This week, I am tasked with writing 600 words on “Godzilla vs. Kong.” Alas, only six come to mind. So, to quote Chris Evans (and his sweater) from Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out” — “This is stupid with two O’s.”
In all fairness, “Godzilla vs. Kong” seems to know that. Or at least, I was told that it did. Adam Wingard’s film is, admittedly, sprinkled with gags (of varying hilarity) and one-liners (of varying quotability), most of which come courtesy of Brian Tyree Henry, who plays a podcasting conspiracy theorist. And the movie doesn’t carry itself with even half of the humorlessness as the three preceding chapters in its namesakes’ franchises. But there’s a difference between self-aware and fully sentient, and without spoiling the film’s climactic surprise, I don’t think “Godzilla vs. Kong” is online.
For a movie that seems so cognizant of the fact that literally no one cares why the girls are fighting, “Godzilla vs. Kong” spends an inane amount of time explaining why. In the following run-on sentence, I will try and remember the reason: OK, so, Godzilla and Kong are the last of two, like, rival species or something, which, millions of years ago, waged war against each other, to the point where now it is literally in their biology to go full-on fisticuffs the second they detect the other’s existence. There’s also a pinch of corporate espionage and a whole hullabaloo about something called the Hollow Earth, which I guess is a thing in the mythology of this series, but I’m sorry, I am not here for that. I am here to watch Big Monkey and Bigger Lizard go punch-punch.
Furthermore, why are there so many humans? Why do they have so much screen time? Why do the five (five!) writers credited with this story refuse to make them even a little bit interesting? Why are Millie Bobby Brown and Kyle Chandler reprising their roles from “Godzilla: King of the Monsters?” Does anyone even know their characters’ names? Did anyone even see that movie?
Listen, I am all here for a dumb-with-no-B “Godzilla vs. Kong,” but I just don’t think that the 2021 version is as aware of its own idiocy as it claims to be. If it “knew what kind of movie it is,” it wouldn’t bog itself down in convoluted world-building for a world that the audience is literally there to see destroyed. It wouldn’t overpopulate itself with so many characters that none can be developed, even though no viewer asked for even one character in the first place. It wouldn’t attempt to be “about something,” and most importantly of all, it would have more than just three Kaiju fights in its 2-hour runtime.
Oh, but when they fight, it is glorious. Godzilla and Kong don’t engage in a battle so much as an ugly bar fight; they kick the everliving sh*t up, down and out of each other with zero style but full fury. Hong Kong — with its multicolored neon lights and looming, glass skyscrapers — serves as their stomping ground, and by the end of the movie, it looks like oatmeal. My friends and I shouted at the top of our lungs at least once during every single skirmish, and the volume was turned to an 11 when a third fighter entered the ring. “Are you not entertained?” Adam Wingard shouts at me. “Okay, maybe a little.”
So is “Godzilla vs. Kong” good? No. Nope. Absolutely not. But does it make for a fun Friday night — dare I say, is it worthy of a (vaccinated) trip to the theater? It just might.
Only: Make sure to stock up on snacks. You know, for when the humans are talking. 4/10
This review was originally published on April 13, 2021 in The Observer, the daily newspaper of the University of Notre Dame. You can read it here.