By Christian DiMartino
Godzilla vs. Kong is, supposedly, the film that is going to bring people back to the movies. I attended an IMAX screening of it tonight, and truth be told, it was decently busy- the busiest I’d seen in it in a long time. The world still isn’t necessarily safe, and people could’ve easily opted to get an HBO Max subscription, where the film is streaming free for a month. Yet the rest of us, even despite reviews that are all over the place, couldn’t resist seeing these two classic titans go at it. Considering the turn-out tonight, the chances of things returning back to normal seemed somewhat promising.
All of that aside, is Godzilla vs. Kong worth the risk? Well, it depends on who you are. Action movies can bore me, or I can admire the hell out of them. Action movies like Godzilla vs. Kong usually aren’t my cup of tea, since it’s essentially a bunch of noise and destruction that also happens to be a movie. Well, I’ll just come out and say it: Godzilla vs. Kong is a pleasure of the guiltiest order. It will please some, it won’t convert others, yet if it’s the good time you’re hoping for, then it should succeed.
The film follows 2014’s Godzilla, which was decent enough, 2017’s Kong: Skull Island, which was fun and gorgeous to behold, and 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which was certainly gorgeous, but also a bit on the relentless side. Kong and Godzilla have probably been going at it onscreen for the better part of 60 years, so with these movies it was only a matter of time before they were paired up again. The truth about a movie like Godzilla vs. Kong is that you can include any number of beautiful celebrities (in this case, Rebecca Hall, Alexander Skarsgaard, Millie Bobby Brown, Kyle Chandler, etc) to help sell the movie, but you don’t need to, because the names “Godzilla” and “King Kong” are a selling point in themselves.
Alas though, if we didn’t have the humans here, there probably wouldn’t be much of a movie… and maybe there still isn’t, but what there is is some cool stuff. Godzilla vs. Kong finds Kong, looking a bit old (Kong: Skull Island was set in the 70s) and still residing in Skull Island, but in a dome under captivity and surveillance of a nice lady (Hall) and a mute little girl. In another part of the world, Godzilla, who is usually neutral despite the, well, destruction, attacks a few different places, such as an organization ran by a not-at-all villainous Demian Bichir. Bichir, looking out for his own motives, urges a scientist (Skarsgaard) to try and bring Kong to Godzilla, so then they can form an alliance. Hall of course thinks this is a bad idea, and if you know the title of the movie, you can assume that it is.
Godzilla vs. Kong is about 25% of a movie that you don’t care about. That 25% being, of course, the humans. At times, I wasn’t sure if they’d skipped a movie- I remembered Brown and Chandler being in the other movie, but they act as if we’re supposed to know and care about the Hall and Skarsgaard characters, and we have no idea who these people are. All of these people, it must be said, are overqualified; they do nothing wrong performance wise (well, Chandler hams it up briefly), but they are simply only in the film as a placeholder. Blah blah evil corporation, blah blah we gotta do something.
That other 75% though. In the first 30 minutes or so, with the humans, there was some Godzilla, some Kong, but it was mostly human stuff. Yawn. Then, Godzilla and Kong go toe-to-toe in the middle of the ocean… and by golly, to quote Rihanna: baby, this is what you came for. The movie not only woke me up, but it came to life. I’m not 10 years old, contrary to how I write sometimes, but even I cannot deny just how cool these battle sequences are. Yes it’s all noise, yes it’s all destruction, but unlike one of those ghastly Michael Bay Transformers movies, I could follow who was fighting, why they were fighting, and it was certainly easy to get invested.
The 75% of Godzilla vs. Kong that I liked, I liked quite a bit. That other 25% isn’t bad, necessarily, it’s just that the film isn’t too invested in these people, so why should we be? There are also clichés, yet the film gets the big stuff right. The aforementioned first fight is followed by a dazzling sequence in a vortex of some sort, that I won’t go into detail with. The visual effects are first-rate- every cent is on the screen, and it has been put to very fine use. The cinematography is also a beauty to behold at times.
Again though, you go to a movie like Godzilla vs. Kong to see, you guessed it, Godzilla vs. Kong, and the filmmakers have certainly held up their end of the bargain. This certainly isn’t a masterpiece, but it wasn’t setting out to be one. It’s a film that sets out to entertain, and if you want it to entertain, it shall. It’s not the best movie in theatres right now (I’d argue that Raya and the Last Dragon is more of a priority), but if this is the one to get people back in the theatre, so be it. As pure spectacle, trust me, your television won’t do… but of course, safety first. There is just one more thing that should be pointed out though: Godzilla and Kong destroy building after building after building after building… how is there still any of the city left, let alone, how are there still people alive?