Godzilla Vs. Kong, 2021, directed by Adam Wingard – 3.5/5 Stars
Warner Brothers’ recent monster films, members of the “Monsterverse” as they are called, are difficult to assess with the usual filmmaking criteria. These bom- bastic, ridiculous romps have little to offer in terms of an emotional core or narrative arc, but somehow successfully work as simple, entertaining blockbusters. Thanks to some quality visual effects, excellently choreographed fight scenes and a beauti- fully absurd premise, Godzilla Vs. Kong, like its predecessors, manages to keep its audience’s attention for a fun, silly two hours. Full spoilers ahead.
The primary role of the human char- acters in the film is to explain why the monsters are present, and why they’re mad at each other. The cast is jam-packed with criminally underused actors, including some from past films, like Millie Bobby Brown and Kyle Chandler, as well as some new faces, like Alexander Skarsgård, Brian Tyree Henry and Julian Dennison. All these notably talented actors are sidelined for the sake of exposition, with one group investigating the evil megacorporation Apex Cybernetics, creators of the formi- dable Mechagodzill, and another group following Kong on his journey to the inside of the hollow earth (an undeniably hilarious and bizarre addition to the plot).
The closest thing to an emotional foundation for the film is Kong’s con- nection with a young deaf girl named Jia, who is played by Kaylee Hottle. In one memorable scene, Kong, after learn- ing some minimal sign language from Jia, signs the word “home.” More human moments from Kong like this one allows the audience to connect with the massive ape and give the big fight scenes some much-needed stakes.
The film’s emotive scenes can also
attribute their success to the film’s tre- mendous visual effects, which are not only groundbreaking from a technical standpoint, but also master some basic elements of cinematography, and make great use of light and color. The best- looking fight scene takes place in down- town Hong Kong, where the two monsters are lit by the bright blues and reds of the city at night. Kong’s incredibly realistic and expressive face reflects these colorful lights, and nearly every moment is framed and lit beautifully.
What really makes these fight scenes fun, though, is their choreography, which almost feels akin to staged profession- al wrestling. Because the monsters are so large, they move in what looks like slow motion, not unlike the telegraphed, over-the-top fighting moves seen in WrestleMania. Though it’s known, from a logical standpoint, that everything is predetermined, audiences will likely find themselves reacting to each punch or bite that lands as if the fight is happening in real time. This similarity to professional wrestling is especially clear in the final fight scene, in which Godzilla and Kong inevitably team up to fight Mechagodzilla. In the climactic final seconds, the two monsters pick up Mechagodzilla by his arms and slam him into the ground as the human characters cheer from a distance. If audiences can allow themselves to accept the silliness of the film’s premise, this is a fantastically fun moment to close with.
Godzilla vs. Kong is completely devoid of subtlety. It lacks the social com- mentary of the films that inspired it and introduces some truly outrageous con- cepts. In short, this flick has little to say in the way of storytelling. All that being said, it works. Thanks to stunning visu- als, much needed glimpses of emotion and some over-the-top fight scenes, the film succeeds at being what is essentially a Saturday morning cartoon with a $200 million budget. For a brief, fun experi- ence, Godzilla vs. Kong is a safe bet.