaining to watch, even though the reasons for their journey are murky and convoluted. Team Godzilla’s plot thread is ludicrous and implausible, allowing a low level employee and two teenagers to infiltrate a tech company’s top secret lab with little trouble at all.
This might seem like it’s a knock on the film, but in all honesty, it was kind of refreshing. Movies are escapism first and foremost, and I appreciate escapism that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The human storylines do the bare minimum to invest us in the titans, deliver the necessary exposition (with surprising gusto), and keep a very thin thread going between the monster mashes. By the time the third act arrives in a neon-lit Hong Kong, I didn’t care why the monsters were there. I was just happy to be watching this spectacle of a movie.
The best thing about the MonsterVerse is that it allows its filmmakers to leave their personal stamp on each movie. Edwards, Jordan Vogt-Roberts (Kong: Skull Island), and Dougherty all created movies that had their unique sensibilities nestled into a big budget monster movie. Godzilla vs. Kong continues that tradition. This is unabashedly an Adam Wingard film, and it shows.
The pounding synth score, the neon lights, and the nods to genre classics are all indicators that Warner Bros. let Wingard run loose with his vision on this film. It looks gorgeous. If anyone is concerned with the director losing his voice on a tentpole budget, they needn’t be. He clearly had a blast working in this sandbox; it’s evident in every frame. His eye for visuals has never been more evident than it is here. Even though I’d love to see another Wingard horror film soon, I’m more than happy to see him succeed in the big studio system. It’s rare that a movie this big feels this personal.
When all is said and done, this is not a film that’s going to win any awards — save for maybe the visual effects categories. But as a long time Kong fan and a casual Godzilla enthusiast, I couldn’t be happier with what Godzilla vs. Kong delivered. I feel a lot like my twelve-year-old self after I watched Peter Jackson’s King Kong back in 2005. That is to say, I haven’t stopped thinking about this movie since I stepped out of the theater last night. This is the movie I needed in 2021, and I highly recommend it for two hours of pure, dumb fun.