There is 100% something to be said for a movie that tells you right in the title exactly what it is going to do.
Freddy Vs Jason, for instance! It’s not a great movie by any stretch, but it delivers on everything it promises. What more could you ask for? It literally has multiple extended sequences of Freddy Kreuger dueling with Jason Voorhees. There is something to be said for a movie that tells you right away “Plot be damned, we gots a slugfest!” and then following through.
Enter: The 2021 Godzilla Vs Kong. A movie that tells you straight away that anything resembling a story will be purely coincidental as the director stumbles his way towards having two big behemoths breathtakingly brawl.
These iterations of Kong and Godzilla are based off some previous movies from this past decade: Godzilla, Godzilla: King of Monsters, and Kong: Skull Island. That is eminently helpful to the movie because what little backstory there needs to be is delivered through characters we mostly already know.
SOME SPOILERS LIVE HERE ON.
Of the characters involved, if there is a stand-out to be found, it is Jai, a deaf girl who has befriended Kong and taught him sign language. We’re not really given any reason why Kong likes her, but he does, and that’s enough. She is played by Kaylee Hottle, an actress from an all-deaf family, and it’s always heartening to see roles getting cast in that way. Also, she looks frighteningly like Danielle Harris did in Halloweens 4 and 5, and once I saw that, I couldn’t unsee it. I kept expecting her to address Godzilla as “Uncle Michael?”.
Returning from the Godzilla end of the franchise are Friday Night Lights Guy and Stranger Things Girl, and they’re fine. They also give us the least believable seen in a movie full of giant monsters punching each other: as soon as the battle ends, they find each other in the streets of [the now destroyed] Hong Kong, the most densely populated city on Earth (I think; I’m not bothering to fact check that).
(I lied; I did look it up. It’s not THE most, but it’s “one of the”, so I’ll give myself a pass)
And, you know, there are some other people. Do you care? I didn’t care. I just wanted to see action set pieces.
To be fair, the movie does pretend to have a plot (drink every time someone says “hollow earth”! You will not be conscious to see Kong and Godzilla fight a second time), but it’s threadbare at best. As I watched the movie, it was nebulous to me what anyone’s motivations even were. Stranger Things Girl was listening to podcasts with Deadpool’s Sidekick, and some other people wanted Kong to go to the center of the Earth for reasons. In my head, whoever wrote the screenplay for this movie just wrote “says some words” next to everywhere some dialogue should have been.
I’ll be honest: I am not heavily invested in either monster; I’m not a huge Godzilla or Kong fan. Their movies can be enjoyable enough, but they are all very “take ’em or leave ’em” for me. I was of the opinion that Godzilla “should” win (laser beams trump no laser beams), but that was about it. I know from being a person who understands how to use the Internet that there had been some fanboyism around how this fight should go for years before this movie was released, and that’s why I was so shocked that Godzilla was definitively displayed as superior to Kong at every turn. Given that these are two popular, beloved characters, I genuinely thought they would be displayed as dead even, but WOW is that not the case here.
So far I have noted that the story only occasionally even pretends to exist, the humans are only there because it would be weird if they weren’t, and the two characters–who I am not particularly tied to–have some one-sided fights. So I guess it will come as no surprise when I say…
I friggin’ love this movie?
Weird, but I did.
For one thing, the effects on this thing are exceptional, as they dead-on needed to be. Visual effects can still be very hit-or-miss in Hollywood today, and I did just watch the Snyder Cut Justice League that had years and years and a ton of money behind it just to give me a villain who looked like a confused molerat and whatever the hell Cyborg was supposed to be. But nope, here everything is glorious. Both Kong and Godzilla look like they could leap off of the screen and enter our real world. I will say that MechaGodzilla wasn’t nearly as sharp, but I also think it was just poorly designed. It occasionally looked oddly scrawny or had limbs that seemed too big for its body. But given the rest of the effects across the board, it wasn’t a big bother.
It’s hard to put the rest of what worked for me into words. I mean… it’s actually not. And those words are “big ape fight dinosaur, FUN”. But that’s entirely it. If I want to watch The Shawshank Redemption for its character building and emotional core, I can watch that. And it’s a spectacular movie! If I want to some tremendous and expensive CGI fights and a big gorilla ramming his arm into a skyscraper to reset a dislocated shoulder, I have this. Is one of those things objectively better than the other?
I… yes. Obviously Shawshank is better. But that doesn’t detract from the fact that Godzilla vs Kong is successful. It could have looked bad, but it didn’t. It could have been boring, but it wasn’t. It could have cheaped out on the monster fights and made the podcast subplot take up more time, but it didn’t. Additionally, it’s only 113 minutes! They could have padded the hell out of this thing, but they kept it slim and trim. As I said at the top: I can’t be mad at a movie that says “this is what we want to give you” and then proceeds to give it to us in a well-executed manner.
So I had fun with it. Will everyone? Certainly not. If you feel a movie needs to speak to you, this movie has nothing to say. This isn’t art… it’s not a “film”, it’s a “movie”, if you will. I’m not going to claim any high nor low ground just because that still works for me.
Based on the promised expectations, the short length of time it takes to watch, and the general quality of execution, this is actually a pretty substantial recommendation from me!