James Jay Edwards

Godzilla vs. Kong Serves Up the Monster Bashing Action

(Godzilla Vs. Kong, Courtesy Warner Bros. & Legendary Pictures)

James Jay Edwards reviews Godzilla vs. Kong, a new monster film directed by Adam Wingard, and starring Godzilla and King Kong. (Warner Bros., Legendary Pictures

 

Recently, my friend and podcast co-host observed that the fan bases of both Godzilla and King Kong are very accepting. Whether the movies are socio-political allegories or outer space fairy tales, the fans embrace them—there’s even love for that 1998 Aliens-meets-Jurassic Park Matthew Broderick vehicle. So, it’s no surprise that Godzilla vs. Kong has been one of the most anticipated movies of this—and last—year.

Godzilla vs. Kong takes place after Godzilla has saved mankind from “Monster Zero,” the three-headed menace Ghidorah. Unfortunately, Godzilla has started attacking humans, and the humans need another titan savoir. So, they call upon Godzilla’s “ancient enemy,” the ginormous ape King Kong, to fight for them.

 

(Godzilla Vs. Kong, theatrical release poster, Courtesy Warner Bros. & Legendary Pictures)

There’s human stuff happening in Godzilla vs. Kong, too. A group of people escort Kong to the middle of the Earth to find something that may help in their fight, and a couple of children team up with a conspiracy theory podcaster to try and find out why Godzilla is suddenly attacking the humanity which he protected just one movie ago.

But it’s the monster stuff that’s most engaging. Godzilla and Kong steal the show away from a human ensemble cast that includes names like Rebecca Hall (Christine), Alexander Skarsgard (Big Little Lies), Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things), Brian Tyree Henry (Joker), Julian Dennison (Deadpool 2), Demián Bichir (The Hateful Eight), and Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights). The human characters are painted in broad strokes, but the monsters are developed. Or, at least, Kong is developed. And Godzilla vs. Kong is mostly Kong’s story. Godzilla just shows up for the kaiju butt-kicking.

 

(Godzilla Vs. Kong, Courtesy Warner Bros. & Legendary Pictures)

Godzilla vs. Kong is the culmination of the new Legendary MonsterVerse that was started with 2014’s Godzilla, built upon by 2017’s Kong Skull Island, and furthered by 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters. It has all, quite literally, been leading up to this massive battle. One does not need to have seen the other movies to appreciate this one, but let’s be honest—anyone who is interested in Godzilla vs. Kong has seen probably the rest.

The screenplay for Godzilla vs. Kong was written by Eric Pearson (Thor: Ragnarok) and Max Borenstein (who also wrote Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Kong: Skull Island) from a story by Terry Rossio (who worked on the Pirates of the Caribbean series), Michael Dougherty (who wrote and directed Godzilla: KotM), and Zach Shields (another Godzilla: KotM holdover). That may sound like a lot of cooks in the kitchen, but Godzilla vs. Kong is a very cohesive movie, thanks mostly to the stripped-down storytelling of director Adam Wingard (You’re Next, The Guest).

 

(Godzilla Vs. Kong, Photo by Vince Valitutti, Courtesy Warner Bros. & Legendary Pictures)

Wingard doesn’t let the separate characters and different locations in Godzilla vs. Kong bog down the action. The subplots are kept to a minimum, and everything connects together seamlessly. There’s a ton of sci-fi influence to the film (and all of the far-fetched technology and questionable science that comes with it), giving it a vibe not unlike that of the classic Toho monster movies like the original 1963 King Kong vs. Godzilla. Sure, Godzilla vs. Kong is visually slicker, but there’s a big dumb monster movie at its heart. One gets the feeling that these characters are precious to Wingard. He made a monster movie for fans, by fans. And he snuck in some huge surprises in the third act (no spoilers, though).

Just as one might guess, the best segments of Godzilla vs. Kong are the monster fights. In fact, the human-centric sections of the film feel like Wingard coming up for air, just buying some time before the next big knock-down-drag-out. The plot just gives the monsters a reason to fight. The visual effects aren’t quite as impressive as they have been in the earlier MonsterVerse movies—at times, they seem overly animated, so it feels like watching a video game of kaiju monsters slugging it out. None of that takes away from the excitement and energy of the combat, though. Wingard puts the “vs.” in Godzilla vs. Kong.

 

(Godzilla Vs. Kong, Courtesy Warner Bros. & Legendary Pictures)

I have to admit that I am a soft critic on these kinds of movies. Just like Star Wars movies, I love Godzilla movies, so I can overlook the flaws in logic to have a good time. Godzilla vs. Kong is right up my alley. If you love big, dumb monster fun, it just might be up your alley, too.

Godzilla vs. Kong is in theaters and on HBO Max right now.

 

 

Check out the podcast Eye On Horror for more with James Jay Edwards, and also features Jonathan Correia and Jacob Davison.

 

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