BY MATT TUCK
Godzilla vs. Kong is a lot like the year 2020. No one seems to know what’s going on, things keep getting worse with no end in sight, and you pray there’s not a sequel.
Sometimes you go into a movie expecting one thing and being pleasantly surprised with all its twists and turns. This is not that movie. While it’s not without its entertaining moments, this is a massive interstate pileup of sci-fi subgenres that doesn’t get any of them right.
Have you ever wanted to see Godzilla and King Kong combined with Pacific Rim, Scooby-Doo, Jules Verne, a little Tron, and even a little Die Hard? Neither did I, but that’s what we got. It’s a movie that skipped its ADHD meds for a month when it really should have taken it. It felt like watching a classroom of nine year olds bring in all their action figures for a full-scale battle, and a screenwriter took notes.
Remember when Martin Scorsese said he didn’t like Marvel movies because it was less cinema and more of a theme-park experience? Adam Wingard and WB just said, “Hold our beers.” There is literally a much-longer-than-it-should-have-been segment that attempts to put the audience in a shuttle to the center of the earth and then being flung around by King Kong. All in one budget, WB gets a movie plot AND footage for its next 3D ride at Universal Studios with so much neon that you’d think you were watching a Tron movie. Then again, they could have spliced in footage from Transformers: The Ride. I doubt anyone would have noticed.
I went into this one expecting lots of giant monsters destroying buildings, and I didn’t even need much of a plot. I mean, the title is Godzilla vs. Kong, after all. But there’s only so far my suspension of disbelief will stretch. I will admit that I couldn’t look away, although some moments nearly had me laughing for the wrong reasons.
I have seen the lead-in movies, and I knew what I was getting into. Even by the standards set by the other Godzilla films and Skull Island, this one was particularly riddled with plot holes.
This story begins with the mythical King Kong inside a containment dome “somewhere on Skull Island” complete with James Gunn-ish 1970s pop music. The only problem is that, unless you read the tie-in comic, no one knows how he got inside that dome somewhere between 1973 and now.
Apparently, Godzilla is attacking Monarch’s rival, the Apex Corporation. Without spoiling too much of the movie, the owner of Apex, Walter Simmons, is attempting to replicate Godzilla’s power in an effort to combat him Pacific Rim style. While the screenwriters portrayed him as the out-of-touch billionaire human antagonist, he is the one character in the movie whose motives make sense. He’s actually trying to protect the world from skyscraper-sized kaiju with the power to exterminate mankind. Somehow, he’s presented as the bad guy.
This movie has so many problems that it’s easy to harp on its flaws. It actually does have its bright spots, as few and far between as they may have been.
The movie does succeed in making Kong the most sympathetic character in the story by utilizing the same tactics from the original 1933 classic. He is a misunderstood prisoner, dragged across the world in chains. Drawing from Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake, Kong is the most relatable part of the film. The first fight between the two monsters actually makes Kong an underdog that I found myself rooting for. The problem was that Godzilla was so dominant over Kong that it made him look too weak to put up a fight, and that’s after he gets his magic axe from the Hollow Earth, which I will address in a moment.
There are a couple of movie allusions that did not go unnoticed. Early in the film, as Godzilla swims through the ocean, he gets the Jaws treatment as he is strategically marked by him dragging ships behind him. One of the most unintentionally hilarious moments was Kong’s slow motion jump off an exploding ship that was straight out of Die Hard. All he needs is a dirty tank top and a firehose tied around his waist.
The CGI for the monsters and their massive brawls was nothing revolutionary, but it looked good, especially on movie screens. The action could have been a bit faster paced, but that’s another matter. At this point, I will take what positives I can get. I also appreciated the Toho-inspired Godzilla theme added to the movie.
In a blatant attempt to set up an even bigger (albeit unnecessary) franchise, the plot takes a tire-screeching hard left into the absurd with the Hollow Earth. When it comes to movies about giant monsters, I understand that, as an audience, we have to give the filmmakers ample leeway in the realm of disbelief. But this was ridiculous.
I may be wrong, but the futuristic anti-gravity shuttles giving us a firsthand roller coaster ride to the center of the earth was so overbearing and awkward that it had to have been the brainchild of WB executives, who have such a great reputation for good suggestions with their movies. I would be shocked if we don’t have a new Universal ride based around that sequence.
Speaking of awkward and unnecessary, Millie Bobby Brown’s character from King of the Monsters was superfluous with no real bearing to the tiny semblance of a plot. She and the rest of Mystery Incorporated were shoehorned in and gave us some comic relief as well as forcing a Pacific Rim plot twist into an already overcrowded movie.
As much as I detested 90% of this movie, it was clearly not targeted at my demographic. After the movie, I polled my teenage sons, and they both agreed it should be graded a B. Of course, these are Godzilla fans, and they were just watching for the monster fight scenes. When you consider this was a teen-centric action movie, it pleased its core audience.
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is also a teacher, freelance writer, comic collector, and an international man of mystery. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog.