By now, if you haven’t heard of Godzilla vs. Kong, I’m a little concerned. Really. It’s our first big blockbuster of the year, landing on both HBO Max and in theaters, delivering high energy thrills, epic fight scenes, and lots of incredibly thought-provoking narratives.
Okay, so, not so much on the last one.
There are a lot of terrific special effects, and there is no denying that a spectacle of this kind is going to be fun and Godzilla vs. Kong is. Don’t get me wrong, while there were some definite lulls, it kept my attention (from my home) and it definitely reinvogorated the desire to be in a theater seeing something of this scope. *Chokes up.*
Is it what I expected?
Perhaps, and maybe that’s part of the problem. Gareth Edward‘s Godzilla (2014) had some interesting ideas, some terrific cinematography, and the story had real stakes. Godzilla: King of the Monsters, eehmmm, not really. This is definitely an improvement on the latter, but it lacks the direction of Edward’s film. Adam Wingard has done a couple movies that I truly adore (and will probably review at some point on this site), but this gargantuan spectacle isn’t one of them.
There are some very cool sequences where these two fight (wait- what??) even though the weirdo in me really wants to see a spin off where they’re besties somewhere, splashing around, feeling #makelovenotwar vibes. But, leaning back into “reality”, there are some great developments here, as well as some things that will give you some answers you probably wanted, like when this first came out, like, “How is Kong possibly going to compete with Godzilla?”
These “monsters- not really monsters” aren’t really the problem. The biggest issue with this film, and it’s what makes it hard to give this a full on, energetic, slow-motion thumbs up, are the human characters. Look at this cast, it’s pretty stacked: Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall), Dr. Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) and her father, Kyler Chandler. As well as Julian Dennison, Bryan Tyree Henry, and Demián Bichir to name a few.
Why isn’t it elevated to the blockbuster I wanted?
These titular creatures are legendary for a reason, and then when you see this cast lineup your hopes shift upward. Unfortunately, the storylines are just not compelling. More than anything they are there just to keep the monster’s story moving, but don’t have their own purpose. They are characters with thin trajectory’s and even worse dialogue.
With the exception of one.
As we have seen in countless iterations of King Kong, he often has a soft-spot for a kind-hearted human. This time around it is a young girl, raised on the island and looked after by Kong when she loses her parents, Jia (Kaylee Hottle), who quite literally, steals the show.
There are a lot of talented individuals in this movie that have nothing to really do. They feel like spectators, with little to contribute to the overall story. There’s a subplot with three characters (all terrific actors) that may illicit a couple laughs, but is mostly unnecessary. Tonally, the film makes a couple of quick pivots, attempting to be playful, but mostly suffers from inconsistency. It’s hard to balance the importance of what’s happening, the potential horror as you will, while keeping this a family movie night pick. I think this is a case of visual style over substance, which many popcorn flicks are, so it isn’t unexpected.
It has some sweet moments, primarily between Jia and Kong. Some pretty badass moments, (I personally always love it when Godzilla first makes his entrance). There are some other interesting creatures/worlds that come into play, but the films supposed “villain” ends up being overwhelmingly lackluster. Or, perhaps, not the execution, but the motivation behind the creation.
A couple last, mostly nonsensical, thoughts: I half expected Immigrant Song to start playing during one fight scene (yes, I’m harking back to one of the MCU’s best, Thor: Ragnarok). While in a similar MCU vein, I was also wondering if maybe there’ll be some accords written up, holding these two accountable, because places get hella damaged, people killed, and no one seems concerned.
I didn’t dislike the film, it was an exciting jaunt, mostly, but I also, didn’t love it. I believe it is possible to have a film of this caliber and visual lushness, that can still have characters conducive to quality and depth. This just isn’t it.
One could argue, but, do we really need that? And I would respond, shouldn’t we?
What are your thoughts? Can you look past the script and human stories and just enjoy it? Or are you still looking for a new movie about these classic monsters that has a bit more? Let me know! Also, #teamkong or #teamgodzilla? Personally, I’m team Rebecca Hall, and now, Kaylee Hottle!