Benjamin Wollmuth is a lover of literature who enjoys sharing his thoughts on everything from movies and video games to books and music.
This article contains spoilers for Godzilla vs. Kong. If you have yet to see the movie, I would suggest turning back now.
'Godzilla vs. Kong'
Back when Godzilla: King of the Monsters was released, I wrote a review. At the end of the review, I made the comment that Kong would stand no chance against Godzilla. Sadly... I was correct.
Godzilla vs. Kong is the newest film in Legendary's MonsterVerse, a cinematic universe that would see the destruction of so many cities––one that would bring our favorite Titans to the big screen in the most realistic of ways possible. We go to these movies to see these giant beasts fight each other and nothing else. This film specifically is truly epic. The visual effects are beautiful and the action is outstanding––the child in me was having the time of his life watching this film. But while this film is epic in its realization of these beasts and its ability to capture the scale of them, it––like the past films––falls short of telling an interesting story outside of two giant monsters fighting.
So, does epic equal good?
Where Does This Film Stand?
While "good" is a highly subjective word, I like to think that there is a basic understanding out there of what a good film is. A good film tells an intriguing story while also delivering solid character development and well-developed aspects related to whatever genre said film is in (action=entertaining fights, horror=good scares and tension). In terms of well-developed aspects of genre, Godzilla vs. Kong delivers exactly what it promises: fantastic fights between the two iconic monsters. The action is beautiful to watch. Every punch, kick, or bite is felt. We have seen these characters before, so we are able to have somewhat of a connection with them––like other vs. films, I'm sure there were plenty of people hoping Godzilla would win and plenty hoping Kong would win. This connection allowed me to feel deeply impacted by these two characters going head-to-head. It also helps that the monsters look insanely real. I am truly amazed by how far we have come with visual effects. The last 30 minutes or so of this movie allows you to just turn your brain off and watch a giant lizard and a giant monkey beat each other up, and then afterward team up to defeat a common threat (which I'm sure everyone saw coming). The film promised us all of this, and it truly delivers.
On a side-note, yet still semi-related to what I'm talking about, Kong felt like the main character... and I loved it. Because, unlike Godzilla, Kong really doesn't want to hurt people. His relationship with humans is something Godzilla never really had, and the film's ability to show this is fantastic. I was so hoping he'd win, and it upsets me that the giant ape lost both fights against the king of the monsters.
While it does succeed in delivering the action everyone wanted, the film doesn't really provide audiences with an interesting story or interesting human characters... but that seems to be where these films always fall. In terms of characters, there is one who truly feels necessary to this plot, and that would be the character of Jia, a deaf girl who can communicate with Kong via sign language. The character's connection with Kong humanizes him, making him more than just a big ape. He really just wants a home.
The other human characters are just there to tie together plot threads that big monsters couldn't. How can Kong find a home? Humans. How will the audience find out about Mechagodzilla? Humans. How will Kong be saved when on the brink of death? Humans, of course. While they are good for transitioning between plot threads, the plot threads they are a part of just aren't that interesting. Millie Bobbie Brown teams up with Julian Dennison and Brian Tyree Henry to discover why Godzilla has been attacking Apex facilities. Firstly, Julian Dennison did not need to be in this movie, and secondly, the films have made it obvious that Apex is bad and I don't really think we needed these characters to make that discovery. They also somehow manage to shutdown Mechagodzilla in a way, but a part of me just said... "Why?" Apex's whole ideology is based around them not wanting Titans around, yet Monarch––and the filmmakers––are all about keeping these creatures around to keep balance. If the movie was really cheering for these creatures, why did they need humans' help to weaken the mech? I would have rather had Mechagodzilla be defeated because Zilla and Kong teamed up. That would have made so much more sense to me.
Then we have the humans following Kong who are really just using him to discover the Hollow Earth, which was cool, but mostly because Kong was there. Once Kong and Zilla start fighting, the humans pretty much leave the picture entirely, which to me felt like the film telling us that they understand the humans are boring... but they wouldn't need to try and be self-aware if they knew where to put their focus.
Show, Don't Tell
The other big issue I have with this film is that I felt as if I was missing something. There is so much that has happened leading up to this movie's plot––so much, in fact, that I wondered why the film didn't take the time to just show us. When the film started, I felt as if I had started in the middle of it.
We are told that Monarch built a facility for Kong because the storm that once surrounded Skull Island overtook it. Cool. But why don't you show us what Kong went through to make the new facility necessary? We are told that Godzilla has been attacking Apex facilities for a while now. Cool. But why don't you show us more of that? We are told that Kong's and Godzilla's ancestors had an ancient rivalry. Cool. But can you show us? Can you give us flashbacks at all? Why is everything just one big exposition dump?! This film does show us a lot in terms of monsters fighting, and I appreciate it. However, this film is just under 2 hours in length. I would have accepted at least an extra half-hour of footage dedicated to flashbacks that showed us what happened leading up to this movie rather than relying on boring, underdeveloped humans to tell us and expect us to accept it.
But that's just me.
I feel as if I have been shitting way too much on this movie because, in reality, I had a grand time watching it... well, watching the monsters. When the film delivered what it promised, I was in awe. When it cut to underdeveloped humans known only for their one personality trait, I yawned. However, I wouldn't call this film bad by any means, because, as I've said a bunch of times already, it gives audiences what they were promised. There are just some boring lulls in between the good stuff that took me out of the film.
So, does epic equal good? It's hard to say, but in the case of this movie... yes, epic equals good. Not great. Good. It gave me what I wanted, for the most part, and sometimes that's all I can ask for. It's not like I expected a good subplot involving humans... I just sometimes wish movies like this could at least try.
With all of that being said, I am going to give Godzilla vs. Kong a 7/10.
© 2021 Benjamin Wollmuth