Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)

*. 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.

25 thoughts on “Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)

  1. Bookstooge

    While I still want to watch Skull Island, the rest of these movies I have no interest in. Maybe if it showed up on Prime for free I’d watch it.

    Do you know, was this a financial success?

    1. Alex Good

      It was a big hit, especially given the pandemic. Also did well on streaming.

      Did you know that the highest box office for 2021 thus far is Hi Mom? and third place is Detective Chinatown 3? They are both Chinese movies I’d never heard of.

      1. Bookstooge

        I have never heard of those movies either, but it doesn’t surprise me about their origins.
        As for money, china has an ever burgeoning population, so what else are they going to do?

      1. Alex Good Post author

        I think the (artistic) idea there was that it makes the nuclear breath, glowing dorsal fins, and explosions stand out more. Plus the older idea that when you see a monster in broad daylight it doesn’t seem as scary. But the point still stands. I feel the same way about the editing of most fight scenes in today’s action movies. I’ve no idea what’s going on or who’s hitting who.

      2. film-authority.com

        Yup. I’ve seen five Transformers movies and I couldn’t draw one from memory. The Godzilla in the first US version is the right height to walk through the Pan Am building like it’s a screen door, yet svelte enough to enter a subway station via the turnstiles. The need to create flashy visuals doesn’t serve the plots or realism well.

      3. film-authority.com

        That would be a good theme to explore. There’s a case to be made for them. They have their moments. A fine mind like yours addressing this subject would make for a critical event for the ages.

      4. Alex Good Post author

        It’s a work of art. Belongs in a gallery alongside other great masters. Or maybe she could make millions out of licensing it as an NFT.

  2. Alex's Review Corner

    I do love a good bit of schlock, and Godzilla always delivers, as does Kong when his time comes. Which is why, even though I would agree Godzilla and Kong defeating Mechagodzilla without aid would have been better for this silly action film, that some teenager spilling coffee on what could be, for all he knows, an unrelated control panel to momentarily disable a giant robot is infinitely more entertaining.

    If there’s one thing I love about the “monsterverse” it’s how each successive film asks you to take it less and less seriously until you have something like this, and it’s brilliant in its own not-so-brilliant way.

    1. Alex Good Post author

      I guess they had to give Josh something to do to redeem himself. Otherwise he’s really superfluous. And I didn’t understand how brutally he was dismissed at the end when the girl’s dad just tells him to shut-up. Was that supposed to be a laugh line? It seemed cruel and rude to me. Was the point supposed to be that a loser kid like him wouldn’t have a chance with such a hot girl? I really felt like I missed something there.

      1. Alex's Review Corner

        I think the film missed something there. You didn’t miss a thing. Milly Bobbie Brown – whatever her character’s name was – did absolutely nothing the whole movie and got comforted at the end, while Josh pretty much saved the world and got told to shut up.

    1. Alex Good

      Yes, this is twenty-first century cinema. Superheroes and giant monsters. And lots of CGI.

      I remember one film critic years ago (so long ago I don’t remember his name) saying how Hollywood looked back on the ’70s as the last great golden age of American film, and that in the twenty-first century they vowed never to do that kind of thing again.

      1. Over-The-Shoulder

        I kind of hoped that twenty-first century cinema would be like ’70s cinema, but with the separation between audience and the actual film being broken down into a completely immersive experience. Guess that never happened.

        Sounds pretty much bang on. I blame Michael Cimino. For everything. Blockbusters are coming into fashion, and you’ve got the ‘film auteur’ label resting pretty much solely on your shoulders, and what do you do? You makes Heaven’s Gate. It only took 3 hours, 39 minutes and $50 million to ruin EVERYTHING, Michael! Everything! The auteur has never been trusted again, I think.

      2. Alex Good Post author

        Cimino’s example spooked studios, and is often seen as marking the end point of that ’70s golden age in the analysis of writers like Biskind. But there was the success of the model of marketing movies more and more to youth audiences that was the other side of things. It’s hard to imagine a blockbuster adult movie today. Instead we got “kidult” entertainment and adult drama got swept onto cable TV (where it had a real second life). Of course there are still quality movies out there, but hardly anyone sees them. You were writing about Schrader this week and First Reformed was a recent movie I really liked but it did $4 million box office (on a nearly equivalent budget).

      3. Over-The-Shoulder

        Yeah, “kidult” is one horrible, repulsive monstrosity. As far as I can tell, young people hardly have any interest in films nowadays at all – maybe streaming the odd movie, but not going to the cinema, at least. I just don’t get it. I think Arrival is the closest we’ve come to an adult blockbuster, and I haven’t seen much evidence of anything since, and that’s a great film, I think. Movies were great, but TV, especially right now, is the place you want to be. So much brilliant stuff has come out recently, and hopefully more to come. Schrader is a really interesting filmmaker, with so much great stuff to dig into. I should do a Schrader week.

        Luckily, I read your blog for the dirt on quality films no one sees! 😉

      4. Alex Good Post author

        Most of the good movies I watch are older ones. I’m terrible at keeping up with newer fare. My best-of-the-year post is going to be grim again this year. So far the only 2021 releases I’ve caught are Spiral and Godzilla vs. Kong!

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