April 17, 2021

Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)
Grade: 50/100

Director: Adam Wingard
Stars: Kaylee Hottle, Rebecca Hall, Demián Bichir

What it's about. The franchise film monsters within the title are undoubtedly familiar to most viewers. Godzilla looks like a giant two-legged dinosaur. He breathes fire, has stegosauraus spikes along his back, and is comfortable both in the water and on land. Kong is merely a giant gorilla with no special powers.

The film's premise is that Godzilla and Kong are both Titans, and Titans are drawn toward each other to engage in battles to the death. Titans come from Hollow Earth, never mind that the actual inner Earth consists of a dense and hot iron and nickel core. Also never mind that there is no way for Kong or Godzilla to know of the other's existence until they actually meet.

There are many human characters. Predictably, they can be grouped into good or bad. The plot's resolution ensures that the good characters go unharmed, while the bad characters are killed off. There is no complexity here. You will know almost immediately whether a specific character is in the good or bad camp.

There is a ruthless and beautiful brunette (Elza González), an adorable deaf little girl fluent in sign language (Kaylee Hottle), a middle-aged mad scientist (Demián Bichir), and many others of marginal interest.

Given the film's title, it is inevitable that Godzilla and Kong meet and engage in battle. It is equally inevitable that neither will be destroyed, because they are needed for the next installment(s) in the franchise. Indeed, it is more likely that they will team up to defeat a third nemesis, a robot Godzilla created by the mad scientist. No matter how bad-ass the robot Godzilla may be, it is certain he will receive his due comeuppance.

How others will see it. So, the human characters are mostly boring. The plot is bogus, and the action is predictable. But not many viewers care about those things. What they want to know is, are the battle scenes awesome? Are the special effects convincing?

From their perspective, the answers are, respectively, Not Really and Pretty Good. The battles look like a WWE tag team match that takes place in a city where the skyscrapers are the same size as the combatants. The special effects are exactly as the viewer expects them to be. They look good, but lack the charm of the stop-motion animation in King Kong (1933), or the campy fun of a man in a zip-up Godzilla suit knocking over toy train sets.

How I felt about it. The ultimate purpose of any movie is to make money. Especially in recent decades, the best way to make money is to own a franchise and release installments every few years. These franchises tend to be oriented toward young adults, who have the greatest engagement with new releases.

One wonders, was there ever a path for Godzilla vs. Kong to be good? There are in fact two paths, horror and parody, but neither are promising. It should be noted that despite the many prior movies in the Kong and Godzilla franchises, the best regarded is the original King Kong. The Toho Godzilla movies were made for a pre-adolescent audience. The original Kong was interesting for his lust for blonde women, but that character trait is now politically incorrect and thus eliminated.

Kong is still hapless in the thrall of selfish and ambitious humans, whether they be promotor Carl Denham or bad girl Mala Simmons. That is when we feel most sorry for Kong, as he is out of element and doesn't understand his surroundings. It's not enough to put the film over.