Movie Review - Godzilla Vs Kong
“You be boss down there, I’m boss up here.”
Those of you that have seen the movie will know what I mean, those of you that haven’t won’t know that the above quote from Night of the Living Dead should probably come with a spoiler warning…but that was the first thing that popped in my head as I watched the closing credits of Godzilla Vs Kong rolled by.
Strangely, there’s a lot to talk about here. I mean, you wouldn’t think so…after all, most of the reviews that have said this is a big and dumb but incredibly fun are all…well…right. That’s definitely the very short version of this review: It’s big, dumb fun that’s really only ruined by a handful of performances and if you stop to think about what’s actually going on…which, as any longtime Kaiju fan will tell you, is a hard no-no right out the gate with ANY monster movie. [Okay, that’s not COMPLETELY true, as some of the best examples of the genre manage to be thought-provoking AND entertaining, but that’s the sort of thing we’ll try to cover in KaiJune! – Ed.]
First up, before we get to the film proper, there’s the means in which I reviewed the film: HBO Max. Much has been made in recent days of WB’s decision to make their blockbusters this year premiere day and date in both theaters and their flagship streaming service, thanks to the current pandemic. The fear is that people will favor this and abandon the big screen. God I hope not. My initial plan was to see this in IMAX, as the local AMC is indeed open and I have had the first of the two vaccination shots…but good sense has prevailed and I decided not to risk it…and I kinda wish I had. Look, I might be an outlier here, but movies like this need to be on as big a screen as possible, so no, even though by the time I end up posting this the movie will no longer be available streaming (until the eventual home release), trust me, this is NOT the way to see the film. I mean, look, I’m not gonna go full blown David Lynch on this issue just yet…I think there ARE movies that can do just as well on streaming as they’d do on the big screen, sappy dramas, rom-coms, comedy in general, period-dreck and, oddly enough, probably most of David Lynch’s stuff…but big special effects spectacles? Nuh-uh. Home just doesn’t cut it. Period. The end. If you believe otherwise, sorry…you’re wrong. [Hey, don’t be ‘internet-dick’ here, we’re already so many other levels of dick that we’re pretty much stocked up here, thanks. – Ed.]
Okay, the movie…let’s start off with our usual plot synopsis: Godzilla has turned from protector to menace, having attacked a technology company on the Florida coast seemingly without reason. This company, Apex, assembles a team headed by a Hollow Earth “scientist” to work hand in hand with Monarch to recruit Kong in the hopes that he might be able to track down a power source strong enough to fuel Apex’s anti-Godzilla weapon. [And if you’ve seen the trailers that have outright spoiled it in advance of the film’s release, you know what/who that weapon is. So this is your spoiler warning, he’s probably gonna blab at some point…but hopefully not give away the whole thing. – Ed.]
The movie gets a lot of things right. When it comes to the Kong/Godzilla fights, ho boy…this is where I REALLY missed seeing on the big screen because seriously, I hadn’t been so giddy over giant things fighting since friggin’ Pacific Rim. The fights are spectacular. While I’m not crazy about the use of Hollow Earth in the film, I gotta admit that it does call back to some of the craziness typically reserved for the older Japanese films, like Seatopia in Godzilla Vs Megalon or all the different aliens that tried to manipulate Earth’s monsters. Speaking of said craziness, while the high-tech that seemingly comes out of nowhere bothered me at first, I remembered things like the Super X or MOGUERA from the Heisei series. Not EVERYTHING is forgivable in that context, and we’ll talk about that in a bit, but a lot of it is, especially given the way Apex is set up as this ‘bleeding edge’ sort of tech company. Dovetailing from that is a plot element that ties in with something from the latter Millennium Series: Kiryu. All right, we’re in spoiler waters here…but again, this has been pretty much ruined by WB themselves, so I’m not doing too much damage. But yes, the writers of this film borrow the mechanic that Apex’s anti-Godzilla weapon, MechaGodzilla, uses kaiju genetics as a basis for its structure. I loved that plot device in Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla and Godzilla: Tokyo SOS, and I love it here too. With both this film and the previous, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, it’s nice to see the screenwriters of these films taking elements from the Japanese originals and playing with them instead of thinking they’re smarter than the source material…coughGodzilla98cough… Also, so as not to leave past Kong films out, the screenwriters also managed to remember that Kong’s got a bit of an issue with his ticker. Nice deep cut there guys.
One last positive that will serve as a good transition paragraph. I’ll openly admit that when I saw in the trailer that this movie was seemingly going to revolve around a little girl that can communicate with Kong, I thought we were looking at another Kenny. No, not South Park Kenny…but Kaiju Kenny: a child introduced into a kaiju film as a POV character for the younger audience the older films were intended for…but usually just ends up being contrived, annoying and unifies the audience in hoping for the little shit’s demise. The character of Jia here, however, is less Kenny and more like Miki from the Heisei series: yes, she communicates with Kong, but she’s also our emotional anchor/cue…almost in a Spielbergian way. When she’s worried, that’s our cue that something bad is impending…when she’s in awe, whether it’s of the kaiju or her surroundings, then we’re in awe. It works, so good job little Kaylee Hottle…damn good job.
Sadly, the same cannot be said for the teenagers. No…these are the movie’s Kennys. While having Millie Bobby Brown’s Madison return and have a more active role in this film might seem fine on paper, she, her friend Josh and conspiracy-theory podcaster Bernie consistently turn in the dumbest parts of the film and if I didn’t know any better, were actively TRYING to ruin the film. I mean, these parts of the film reek of the kind of shitty screenwriting and failed attempts at over-the-top humor typically reserved for the Michael Bay Transformers films. Sure, I get that I’m being super-harsh here, but the shoe fits. I get why they’re there, the screenwriters use them to give us an idea of what Apex is up to and what’s behind the terror of MechaGodzilla (see what I did there?) [Yes, you must be so proud of yourself. – Ed.], but holy hell man, this could’ve been done so much better. Look, I appreciate the Marvel films, I really do, but as they continue on, I have the feeling that they’ve given rise to this cinematic blight: the trend that humor MUST be inserted into any and all screenplays. And…no. Look, the most recent unveiling of the Snyder-Cut and the debacle that was Josstice League should have made the case against this practice EXTREMELY clear…but here we are again. I’m not saying funny things can’t happen within the running time of the film, sure, but when all the so-called humor is relegated to the same people every single time…I’m sorry, but not only is this simply not effective, but it’s grating as hell and reeks of lazy writing. There are a million and one ways the information from these segments could’ve been delivered to the audience in a far more palatable way.
Since I’m talking about a conspiracy theorist character, I’d be remiss if I didn’t address the one at the core of this film (ha, see what I did there again?). [Don’t make me interrupt again, I’m warning you. – Ed.] While there is a rich history in both literature and cinema for journeys to the center of the Earth, given the current atmosphere regarding conspiracy theories (translation: people are really going out of their way to prove how fucking stupid they are lately) I’m not entirely certain this was the best narrative device to use. Still, I’ll confess, I’m being a bit of a hypocrite here…as my biggest beef with censorship is the mentality that “I can handle this, but I don’t know if YOU can, so it shouldn’t be on the screen just in case anyone stupid gets any ideas”. So, yeah, I’m falling into that trap and I get it…and I don’t wanna be that guy. But people believe some REALLY stupid shit these days…so…I just gotta keep reminding myself it’s only a movie…it’s only a movie… [Okay, different genre, I’ll allow it. Bonus points to anyone that gets the reference though. – Ed.]
Lastly, I have two nit-picks that REALLY bug me. Numero-uno (sorry Joe Bob): So we’ve already got a cave in Antarctica that just happens to lead to the center of the Earth? Yes, I know, I just wrote a paragraph saying this was okay because of previous Japanese goofiness…but did the screenwriters just completely forget the previous film? [Obviously not, but that’s spoiler material there. – Ed.] Actually, I can make that accusation for both my nit-picks, but let me finish this one first. Why not simply toss in a throw-away line saying that the escape of Ghidora in the previous movie exposed said cave/tunnel what-have-you and Apex has been exploring it since then? Hell, it’s such an easy thing to do that even my rinky-dink backwater of the internet brain figured it out. Second, and this is kind of a real biggie: the developer and pilot of MechaGodzilla is a character named Ren…wait for it…SERIZAWA! WTF? Look, sure, I get it, there are people with my last name that I’m not related to (probably) so there’s the chance Ren here has nothing to do with Ken Watanabe’s Dr. Serizawa from the previous two films, but come on! The Serizawa surname is such a vital piece of Godzilla lore that to just drop it and not do ANYTHING with it? That’s REALLY fucking lazy. Is this the late Dr. Serizawa’s brother? Son? Evil twin from a parallel universe? I mean, seriously…instead of wasting precious screen time on the three idiots, we could have been mining this pit of pure drama just waiting to be refined. Is he working on MechaGodzilla as revenge for his brother/father/clone/alternate self’s sacrifice? Is he creating the mech to spite his brother/father/clone/alternate self? What's his motivation??? Such a missed opportunity. And this better not be another case of like what happened with The Rise of Skywalker where a major motivating plot point was left to some tie-in in other media, because, again, very lazy and, also again, much better material than the whole Madison/Bernie/Josh nonsense.
Whew! Okay, all that out of my system, even though most of this review has said more negative than positive, I really did like this entry into WB/Legendary’s Monsterverse. To borrow a phase from Joe Bob Briggs, so long as you don’t let the plot get in the way of the story, this is a lot of big dumb fun with fantastic fights, action and amazing special effects. If you came to see Godzilla fight Kong, then I’m happy to tell you, you’re damn sure gonna see Godzilla fight Kong! Sure, the plot and crappy humor heavy Millie Bobby Brown segments try their level best to ruin the film, but between the fun adventure to the center of the Earth and the aforementioned battle royale, I’m seriously hoping that Godzilla Vs Kong convinces the suits at WB to keep this Monsterverse going…as GVK maintains the trend established by the previous two Monsterverse films, G:KotM and Kong…good, but not perfect, kaiju fun.