*. I don’t see how I need to say much here that I haven’t already said in my notes on the previous MonsterVerse entries Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla: King of the Monsters. But here we go.
*. The two monster stars had clashed sixty years earlier in King Kong vs. Godzilla, and the inversion of names in this movie may reflect the continuing drawing power of the lizard, and perhaps the lessening cachet of the ape. But it might also indicate that in the battle for alpha supremacy (how sick I am of hearing this metaphor!), Godzilla kicks Kong’s ass not once but twice. Admittedly the first time Kong is dopey with drugs and has to fight part of the time underwater, but in the second clash it’s a pretty even fight and Kong still loses conclusively.
*. I won’t say much about the plot here, as it’s an irrelevance. The script is laughably bad — I really did laugh out loud on a couple of occasions — but is it any worse than the Toho Godzilla movies? Not a bit. In fact, it might be a bit better, depending on how you’re feeling. A Hollow Earth inside our own that may be an actual place or maybe just some alternate or parallel CGI dimension? Sure, why not. It’s just the Lost World. Or the New World from Monster Hunter. Same place, different town sign.
*. No, what this movie is about is giant monsters fighting, and it delivers. Also to its credit is the fact that it comes in at a surprisingly tight two hours. I was honestly expecting a three-hour, Avengers: Endgame load of overkill. But no. This is actually the shortest instalment in the MonsterVerse thus far.
*. I think it’s worth quoting director Adam Wingard on this matter: “A lot of the fans online were all asking me is this going to be a three-hour film? When it was announced that it was a little under two hours they immediately thought when is the director’s cut coming out? I like movies under two hours. I think if you do a movie over two hours, you better have a damn good reason for it to be that long. At the end of the day, if you’re going to make this movie into three hours, you’re not going to get an extra hour of monsters fighting. You’re going to get an extra hour of people talking about monsters.”
*. Thank goodness we didn’t get that! Even as it is there’s a surprising amount of unnecessary filler here. Characters are introduced with no particular function. Alexander Skarsgård shows up as a Hollow Earth scientist with a back story involving a brother who died failing to “breach the veil.” Why did we need to hear from this guy? Apex seems to have figured everything out already. Then the head of Apex has a daughter who turns out to be every bit as expendable as she seems, and Mechagodzilla (yes, he’s here too) has a pilot who doesn’t have much to say or do. And I wonder how much they paid Lance Reddick to show up as the head of Monarch and pronounce one line (“This is the day we feared . . .”).
*. Any script editor could have pruned all four of these characters and not lost a thing. And I’m even inclined to think they could have done without the cute little deaf girl Jia who is the Kong whisperer. She’s just here to look cute and/or concerned in cutaways. Do we need to have her telling Kong what to do? He’s not stupid.
*. I suppose Jia is just there to be someone kids can identify with. The same with the trio of conspiracy chasers who just sort of follow along without contributing anything to what’s going on. I suppose you could argue Josh unplugs Mechagodzilla at the end, but here I’d say that’s less than nothing because I would have liked it better if Godzilla and Kong had teamed up to take out Mechagodzilla on their own without any help.
*. Do you ever watch those Internet videos of cats and dogs watching cats and dogs on TV? Watching Godzilla vs. Kong I couldn’t help wondering what a gorilla would think of this movie. Would they be cheering for Kong? Or just annoyed at all the sound and fury? Well, I can only say that my own response fell somewhere between these two poles, and we’re not that far removed from our ape cousins.
*. A couple of quick notes on geography. (1) I had thought Skull Island a more remote location. In the opening credit montage we see it clearly marked on a map as just off the coast of Hawaii. (2) Could Apex have found a more in-the-way spot to locate their HQ than Hong Kong? Some place with a little lower population density maybe?
*. But like I say, it’s all about the fights. Godzilla and Kong duke it out on the ocean and then destroy Hong Kong. That’s it. That’s the movie. It’s a CGI epic, filled with the stuff that CGI does well: monsters and mass destruction. This part seemed top-notch to me. The rest of it is silly filler, but at least it isn’t overly dramatic or dull. I don’t think we needed the whole Hollow Earth mythology, and the business about Kong’s magic axe was way too much (especially since he’s not “King” Kong anymore), but you do get what you came for, as well as the promise of more.