'Godzilla Vs Kong' (2021) Review:
Best Frenemies Forever
What a strange ride it’s been. It started out with a historic remake of a beloved classic, one that painstakingly refrained from showing its titular titan, and strived for an authentic aesthetic. As noble an attempt as this was, it ended up being mostly effective at splitting audiences. The loudest voice being the one that cries foul on the movie for its sparing use of a ginormous lizard with fire breath and a huge spiky tail.
Whether you prefer a more contemplative look at your kaiju, the fact is, these films have gone the way of hollow earths, and ancient giant monster rivalries. Which brings us to the latest in the Monsterverse. Ladies and Gentlemen, please take your seats for the battle of the beasts streaming straight into your living room. This ain’t pay per view folks, this is HBO MAX, giving you the mythological Manny and Mayweather.
In one corner you have the all american underdog, the soulful simian from skull island, Kong. In the next corner, fresh off his championship bout with King Ghidorah, it’s the reigning champ, the legend, the thing your mother sees when she looks at a croaking lizard, Godzilla. This ring isn’t big enough for the two of them, so it’s an all out battle for supremacy. These two are after the bestiary bragging rights that only an alpha can claim. You’d think that after being crowned King of the Monsters Godzilla would be sitting pretty, but heavy is the head that wears the crown, and you never know who’s looking to snatch it.
Godzilla is a jealous and vengeful King in this film, and loses his protective edge. Early in the movie there’s a scene of Godzilla laying waste to a coastal facility seemingly unprovoked. Why has humanity’s protector turned his tail on them? Regardless of why, humanity believes that if there’s even a one percent chance that he is their enemy they must take it as an absolute certainty… and they have to destroy him.
The question then becomes: How can you stop Godzilla? Previously, this would be the point where Ken Watanabe’s Ishirō Serizawa would wax poetically about mankind’s impotence in the face of nature’s might, and that the best they could hope to do is try and understand Godzilla’s wrath. This movie says fuck all that, and instead takes an acid trip to the world beneath the world. A mysterious hollow earth that’s said to be a habitat for giant creatures, and that may hold the key to a power source that can take down the Kaiju King.
Godzilla may be the driving force of the plot, but the hero of this film is Kong. It’s clear as day as the film opens with Kong starting his. A mountainous yawn as the sun warms his face, Kong lazes about without a care in the world. The movie gives Kong a heart, as he lies on a boat soaking in the heat, and eating a barrel of fish all to himself. Kong is having a nice piece of hellshire fish on a quiet Saturday afternoon. A respectable libation for any soul, monster or otherwise. Kong has a journey that can only be defined as the pursuit of peace. It’s a strange way to frame a challenger. Kong is as passive as you can get, but when threatened, he throws down.
When they do finally fight, the film doesn’t disappoint in the spectacle. It’s a gleeful experience that even the characters can’t help but get in on. The world seems to understand that they live or die by the will of these giant monsters, and have become cheerleaders as a matter of fact. As someone who couldn’t see this film in a packed theatre filled with a loud and rambunctious audience, it was a fitting substitute.
The fighting is epic in many respects and very dynamic in its presentation. The camera pulls back and positions the monsters against skyscrapers and treats a city of 7.5 million as a sandbox. Surprisingly though the film gives you quite a few close ups between Godzilla and Kong. It doesn’t go as far as giving the creature’s reaction shots, but it does spend quite a bit of time showing as much personality as it can as they try to knock each other out. What’s more, the two monsters aren’t content with just one battleground. Godzilla vs. Kong pits the monsters against each other in different environments, like it’s selecting a level in a fighting game. It allows the combat to be less repetitive as their environments play to their various skill sets. For anyone who thinks they know the outcome of the fight before they reach the credits, the film keeps you guessing with a unique set of rules with every new meet.
There’s so much that goes into the characters of Kong and Godzilla, and certainly more than enough that could have been developed further throughout the film. Instead the film hurls an unmitigated cavalcade of nonsensical jibber jabber anytime a titan isn’t on the screen. I commend the cast for trying their best to emote while stringing together some truly sadistic collections of words. The intelligent characters are forced to say nonsense. Everyone else delivers tired action movie lines or points out the painfully obvious for anyone who checked their phone when someone who wasn’t a giant monster said something.
As a sequel, Godzilla vs Kong is an astounding devolution of its series that borders on parody and invites ridicule. It sprints through plot and dialogue like it’s offended at the suggestion it needs them, and throws only the most basic of foundations together. To be offended at this would be to miss the point. It’s all a ludicrous delivery system for an epic bout between two film icons, and is under no pretense of being anything more than that.
Rating: Half Price.