Monday, April 5, 2021

Film Review: Godzilla vs. Kong


Sexuality/Nudity No Objection
Violence Acceptable
Vulgarity Acceptable
Anti-Catholic Philosophy Acceptable

I usually do not look at reviews for movies about which I have not written a full review.  But I could not help but look at Red Letter Media's take on the movie.  And they said something that perfectly encapsulates this movie: "This is both a pro and a con: it felt like it was written by a child."

Godzilla vs. Kong is the fourth installment in the "Monsterverse" started by Godzilla (2014) and followed by Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla: King of the Monsters.  After his defeat of King Ghidorah in the last film, Godzilla became the apex monster that all of the monsters bowed to.  Fearing that Godzilla would sense Kong to be a challenge to his apex status, the monster agency Monarch has been hiding the giant ape in a VR dome like Jim Carrey in The Truman Show.

This is usually the part in the review where I give a detailed set up of the plot.  However, the plot is so inconsequential and idiotic that it makes any of the Michael Bay Transformers films look like Aaron Sorkin.  But I shall attempt to do my best:

For reasons unknown, Godzilla attacks an American city where the shady company Apex is doing research.  This makes people turn on Godzilla, who they looked at as their giant lizard protector since the last film.  The little girl from the last movie (Millie Bobby Brown) refuses to believe that Godzilla has turned evil and so gets her best friend who was the fat kid in Deadpool 2 (Julian Dennison) and a conspiracy theory podcaster (Brian Tyree Henry) to do their own investigating which somehow gets them all the way to Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, the clearly not evil any possible way owner of Apex (Demian Bichir) gets a lonely scientist (Alexander Skarsgard) to lead an expedition into the center of the Earth, which they believe is the source of the monsters.  The clearly not evil in any possible way owner of Apex claims that there is a power source that can be found there to help save mankind from the now-evil Godzilla.  Lonely scientist goes to talk to his Kong caretakers scientist friend (Rebecca Hall) because the lonely scientist thinks that Kong can lead them to the center of the Earth through a hole they dug in Antarctica.  So they take a bunch of ships and a little deaf girl who is the Kong Whisperer (Kaylee Hottle) across the ocean.  However, once Kong is out of his protective bubble, Godzilla can sense him.

I didn't bother writing any of the names of the human characters because they honestly don't matter.  Like most of these types of movies, they merely serve as the connective tissue to get the monsters to their different fight set-pieces.  In fact, the two main human stories don't really intersect.  It's almost like they filmed the main Kong storyline and then added the Milli Bobby Brown stuff as an afterthought.  I can't really say anything about the performances because they aren't particularly good or bad.  They are all just kind of... there.  

While not nearly as bad as the Godzilla from the 1990s, this movie makes me more appreciative of the recent Shin Godzilla.  While I had a lot of problems with that movie at least the script was about something.  There were strong thematic ideas about governments and disasters.  In addition, the movie was much more grounded in reality like the 2014 GodzillaGodzilla vs. Kong throws all of that out the window.  None of the science in this science fiction makes a lick of sense.  These range from small things like generally non-human apes can't swim to how the hell can Godzilla's atomic breath dig down 2,000-4,000 miles into the center of the Earth?  And when the clearly not evil in any way leader of Apex explains his evil plan, it's actually not really that evil.  In fact, it is absolutely reasonable in principle, but the script needs to turn him into a bad guy so that Godzilla is not seen as evil.

Michael Dougherty, the writer/director of Godzilla King of the Monsters,  only gets story credit for this movie.  With all of its flaws, Dougherty's movie had a clear love and (more importantly) respect for the Godzilla mythology.  Godzilla vs. Kong does not.  

And for a movie titled Godzilla vs. Kong, the headliner is reduced to the antagonist.  This is clearly Kong's movie.  He has the clearest character arc (and that includes the humans) and is the most sympathetic.  Godzilla comes off as a lumbering bully.  They give a reason to explain his attacks on the human cities, but it doesn't change the fact that hundreds would have died because of them.  At least the first two Godzilla movies in this series kept the human toll in sight.  Here, deaths are played for laughs.  There is no sense of peril or even wonder.  Director Adam Wingard does a find job of giving us spectacle, but there is nothing here resembling substance.  Gone is any sense of awe or mystery to these creatures. Godzilla (2014) made the mistake of being too serious and not showing us nearly enough Godzilla.  Godzilla vs. Kong makes the mistake of being to unserious and showing us almost too much of the monsters. Watching this movie is like playing the video game Rampage (which they also made into a movie).

Having said all of that, this review is not a complete pan.  In fact, I enjoyed this movie probably more than I should.  King Kong and Godzilla are two of the most famous movie monsters.  And while they did have their own movie before in the 1960's, this is a more fully realized match up that little kids might imagine.  When I was a kid I loved the idea of fantasy match ups.  My cousin had a copy of Superman vs. Spider-Man that filled up my imagination (probably because he wouldn't let me read it).  This movie is like that.  There is very little logic to the fights.  Godzilla's atomic breath should end almost every fight immediately.  But view through the lens of a child's fantasy fight, the movie is a great deal of fun.

If two famous giant monsters fighting doesn't fire those happiness synapses in your brain, then you will probably find this movie dull and tedious.   As I wrote in previous Godzilla reviews, Godzilla movies are a genre unto themselves and the fans of these movies have very specific tastes.  I shall be curious as to their take on this movie.

I plan to watch this movie several more times.

But I'll be sure to skip all of the human parts.  Give me more monkey punching lizard!

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