I know you are looking at my rating and feeling I am not being kind to what should be considered a blockbuster movie. I would think of it like as a blockbuster if I hadn’t already seen its like before. This is not the first Godzilla vs Kong and in all ways which are meaningful, it is just a retelling of a previous movie, down to the creation of MechaGodzilla as the real villain in this story.
You Came for the Kaiju
Godzilla vs Kong sets forth the idea Godzilla and Kong are “alpha predators” creatures whose unspoken occupation is to find other predatory kaiju and regulate them out of existence with extreme prejudice. Once the Humans have revealed this particular nugget of information, they could disappear and never appear on screen again.
If we were lucky.
As far as I was concerned, every frame spent staring at the cute urchin, or the hapless military or the completely forgettable mom-substitute, is a second I am not watching kaiju attempting to eat other kaiju in rich high-resolution video.
I know WHY the Humans are there. They are to provide scale. They are necessary to show humanity as a necessary inheritor of the Earth. They are meant to give us a keystone as Humans watching the show, just how terrifying kaiju can be when they senselessly destroy buildings, cars, and bridges with careless abandon. At no point am I saying I want to live in such a world, but when you think deeply about it Godzilla and Kong are stand-ins for corporate and natural power crushing the faceless masses as they stride across the globe as economic giants.
Meh. Enough of that allegorical or metaphorical nonsense. If you know me, you know I love giant monster movies. I have been involved with kaiju wars since Toho created the first versions of Godzilla back before black pepper. I thought is was a strange tact to make the modern Godzilla a hero as this particular franchise has done. But I suspect this was done to reconcile his status among the Japanese who consider him more than just a hero, Godzilla’s a phenomenon.
So Why the Low Rating?
I rated it so low because I was hoping it would be something new, not a reboot of a story which happened 50 years ago. The movie King Kong vs Godzilla took place in 1962 and perhaps the movie’s producers decided this was so long ago, no one who attends this movie knows about the first one. What made me terribly unhappy was the creation of MechaGodzilla, who ends up being the real enemy in this movie.
Visually, this movie does its job. It entertained me. Buildings were destroyed, Human lives endangered with every burst of Godzilla’s radioactive breath weapon. What’s not to love?
Alas there were so many things I had questions about and I think if we are going to tell these stories we need to have an acceptable expectation of story tropes to agree on.
My number one complaint was the concept of the Hollow Earth. I know this concept has been around forever. Yet knowing what we do about science, we KNOW the Earth isn’t hollow and even schoolchildren know the center of the world is filled with a super-hot liquid magma responsible for plate tectonics.
The Hollow Earth? Again?
Why are we still using this trope? We could replace the Hollow Earth with dimensional gateways to paleolithic dimensions and viewers would not have to deal with the gag reflex they endure when someone mentions the Hollow Earth with a straight face. I realized the Hollow Earth story gave all of the Humans something to do and a reason to be part of the story.
The two story threads, one of Godzilla somehow becoming aware of the presence of other alpha predators and the need to find someplace for Kong to live are both resolved by the Humans investigating the Hollow Earth and discovering a technological environment from an earlier age of the world. We are never told what we are seeing. We don’t know whose responsible for the axe Kong ends using as a weapon, why was there a Kong sized chair in this place at the center of the Earth and most importantly, were there intelligent giant primates who lived on Earth before we became sentient?
This is one of those films I have to give a split rating to because what it does well, the kaiju fight scenes, it does those scenes VERY WELL. Kong’s Antarctic closeups in the snow were outstanding, showcasing how far we have come with CGI fur, complete with embedded snowflakes.
Then What Is the Problem?
The Humans are the problem. From the guy who has a podcast reporting on his employer, a company secretly involved in Kaiju research, who will wander into secret sections of the base where he works and manages to avoid being killed by Godzilla.
He is then found by two teenagers who strangely enough can predict his behavior and location on the first attempt. He then takes them back to the now closed base, which still has cables that spark but no fence to keep people out.
Did I mention he involved underaged teenagers on this outing to a seriously compromised facility? One which has Skull-Crushers on tap and an underground freeway from Florida to Hong Kong.
Do I have to go on? The Human drama continued with the failed scientist trope, the crazed executive who gets killed by his creation and the boss’ daughter who is just going along to “babysit” the company’s anti-gravity technology.
None of these things add anything significant to the story. They pad the two and half hour runtime with people behaving badly and being eaten by kaiju (during jump scares.)
Pretend the Humans Aren’t There
Here’s what I am going to tell you: If you love kaiju bashing each other in head with busses full of people, kaiju flying through skyscrapers filled with hapless humanity, if you are fond of the genre of kaiju fighting, then this movie has lots to recommend it. Godzilla and Kong end up being the same size, which means Kong had to have grown quite a bit since we saw him last. I suspect you weren’t supposed to think really hard about it. So don’t. Just accept Kong is now tall enough to hit a shrunken-headed Godzilla right in the kisser.
If you are one of those people who wanted to see humanity showcased in this movie, what the hell is wrong with you? Humans are in every movie you watch, all the time. This is for those of us who wait five to twenty years to watch kaiju fighting to the death. Even the Human lovers were likely to be disappointed as every actor in this film except for the deaf, Kong whisperer, phoned their performance in, doing the bare minimum to look as if they care what’s was supposed to be going on. They didn’t and no one in this film is going to be winning awards for their acting.
The production team for this film especially regarding the CGI had hundreds of artists involved in the creation every element you enjoyed being destroyed. You guys never get the credit you deserve.
Thus the Average of the Two Ratings:
Stylish Kaiju Fighting to the Death: 8.5.
Meddling Humans Who Barely Bothered to Act: 4.5
This is how you end up with a 6.5 rating for a movie with some of the best kaiju-fighting I have ever had the pleasure to watch. I am going to watch it again, tonight. It could be I hadn’t had enough coffee and thus rated it too harshly. Tonight, I will be rested, full and wide awake. Maybe the Humans won’t annoy me nearly as much.
I doubt it, though.
Godzilla vs Kong: A reboot of the 1962 King Kong vs Godzilla, with much better special effects, a reprisal of Mecha-Godzilla, and a great series of battles between these two famous kaiju. The Human elements of the story barely hold their own and I found myself hoping they would die sooner rather than later.
- Director: Adam Wingard
- Writers: Eric Pearson, Max Borenstein, Terry Rossio
- Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall
- Production Companies: Legendary Entertainment, Warner Bros.
Godzilla vs Kong came out today in the theaters (Who is going to the theaters in the United States?) and on the streaming service, HBO Max.
Thaddeus Howze is an award-winning writer, editor, podcaster and activist creating speculative fiction, scientific, political and cultural commentary from his office in Hayward, California.
Thaddeus’ speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals. He has published two books, ‘Hayward’s Reach’ (2011), a collection of short stories and ‘Broken Glass’ (2013) an urban fantasy novella starring his favorite paranormal investigator, Clifford Engram.