Godzilla vs. Kong is dumb as hell, and that doesn’t matter
This movie is absolutely awful. Just the dumbest thing y’all ever did see. An incomprehensible mess. Borderline incompetent.
And yet: a monkey and a lizard are very large. They fight. They fight several times. When they fight, many buildings explode, and they keep fighting. They continue to be large and they continue to do fights. Measured by the standard of what the movie promises to provide versus what it delivers on, well—two thumbs up. The Godzilla does indeed, repeatedly, versus the Kong. Review over.
This would be an acceptable endpoint, but I feel the disappointment and confusion around this production deserves some fleshing out. Yes, if you are showing up for any movie with these monsters named in the title, and putting any faith/focus on the story, you would be missing the point of why they’ve been cinema staples (in Kong’s case for sure) since the outset of cinema itself. Except for the fact that this is no longer the case, because Legendary’s Monsterverse has proven that we can expect so much more from these films and this particular creative team.
2014’s Godzilla absolutely slaps. I loved every minute of that. Brilliant, terrifying, and full of actors making interesting choices and following compelling paths. An incredibly strong opening. 2017’s Kong: Skull Island is just a masterclass in story, action sequences, and oozes style. Unfortunately, it was a period piece, depriving us of folding any of those characters into the modern storyline. 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters actually does what I described the latest film’s positives as, but even better. The film itself wasn’t compelling in the least, but it did at least make sure to pack an overwhelming amount of the runtime with kaiju fighting other kaiju while humans stood around, mouths agape, just repeating how fucked we all were. Completely serviceable.
Godzilla vs. Kong seems to unlearn every successful choice in the previous entries. It would be one thing to say “Sure, this is dumb fun and whatever.” It’s another to be actively disappointed with how much the film is just completely fumbled.
Godzilla, previously believed to be mankind’s defender, destroys the factory/labs of a clearly shadowy organization. Humanity responds by, not asking why this would happen after years of peace, but immediately devising a plan to destroy this apex predator. Across the world, Kong is being kept imprisoned in a digital Skull Island. Sure. A plan is devised to use Kong to lead a team of scientists in nifty spaceships through a portal into the center of the Earth (which is hollow and full of magic) in order to secure a power source that can fuel a weapon from the shadow organization.
There are 40-ish human characters. I could not tell you the name of a single one of them. Some have been imported from other films in the franchise. Worse, some are brand new but much of what they’re doing there is never really explained. There’s more than an hour of exposition about people we’ll never care about and things that don’t matter. Then we go on a journey to the center of the Earth. Kong gets to ride on an aircraft carrier. Godzilla fights a robot. An indigenous child has a role that is almost entirely about showing her with a single tear running down her cheek as she watches battles. Kyle Chandler says five lines. Kong speaks English at one point and I’m honestly not sure if that really happened or if I’d just slipped into a fugue state. [It did happen. I just wish that it did not.]
Kong and Godzilla fight three times. Despite having an ancient rivalry, it seems that neither of them is actually intent on killing the other. We’re going by wrestling “tap out” rules here for some reason. A movie cutting out 2/3rds of these characters and storylines would have been far more successful, but I worry that if you’ve got a Kong against Godzilla scenario where they’re mostly just… sparring? Well, that wasn’t gonna save it either.
Perhaps the most specific, head-scratching choice contained is that Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things) reprises her role from King of the Monsters, as a child who is friends with Godzilla, kinda. In the years since, she’s been red-pilled by a podcaster conspiracy theorist, who she teams up with to find themselves in a series of increasingly stupid situations. It’s one of the most prevalent storylines, and in the wake of role that QAnon/Flat Earther type social media broadcasting has played in recent civil unrest, it just reads much different in 2021 than they probably intended.
The film isn’t just a bad story with a series of gigantic battles, it’s a series of halfway interesting action sequences which interrupt a bewildering story. I’m sure that plenty of HBO Max viewers will have a perfectly acceptable two hours with it, but if you can remember anything about it a month later then you’ll have my respect.