Review: Godzilla vs Kong (2021, Wingard)

Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, and Brian Tyree Henry

Grade: C-

At the point of this writing, Legendary Studios’ MonsterVerse is officially finished. Three previous installments have led to the ultimate mashup battle movie, the big boys Godzilla and King Kong entering the octagon for a last man standing bloodbath. Godzilla vs Kong has always been meant as the final destination in the series, and it arrives with a theatrical whimper and widespread streaming access. The two previous Godzilla franchise entries, the obnoxiously self-serious Godzilla (Edwards, 2014) and the kinda-sorta better Godzilla: King of the Monsters (Dougherty, 2019) are our lead ins here, as well as the instantly forgettable Kong: Skull Island (Vogt-Roberts, 2017). Does this live up to the massive expectations of big monsters beating each other to a pulp? Kind of, sure, maybe?

After Godzilla attacks a Florida outpost for the mysterious global tech company Apex Cybernetics, scientist Ilene Andrews (Hall) hires fringe Hollow Earth theorist Nathan Lind (Skarsgård) to help lead King Kong to the center of the earth to explore a mysterious power source that could solve the giant monster problem once and for all. Meanwhile, Madison Russell (Brown), daughter of a deputy director for a big monster specialty group, enlists the help of conspiracy theorist podcaster and Apex Cybernetics employee Bernie Hayes (Henry) to investigate the recent Godzilla attack. 

It wouldn’t be surprising if it were revealed that the script had been written in one drug-fueled sitting with no draft rewrites. There’s never weight given to anything, especially considering the monumental death toll that takes place repeatedly fight after fight that’s only met with silly quips from the characters. Everything exists solely as a MacGuffin to get the monsters going. Thankfully, it’s all for the better.

This movie is ridiculously stupid, but finally self-aware enough to accept how ridiculously stupid it is. Long-gone are the unnecessarily meditative deity espousing nonsense from the previous Godzilla entries, as well as boring characters with even more boring plot beats, as if any audience in the world could care when the point is supposed to be big monster smash stuff eyeball fodder. Godzilla vs Kong is incomprehensibly fast paced, with questionable character motivations, and objectively goofy visuals and set pieces. It’s refreshingly dumb, so transparently ludicrous that the opening of the film is reminiscent of Shrek. We get a King Kong day-in-the-life montage where he scratches his ass after sleeping in and taking a shower from a waterfall, all set to Bobby Vinton’s “Over the Mountain, Across the Sea” — Can I get a “Hell yeah, brother”? 

It would be easy to label this as fun, forgettable, harmless trash if it weren’t for the film’s hellbent postulation that every protagonist is a fringe conspiracy theorist who’s always right and given ultimate validity. Why are we talking about Hollow Earth, something people actually believe, in an enormous big budget blockbuster that will be seen by millions? Pseudoscience is not only legitimized, but celebrated. At one point, Bernie joins in on making fun of Madison’s friend Josh because he admits to drinking tap water with fluoride. Going so far as to say, “Theory is it makes you docile. Easy to manipulate.” For the rest of the film, they jokingly refer to Josh as “Tap Water”. What business is it to have this kind of kind of discourse in a big dumb action movie, especially considering how the spread of misinformation led to literal capital insurrection in America only three months ago

Even with a great cast fleshing out these shallow dingdong characters, it’s still a question of as to why we need to focus on humans in these movies in the first place. It seems almost impossible to have an enormous creature feature with actually interesting human leads, but if the answer to this is a bunch of conspiracy-touting morons, who knows what’s worse. Maybe the only way we’ll ever get a legitimately great big monster movie is with no people at all. 

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