Godzilla in one corner. Kong in the other. That’s how they could have billed Godzilla vs. Kong and I would have paid to see it. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, we might all not be seeing the film in the same way. Make no mistake, if you watch this film at home, and it ever comes back to the big screen, you need to see it there. It’s a film that benefits from the biggest screen possible with a top notch sound system. If you’ve ever been hyped for a huge boxing match or a Wrestlemania match, this is the main event.
It’s not all fun and games, but in a film that’s practically an event like this, you can look past the issues. You’re here to see Godzilla and Kong duke it out. Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein did a good enough job with the material given to them. Writing this script would not be an easy task. You have to balance out the monsters fighting, why they’re fighting, who’s going to win, and the human element all at once. I don’t envy them, and they got the job done with this script.
Director Adam Wingard also had to navigate those treacherous waters. This movie could easily just have been hi-res footage from one of the myriad Godzilla video games out there, and people would have been satisfied. To get to that upper echelon of Monster films, it had to have that extra bump. This film got to that point and more. Let’s dive deeper into what makes Godzilla vs. Kong great.
The Plot Could Have Been On A Napkin, And It Wouldn’t Have Mattered
Like I was saying above, this plot could have been incredibly simple. And the “not good” kind of simple. It also could have been incredibly complex and gotten lost on the audience. Luckily for the viewer, it rides that line pretty flawlessly. The short explanation is that Kong and Godzilla are titans that are older than the dirt we’re standing on. They also despise one another, because they and their ancestors have been fighting for thousands of years. Simple enough.
The longer version of that would delve into spoilers that I don’t want to get into for the sake of the viewer. Even though they (stupidly) gave away a huge spoiler in the last trailer for the film, I won’t discuss that one either. Although, the film delves into the deeper conspiracy surrounding an evil corporation.
Outside of why Kong and Godzilla want to kick the crap out of each other, the human portion of the plot involves going into the Center Earth, the place where the Titans are from. It’s a beautiful landscape that shows the origins of Kong and Godzilla.
Center Earth Is A Sci-Fi Wet Dream
If you love these types of Monster movies going back to the 50’s, Center Earth is just for you. It has all the high and low elements of science fiction right there. Wild creature designs mixed with the high-tech transport of humanity. It’s quite the image that they put across. The scenes involving Kong here are some of the most beautiful and luscious.
The Performances Are Hit Or Miss, But Mostly Hit
The film “stars” (because let’s face it, Kong and Godzilla are the real stars), Alexander Skarsgard, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Kaylee Hottle, Brian Tyree Henry, Shun Oguri, Eiza Gonzalez, Julian Dennison, Kyle Chandler, and Demian Bichir.
The people that stand out are Rebecca Hall and Kaylee Hottle. Since this film is Kong’s story through and through, they’re the human counterparts to Kong. Kaylee Hottle really adds a dimension of emotion and weight to the film with her relationship to Kong. Although they’re given approximately 3 minutes at the beginning of the film to establish what they do with Kong, it works. Hall shows a great maternal experience with her performance and the signing that they have to do.
Millie Bobby Brown, Julian Dennison, and Brian Tyree Henry are where the film gets some of it’s comedy and where it’s sort of grounded. They end up entangled with the conspiracy portion of the film and it’s company, Apex Cybernetics. They end up entangled in the overall scheme of the film, but it’s not shown until the very end of the film why these three are important.
Skarsgard and Chandler Are Sort Of Wasted
Alexander Skarsgard and Kyle Chandler aren’t necessarily wasted in this film, but Chandler in particular isn’t given much to work with. His agency from the previous Godzilla films is just kind of…there. They don’t really do anything to help or hurt the way the plot moves. I would guess it’s there to humanize Millie Bobby Brown’s Madison and make the audience feel like “oh there’s actual stakes here”.
Skarsgard’s Nathan Lind isn’t your traditional action star role. That’s what really works. It would get in the way if someone was trying to out-macho King Kong. He’s more cerebral, but he doesn’t do anything spectacular that makes the character stand out. That’s not on Skarsgard, and more on the writing. But you can’t win everything in a movie like this. Some things need to sort of go by the wayside to keep it moving.
Stock Villains Work, But Don’t Reinvent The Wheel
If you’ve seen Alien/Aliens you know how these villains work. It’s an evil corporation and Shun Oguri, Eiza Gonzalez, and Demian Bichir all play the parts admirably. Oguri is the hyper tech guy, Ren, for Apex Cybernetics that makes everything work. Bichir and Gonzalez are father-daughter and they play their devilishly evil parts to the “T”. If the threat from Godzilla and Kong to destroy the entire planet wasn’t there, they likely would work even better as villains.
But for now, they work, and you don’t really need them to do more than that.
But Are The Kong And Godzilla Scenes Worth It?
End of Review.
All joking aside, this is the reason to watch this movie. It’s a nice bonus that the human scenes don’t suck. If we just had these two duking it out for nearly two hours, that would be an Uncut Gems level of “not letting your audience rest, ever” pacing. But you’re tuning in, or going to the theater, to see these two Titans of the screen fight. Every time they battle it out it’s fantastic. They don’t pull any punches, there isn’t any grandiose explanation, it’s just that Godzilla is a dick and hates Kong. The highly publicized battle on the aircraft carrier isn’t even the most breathtaking fight in the film.
It’s by far the best looking film in the MonsterVerse that they’ve created. Kong looks almost lifelike, you can see the “sh*t-eating” grin that Godzilla gives Kong when he gets the upper hand, and the sections with the Center Earth are breathtaking.
The finale of the film is one of those where you just get up from your seat to cheer. Your body physically won’t let you stay sitting down during it. I audibly gasped “holy sh*t” in my living room. It’s just that badass.
It Stacks Up With Any Giant Monster Film
Godzilla vs. Kong stacks up with any genre film you can throw at it. Somehow the plot being simple is a blessing. You’re here to see the monsters fight and you get that and more. Of the blemishes, it’s that some of the human characters don’t get their proper due, but that’s a small price to pay to see more of Kong and Godzilla. If this is the future of the MonsterVerse, we’re in great hands.
It’s a visually stunning film that easily meets the hype that these two characters built up. If you’re in for these two fighting, you’ll be happy. What could easily have been a horrible mess was kept tight by the writing, performances, and directing.
I’d gladly see a round two between these monsters, or even a team-up at some point in the future.
Either way, Godzilla Vs. Kong is a must-watch for action fans and monster fans. Check it out on HBO Max or in theaters tomorrow, March 31st.
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