I don’t think anyone is going into a movie like Godzilla vs Kong thinking it will be a tremendous form of cinema. And that’s kind of the point. When it comes to monster flicks, nothing is more iconic than Godzilla and King Kong, who have been a part of pop culture for decades. As a part of Legendary’s MonsterVerse, the movie is a culmination of three previous films. Although, individually, this is the 36th film in the Godzilla franchise and the 12th in the King Kong franchise.
Of the previous three flicks, it’s easy to mark Kong: Skull Island as one of my favorites. Another reboot of the Kong story, Skull Island capitalized on what was great about monster movies. Action-packed, full of punchy colors, extravagant characters, some of the best things from Skull Island transfer directly over to Godzilla vs Kong. For one, this is a film that should definitely be watched on the largest screen possible. For people who have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine and have open movie theaters near you, this is the movie to spend your money on. It’s colorful, it’s explosive, it’s full of life when our leading characters take the stage.
Where the film falters is the human element. Unfortunately, unless you’re a diehard fan of the MonsterVerse, some might have a hard time recalling the exact details of the previous film, Godzilla: King of Monsters. If that’s the case, this movie drops you right into the thick of the story. At times, it’s hard to figure out which characters are returning and which are new. I don’t normally advocate for a recap sequence at the beginning of a movie, but this feels necessary in the case of Godzilla vs Kong.
Characters like Rebecca Hall’s Dr. Ilene Andrews and Alexander Skarsgård’s Dr. Nathan Lind feel like familiar characters simply because we’ve met their archetype a thousand times in these types of monster movies. They probably get the most character development, with Ilene acting like a Jane Goodall figure to Kong, alongside her adopted daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle). Hall and Hottle get the best scenes with Kong, who outshines Godzilla’s cold-blooded attitudes. Millie Bobbie Brown’s return as Madison Russell isn’t as exciting, though Brian Tyree Henry and Julian Dennison bolster her scenes with their comedic timing.
After spending the previous movie trying to prove that Godzilla is, at the very least, non-threatening to humans, it feels like we’ve taken a massive step back. Of course, aside from Godzilla’s dubious morals, we have a mustache-twirling villain in the form of Demián Bichir (an actor I feel like I’ve seen a lot this year). Normally I’d take note of the lack of depth given to his character, Walter Simmons, but in this type of movie, where most of the excitement is dedicated to seeing a giant lizard and a giant monkey fight each other, it’s a useful shorthand.
In fact, although I think the human characters could have been developed further (and the cast could have been cut down), it doesn’t really matter. None of us walked into Godzilla vs Kong thinking actors were leaving with best actor nominations. What counts is the action, and the action is there and played to a perfect ridiculous extent. Stunning CGI and graphics boost the film massively, coupling seismic fight scenes with neon colors and a bouncing soundtrack make this a genuinely fun movie to watch. After a year of struggles, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism. Does any of the hollow earth plot make sense on any real scientific level? No, but who cares? We’re having fun.
Watch Godzilla vs Kong in theaters and on HBO Max this Wednesday, March 31st, 2021.