Is this a good movie? I’m not a hundred percent sure on that, but it has King Kong body Godzilla off of an aircraft carrier and then John-McClane-jump off the side as ol’ Godzilla shoots atomic breath up through middle of it and that shit gets my motor running.
Gozilla vs. Kong is the fourth entry in this loosely-connected “Monsterverse” that WB has set up, leaving audiences with very middling success. We last left off in 2019, with Godzilla just ruling the planet as this ever-present king. Kong, on the other hand, is being hidden in an enclosure surrounding his island to prevent his war with Godzilla (this is, apparently, predicted in cave paintings depicting ancestral wars for domination of the planet). Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) and her adopted daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle) live in an enclosure around part of Skull Island, watching Kong and protecting him from the wrath of Godzilla. Apex Cybernetics is developing some sort of thing that we’re not sure about for most of the runtime, but technician Bernie Hays has infiltrated their organization and puts out a pirate-style podcast about the shady goings-on. Oh, and Millie Bobby-Brown is back for some reason. Her perpetually sweating father, played by Kyle Chandler, is mercifully only in a few minutes of the film. Dr. Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) is also present, a scientist hoping to use Kong as a guide to a theorized Hollow Earth where the Titans originated.
All of that sounds fairly dumb, and that’s a correct assessment This is a dumb movie, one that embraces the goofy weirdness of this franchise in a way that I desperately hoped it would. Less focus is given to the human characters, and what we get of them isn’t icons of cinema speaking to each other in dramatic exposition that clashes with the comedic relief characters. Instead, we get a couple of teenagers working with a podcaster to expose a corporate secret and a couple of adorably dorky scientists looking for the center of the Earth while hanging out with a deaf girl. Kong can talk to the deaf girl, and it’s quite adorable.
Sweetness really is the emotional spine of this incredibly goofy film. This is less a sequel to a Godzilla movie and more a sequel to Kong: Skull Island. Our big lunk has been taught sign language by the cute kid, lending him emotional depth through a form of identifiable communication. Great care is taken to show the expressions on his face, a trait his scaly opponent can never achieve. Once in a while, we get a true improvement in this franchise, and the humanization lent to Kong’s already decent character helped me actually care about this story.
And now I’m prattling on about emotions and character depth when that is absolutely not what anyone is here for. You’re here because Kong gets a radioactive axe from the center of the Earth and then goes to Tokyo to hit Godzilla in the face with it and it’s just so cool. This series has had a different director for each entry, but Dougherty was into the grandiosity of these godlike creatures and Edwards wanted more of a wrestling match in homage to previous films. Adam Wingard, however, is here to show us all how you can play with these creatures. Godzilla swims, crawls around like an angry crocodile, and uses atomic breath at every chance he gets. Wingard is less interested in mythologizing these creatures as he is just letting them be gnarly brawlers, a hat-trick that pays off in the final half-hour of the film.
I have recently praised the music of Junkie XL in Zack Snyder’s Justice League, and I may have to redact that. 2014’s Godzilla gave us a booming, stomping, bombastic score from Alexandre Desplat, and 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters gave Bear McCreary a chance to bring back some classic Kaiju themes. When Junkie XL was given the reigns it seems that his first thought was to just go as generic as possible, apparently making no further improvements to this idea as he worked. His score is bland, repetitive, and bordering on replaceable. One thing this franchise has repeatedly given us was exciting music, and while this score doesn’t offend it makes no impression beyond mere existence. It is the equivalent to a passing “hi” to your racist relative that needs to crack jokes at the family Christmas party: civil in acknowledgment, but goes no further and actively avoids attempts to do so.
Look, I watched this at 4:30am and I had an absolute blast while my girlfriend (who was bored as hell through any non-fight scenes in this film) sighed every few minutes and drank coffee. This isn’t going to appeal to everyone, but for those looking to a spectacle, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised if you take the time. It’s loving toward the films and cultures from which it originated, it’s absolutely gorgeous to look at thanks to the cinematography of Ben Seresin (this is the first good movie he’s gotten to work on and I think the guy deserves a round of applause), and I got to watch Godzilla get punched in the face. It’s an absolute blast, and with America in a hopeful place at the start of the year, I think this is what we need. Watch the movie about the fighting monsters and feel better about the state of the world.
Godzilla vs. Kong is currently streaming on HBO Max, remaining there for 30 days.