Kong headbutts Godzilla during an underwater fight.
King Kong. Headbutts. Godzilla. Underwater!
Oh God, YES.
We’ve come to it, at last, dear reader. The culmination of the Monsterverse, the showdown of the ages, the big fish! Godzilla vs. Kong, directed by Adam Wingard and starring a bunch of humans. Who are they, why should we care? It doesn’t matter! The title is the reason you, your mother and the milkman are here. It’s the movie’s promise. And, folks. It absolutely, one hundred percent lives up to that promise!
Yeah, I’m not going to dance around it, friends. This movie is fantastic! It’s rock ‘n roll! I unironically love it. There. You can jump off this review now if you want. Go! Watch it! Embrace it! Love it, as I love all of you.
In all seriousness, though, this movie is precisely the title and doesn’t try to be more than that. It’s a spectacle: a blue ribbon, neon saturated, synthwave Wrestlemania championship main event. It’s Ali vs. Tyson. The dream bout nerds have been salivating for. And when the film’s focus stays on its titular Titans, the flick is a blockbuster of the highest order. Everything else around them is so-so, but that’s par for the course. And I’m okay with that. It’s Godzilla vs. Kong!
There does need to be a semblance of a story, and this one isn’t half bad. Godzilla is on a rampage. No one knows why, and the humans are in dire need of a weapon to even the odds. Dr. Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgard) must now lead a crew into the Hollow Earth, a pocket dimension in the Earth’s core and the birthplace of the Titans. There they might be able to harness an energy source capable of destroying Godzilla. To get there, however, they’ll need Kong to lead the way. Being another Alpha monster, Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) and the Monarch organization know that once Kong comes off Skull Island, Godzilla will lock onto him. But for humanity’s sake, they need Kong! Luckily for us, Kong has bonded with young Jia (Kaylee Hottle), the last surviving member of Skull Island’s native people. He fights for her, and she guides him. So off they all go to the Hollow Earth to save humanity and face destiny in the form of one titanic, atomic-powered iguana.
This movie is earnest as hell and doesn’t overstay its welcome. Going in, I was worried it would be bogged down by unnecessary filler and human-centric B-plots. Yes, there’s human nonsense a-plenty, but credit where credit’s due. The filmmakers do a damn fine job of weaving all the threads together around the central conceit. Nothing feels extraneous. The movie never spins its wheels. Not much, anyway. But even when the film pulls attention away from the monster action, the people drama manages to coalesce into the main story. And while the human characters are as flat as a chalkboard, the cast milks their roles for all they’re worth. Some would argue these actors’ talent is squandered in thankless parts, and while I can’t entirely push against that, it’s their likability that keeps their stories afloat. The dynamic between Skarsgard, Hall, and Hottle particularly plays the best among the human cast. Their relationship manages to come around in a rather cute way. The humies don’t have more going for them than charm, and it helps that they aren’t a collective of confounding, slobbering idiots. Mostly. The slights are inoffensive and in tone with the rest of the movie.
But c’mon! We’re here for one reason: to chew bubble gum and watch monsters kick ass. And we’re all out of bubble gum. How lovely it is to have a CGI tentpole whose effects and action are genuinely spectacular. Director Wingard spoke of how he envisioned Godzilla chasing Kong with his nuclear breath around a “neon-soaked, futuristic, synthwave city.” That’s a glorious image and comes together on screen beautifully. Wingard cut his teeth on indie horror, and his partnerings with screenwriter Simon Barrett (You’re Next, The Guest, Blair Witch) have meted out some unique offerings. His creative streak continues here with Wingard and his visual effects & art department unleashing the full wrath of their imaginations. The action sequences are pretty clever, playing to each monsters’ strengths. From a sea battle atop naval battleships to the sprawling metropolis of Hong Kong, the fights are balls out, total destruction. The choreography is blessedly clear in neatly composed wide shots—none of that shaky-cam, quick cutting, junkyard nausea. And by God, this movie is colorful. So much wonderful color! There’s been a recent trend in even some of the better action movies of muted color palettes. I’m not inherently against this choice, but it can be a missed opportunity not to utilize vibrant hues with these larger-than-life figures. Godzilla vs. Kong is an acid-trip rainbow. The colors are robust, buzzing with an electric charge akin to licking a battery. It’s all so very lovely.
I feel this movie will be stamped as a “mindless, dumb display,” which isn’t entirely inaccurate because it is steeped in some bonkers sci-fi wackness. The reality is extremely heightened, and there are several logical leaps in the plot that you’ll shake your head at if you stop to really think about it. For me, that’s all part of the fun! If that’s not for you, it’s not for you. But I’m hoping it is!
I feel I need to give the filmmakers their props because I think there’s a little more going on here than mere rock ‘em, sock ‘em smashing. Godzilla and Kong don’t just put on a massive flex. They have their own arcs and characterizations specific to this film while echoing their previous iterations. Kong is longing for home, somewhere to settle and live peacefully. Seemingly the last of his kind, his bond with Jia is the only bearing of a family he has. His journey to the Hollow Earth, the brutal battles with Godzilla, are themselves an existential odyssey Kong must embark on to uncover his roots. Godzilla is the opposite side of that coin. He’s much less a benevolent guardian here than the cruel hand of nature. A god-like force once again warring against the follies of man, dealing out unbiased destruction in answer to our recklessness. In that way, this Godzilla is also calling back to his origins. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but that’s how I like to see these characters—as the ultimate underdog and anti-hero. It’s all part of the fun.
— Chris J. Patiño, Film Blogger.
Chris J. Patiño is a senior at Lewis University, working toward a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism. Inspired at an early age by the late great Roger Ebert, he looks to follow in the footsteps of the acclaimed film critic and add his voice to the choir of movie discourse. As a Tempo reporter, Chris writes film reviews for The Lewis Flyer. He enjoys just about every film genre, but favorites include horror, sci-fi, and action. A lover of books, board games and the great outdoors, he spends most of his free time in worlds of fantasy and thought. Favorite authors include Stephen King and Jim Butcher, with favorite novels being The Dresden Files series, the Harry Potter series, Salem’s Lot, The Shining, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and All the President’s Men.