The Titans meet on Screen for the first time since 1963.
Man, the build up to this movie has been as massive as the two titans who are featured on the screen. Really, the hype began just as soon as 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters wrapped up and hinted toward the two biggest attractions in the world of Kaijus going head to head. It felt like we were waiting for the great Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson to step into the ring. Two legends, forever debated as greats of their eras, finally squaring off to see who would be King of the Ring (of course, that would be Ali — but I digress).
Over the last month more and more has made its way online, from additional trailers, toys that are soon to be released, theories and more. I’ve seen (not watched) videos on YouTube that are 30 minutes long dedicated to discussing who would win, and any tiny detail dissected over and over from images and rumors. With all the hype and all the excitement — there’s no way this movie could disappoint, could it? Well…
First, let me say, if I was a young kid watching this movie — it would have all the things needed to make me come out of the theater excited and ready to watch it all over again. Unlike the 2014 release of Godzilla which was criticized for not having enough of the monsters (especially Godzilla), this one puts Godzilla and Kong in the movie from the very first scenes. I say all of that, because what I’m about to say next isn’t as great…
As much as I wanted this movie to be fantastic, and become one of my all time favorites (as I’ve been watching Godzilla and King Kong since I was a kid), it just wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong — the fight scenes are amazing, Godzilla and Kong do their part — no questions asked. The effects, the movie score — anything relating to the monsters is pretty darn good. The problem isn’t our stars. It’s everything around them. And unfortunately, the trailers for the movie pretty much encapsulate what takes place — minus who wins. Seriously, the story is that thin.
The movie begins as if you’ve jumped right into the middle of it. No build up, no backstory — just go. Nothing to let you know what’s been happening to Kong over the last 40 years, he’s just there. Nothing to bridge the gap between what went down since King of the Monsters until now — just go. You have been dropped into a story taking place 2 to 3 years since the last film, with no context. Again, forty years have passed since Skull Island — what’s Kong been up to? What happened since Godzilla defeated Ghidorah? What about the bad guys (especially Charles Dance’s character Alan Jonah) and all of the other Titans from King of the Monsters? Where’d they go? Nothing. No explanation, no getting you caught up…Nothing. We just learn that Kong is in some sort of containment center, and Godzilla shows up in Pensacola, Florida, to destroy a facility belonging to a company called Apex, and the movie is on its way. And that start just makes the whole storyline awkward, like you’ve sat down in the middle of a movie after having missed the first 30 to 45 minutes. It’s as if Director Adam Wingard, decided to make the complete opposite of what Gareth Edwards did in 2014. No build up and no real mystery.
One of the biggest criticisms in both of the previous Godzilla movies is that the humans have weak storylines; nothing to get the viewer attached to them — almost as if they’re in the way. Well, if you felt that way in those movies — this film takes that feeling and goes to 11. I don’t expect there to be Academy Award winning material for the actors and actresses in a monster movie, but it would be nice to have some sort of depth to their characters. Seriously, even the adorable little girl attached to Kong is exactly what you’ve already seen in the trailers. No more, no less. Most of the human characters are just there to fill in the blanks. And the way in which they’re able to do that by figuring things out in mere seconds, and then audibly saying what they figured out is laughable (there were times when I thought they might look right into the camera and say, “For our viewers, here’s what’s going on”). The best examples are when Alexander Skarsgård’s character is at one moment a lowly professor next to the flute room on campus, and in the next he is able to pilot the most complex aircraft known to man with no discernable training. After that, Millie Bobby Brown, Bryan Tyree Henry, and Julian Dennison are able to take one look at a huge, vastly complex bio-mechanism, unlike anything anyone has ever seen and just know exactly what it is. And there are several other instances like those. It just dumbs things down and takes you out of the story. There are too many times you are required to make gigantic leaps in your suspension of disbelief (as if that’s possible in a movie about giant monsters).
With those critiques out of the way, as I said before, the movie is about Godzilla and Kong — and in that regard the movie shines. The two big guys are the best actors in the film, and really in both instances you can relate to them, and understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. Their scenes are brilliant. They are everything you’d want in gigantic monsters fighting. And once the real threat emerges in the movie (unfortunately with only about 20 minutes left in the film), you have the best tag team in history defending the world. It’s just too bad there wasn’t more of Godzilla, Kong, and eventually their adversary — and less of those pesky humans around them.
I know from reading a few other reviews I’m an outlier here, but I really think this movie could have been so much better. Like the most recent Star Wars trilogy which had different writers and directors, each going their own way, the 4 films in the MonsterVerse are much the same. Godzilla doesn’t fit with Skull Island, which didn’t fit with King of the Monsters, which now feels as though it doesn’t fit with Godzilla vs. Kong. They have some of the same characters, and are tied to each other, but they all are completely different movies. This hurts the overall presentation of the films when they are put together. I’d rather be able to watch one right after the other and feel as though when I finished — I had watched one long movie. Perhaps no other series of films did this better than Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, but of course, he was drawing from some of the best source material ever written. But what could have made these movies so much better and impactful is if all of them had been born together, written out and pieced together long before they went into production. Perhaps Legendary did do that, but it doesn’t come across that way, and in the end a lot of magic was left on the table. This may be it for the MonsterVerse for now, or just the end of a chapter, but in the future I hope more consideration and depth is given to the stories.
3 out of 5
Godzilla vs. Kong is now playing at theaters and streaming on HBO Max. It is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of creature violence/destruction and brief language