Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)

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?”

source: Warner Media and HBO Max

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.

More Jia!

source: Warner Media and HBO Max

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!

Appreciation Review: The Thing (1982)

Appreciation Review: The Thing (1982)

This is an opportunity to appreciate the more horrific things in life, especially when it comes to my favorite platform: movies.

How could I not start off this column with one of my favorite horror movies of all time? While this is hardly ever an easy thing to answer (in any genre) John Carpenter’s The Thing, always makes it to my lips. This movie not only left a cinematic impression, I felt it.

To this day, it is rare for a film to be as instrumental in my love for the genre as much as this movie. It’s one that I can watch repetitively, and believe me I do, and still find new things I adore each time. Isn’t this the gift of great cinema?

When you are approaching a remake it’s difficult to elevate yourself from the source in a way that brings in new fans and satisfies old alike. Carpenter managed to excel at this, taking the 1950’s version and making it scarier, tenser, and somehow even more memorable.

This is, The Thing.

The Thing (1982) source: Universal Pictures

One of my favorite elements in horror films, be it psychological, a creature-feature, slasher- what have you, is when the story takes place in a limited, if not a singular primary setting. There’s something inherently eerie about the isolation of this group of men in Antarctica, trapped by both weather and circumstance, forced to question their sanity and…ultimately, one another.

It’s like Invasion of the Body Snatchers but there’s an even smaller group potentially “infected”. How do you know if this… “thing” has gotten the others? How can you trust your friend, your co-worker, if it’s possible it’s some alien/entity trying to consume you (and I mean CONSUME, in some of the best practical effects/body horror/make up ever). It’s what all horror connoisseurs crave; a mysterious and evocative beginning, a steady burgeoning of tension, and enough left unexplained leveled with the right amount of terror shown.

Another element that The Thing has going for it is the casting. While Kurt Russell is a pretty household name, here, as pilot R.J. MacReady, complete with long hair and one of my favorite on-screen beards, he’s incredible. 

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the genius of Ennio Morricone‘s score. It’s a beautifully strange combination that matches the mixing of sci-fi and horror. It’s synth, it’s subtle, and yet it’s bone-chillingly apt. In fact, there’s nothing ineffective about the making of The Thing.

In my opinion, it’s a masterpiece of filmmaking, of suspense building and maintaining, and one of the most iconic horror movies you’ll ever see.