Monday, April 5, 2021

Godzilla vs. Kong: A Review



The COVID-19 pandemic/panic appears to be over. More people are getting the various vaccines. More states are not just allowing businesses and facilities to reopen with varying degrees of capacity but lifting mask requirements. Sports venues are now allowed to have more fans, and in some cases actual fans versus cardboard cutouts.

However, the biggest indicator that people are either less afraid or flat-out disinterested in the perpetual lockdowns is the return of giant tent-pole feature films to large-screen theaters. Our first example is Godzilla vs. Kong, technically not the first encounter between the giant lizard and the giant gorilla but the most recent one. Plotless, pointless but quite pretty, Godzilla vs. Kong gives audiences what it thinks it wants and I've no complaints.

Godzilla vs. Kong has two separate plots rolling through it. Plot 1 (because I'm not sure which is the main plot, but I think it's this one) is how Kong will be kept much longer in his Skull Island simulation. There's something about evil businessman Walter Simmons (Demian Bichir) who wants to send Kong down into Earth's core. Something about a Hollow Earth in Earth's core and scientist Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgard), Kong whisperer Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) and her deaf daughter Jia (Kailee Hottle) who get Kong to travel to this world where something about reverse gravity.

Joining them is Walter's daughter Maya (Eiza Gonzalez) and a nefarious plot to harvest energy that will allow Walter and his sidekick/Charles Xavier wannabe Ren (Shun Oguri) to control their newest creation: Mechagodzilla.

Plot 2 involves Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown), annoying daughter of Mark (Kyle Chandler). She suspects something caused the normally peaceful Godzilla to attack the Pensacola facility of Simmons' APEX Cybernetics Corporation. Joining her is APEX employee/podcaster/Titan conspiracy nut Bernie (Bryan Tyree Henry) and some random British guy Josh (Julian Dennison), they begin their own investigation into the dark recesses of APEX Cybernetics, ones that get them from Pensacola to Hong Kong in mere minutes via a secret super-high-speed underwater transportation system, facing off against Mechagodzilla, and trying to stop Mechagodzilla from killing the real thing.

Godzilla and Kong fight each other in Hong Kong, then join forces to destroy the crazed Mechagodzilla.

As I sat (and I confess, slept for a few minutes) through Godzilla vs. Kong, I thought how much fun the shoot must have been. If not fun, at least financially rewarding for many involved, because Godzilla vs. Kong is something you enjoy just with your eyes, not your brain. For how the original King Kong is a landmark in film history and the original Godzilla a tale of nuclear war anxiety, it has created a fantasy universe that is so much cinema candy: unhealthy but quite tasty. 

You can't look at Bichir's performance and think he's being serious. He was ramping up the camp to full blast and then some, so wildly over-the-top you could see him swallowing up not just scenery but his castmates whole. He wasn't acting, but he was hilarious in his deliberately campy manner.

I think you can also bless the actors for delivering their lines with any hint of sincerity. I marvel at Chandler, who stubbornly defies the aging process for looking at least twenty years younger than his current age of 55. I marvel not just at Chandler's ability to look pretty much like he did when he starred in 2005's King Kong but in spouting such lines as "Titans like people can change! Right now Godzilla is hurting people and we don't know why!" and trying to make it sound like it came from a functioning human.

I also bless the physical perfection that is Alexander Skarsgard, who was also going for something different with Dr. Lind. Here, he was more bumbling, slightly dim scientist than action hero. He mentions something about a brother who died trying to enter Hollow Earth, but that's about it in the character department. I take time to also acknowledge Henry, who appears to have decided Godzilla vs. Kong was about his crazed conspiracy nut and tried to inject a semblance of humor into things.

Hall, bless her too, for trying to make a character out of nothing, her rapport with Jia the best aspects of that part. I disliked Brown but put that more to her somewhat whiny character than the actress herself. 

I am not ignoring the various issues in Godzilla vs. Kong. I thought to myself that the super-high-speed transport that takes Plot 2 from Pensacola to Hong Kong in a matter of minutes would be a far better moneymaker to Camp Villain Simmons than whatever silliness he cooked up with Mechagodzilla. How Bernie could go around these secret facilities with nary a problem is also not a big question. Who exactly Josh is or what purpose he serves to be fair might have been mentioned while I dozed off, so I'm not going to be too picky on that.

However, Godzilla vs. Kong is there to feature our two "Titans" clash, and Clash these Titans did. I think Godzilla was the winner, but of course you couldn't kill off Kong. How would that be any fun? I give credit that Godzilla vs. Kong is quite beautiful to look at: the bright colors, well-crafted special effects and the physical perfection that is Alexander Skarsgard all working well. Tom Holkenborg (aka Junkie XL)'s score seems a mashup of Blade Runner and TRON: Legacy, and I thought well of it even if it was more a shadow of those two films than truly original.

Of course, the climatic battle has to be in Hong Kong because the film has to appeal to the vast Chinese market, and if one wants to extend any sense of allegory to it, I imagine Beijing wants to do to Hong Kong what Godzilla, Kong and Mechagodzilla did to it in the film: destroy it completely. 

Godzilla vs. Kong reminds me of a Universal Studios ride. Oftentimes, it looked like one and I figure we'll have a Godzilla vs. Kong theme ride soon enough. As such, Godzilla vs. Kong should be seen as a theme park ride with some pauses for whatever passes for plot or character development. I can't fault it for not pretending to be anything else.


1 comment:

  1. Agree with you. This was a tough watch. Especially, the ones without the Titans, which is about 90% of the movie's runtime.


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