Published on April 6th, 2021 | by Thomas Weinmaster0
Godzilla Vs Kong
The Monsterverse’s Godzilla vs Kong has been fairly divisive, but there is some fun (and some great visuals) to be found amidst its stunning stupidity.
Creating a satisfying cinematic title fight is a fraught enterprise. It’s hard enough to meet the lofty expectations of one fanbase, let alone two. Studio executives, being the fickle and cowardly creatures they are, tend to err on the side of caution with crossover projects. They don’t want to risk alienating one fanbase in favour of the other, and it often results in boring or “safe” movies. Look no further than Alien vs. Predator for an illustration of how badly botched these sorts of franchise crossovers can be when studios play it safe.
In the case of Godzilla vs. Kong, I’m surprised to say that the opposite is true. The creators of this movie have mashed their foot on the accelerator so hard that it’s out of control almost from the outset. The movie comes at the audience like a demonically possessed PitchBack machine, firing out plot threads and action scenes in every direction. It’s done with such reckless abandon that any attempt to grab onto one storyline means you won’t be ready when the next one slams you square in the face. I came out of the movie bruised and battered, but what surprised me most is that I was grinning like an idiot despite broken teeth and split lips. Godzilla vs. Kong is stupid, bloated, and overwritten, but most of all it’s a whole lot of fun.
Providing a proper synopsis would be a fool’s errand, as the movie involves so many intertwining threads of dubious importance. It’s not content to just rely on the established story from the previous entries, and exposition is dumped on the audience for the whole first act. New characters are introduced quickly, and we catch up with some we’ve seen before, while they all spill details about what has happened and what is to come. The short explanation is that Godzilla has been attacking humans, and no one knows why. Kong, now kept in captivity by the Monarch corporation, may be able to provide the answer. Characters rush around – and through – the globe to solve the mystery, as Kong and Godzilla raise fist and tail in anger. There’s a half-hearted attempt to insert a new evil corporation (a hallmark of the Godzilla franchise) called Apex, but any subtext is drowned out in the melee.
The talented ensemble cast in the movie has almost nothing to do but deliver drawn out expositional dialogue and avoid debris raining down from the latest kaiju donnybrook, so it probably wouldn’t be fair to rate their performances by normal metrics. They look confused when they need to be confused, and they look scared when they need to be scared. There are some weird choices with character arcs (particularly that of Alexander Skarsgaard) but no one who sees this movie is going to care, as the creators of this film have thankfully relegated the humans to the secondary role they deserve. While puny homo sapiens still occupy a fair bit of the runtime, Kong vs. Godzilla gives us as much of the title characters as we can handle, eschewing the sins of its predecessor.
As for our beloved monsters, it’s business as usual. I still think Kong’s design (carried over from Skull Island) leaves a lot to be desired. He’s more Donkey Kong than giant gorilla, and has an oddly cartoonish, overly emotive quality. Perhaps it’s to make him appear more sympathetic and “human”, as he is undoubtedly the protagonist for the majority of the film. Godzilla looks incredible, and this chunky version (originating in the 2014 film) is the best incarnation of everyone’s favourite radioactive lizard. The movie is at its best when the two come together, and once again the filmmakers have imbued these monstrosities with appropriate heft. Watching them creating tsunamis after jumping into the ocean, or blasting through skyscrapers does not get stale, even on the third or fourth repetition.
The movie looks fantastic overall, with bright colours overwhelming the screen, giving an otherworldly quality to a lot of the fights. From lush jungles, to a flotilla in the middle of the ocean, to the neon-drenched streets of Hong Kong, there’s always something to catch the eye. Sound design is great too, and your seat will shake appropriately as the million-ton titans crash into each other. Visual and audial excellence is par for the course in the series, and I’ll reiterate my wish for a kaiju-only supercut from all of these films, forgoing any pretense of human involvement. It’s the movie we’ve really wanted all along.
Godzilla vs. Kong gives the audience plenty of the monster brawls they ponied up their hard earned cash for, and it’s hard to imagine anyone leaving the film feeling ripped off. I would defy you to remember the name of a single human character once the credits roll, but that would be missing the point of the entire exercise. We know the names of the only characters we care about from the outset, and the rest is just convoluted window-dressing. You want complex character drama? Look elsewhere. You want to watch two leviathans demolish everything in their path as they fight for the right to be World’s Greatest Monster? Welcome aboard. Godzilla vs. Kong may lack narrative heft, but the two greatest heavyweights in cinema history still pack a punch.