TYLER, Texas (KLTV/KTRE) - What do you want out of a movie where a gigantic ape with a magic axe goes toe-to-toe with a nuclear-powered lizard? How you answer this question is the key to whether or not you will experience maximum enjoyment from a movie like “”Godzilla vs. Kong”.”
I’ve never been one to advocate the “just turn off your brain and have fun” approach to movie watching. I think every movie should actively try to engage its audience in some meaningful way beyond (pun intended) lizard-brained mindless spectacle. But we do not live in that world, and when a movie comes along that doesn’t even attempt to provide even a fortune cookie’s worth of thematic depth or meaning and instead focuses purely on going hard into the paint for MONKEY PUNCH LIZARD … well, I honestly have to respect it.
And boy does it go hard.
Maybe it’s the fact that I haven’t seen a movie on the big screen in nearly a full year. It was, admittedly, a near-overwhelming experience seeing these gigantic mythological creatures duke it out in an image size taller than my house. But the impact of each instance of Godzilla and King Kong coming to blows felt at an echelon above most blockbuster spectacle of late.
City-annihilating, CGI destruction-fests are absolutely nothing new, and the advances in technology make literally anything possible and even believable now. Following in the footsteps of 2014′s “Godzilla,” “Kong: Skull Island” and “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” the action in “Godzilla vs. Kong” has a weight to it that simply cannot exist when the subjects in focus are sized as mere mortals. Director Adam Wingard manages to deliver a sense of immersion to the mayhem here that I found overall lacking in many of the previous films. It feels more personal, in a way, which is an odd thing to say about a movie like this.
Though perhaps it shouldn’t be all that odd. After all, Kong is back at the forefront once more and this version of the great ape has always felt like more of a character than Godzilla in his most recent appearances. By design and, in some ways, necessity, Godzilla is more of a force of nature, an event to behold and survive rather than anything one could possibly begin to identify with. But there’s a humanity to Kong that’s evoked both in Skull Island and here that you can’t help but attach to, even if you’re firmly on #TeamGodzilla.
As such, throwing Kong face- (and fist) first into an all-out, no-holds-barred brawl for titan supremacy makes the proceedings feel much more interesting than the shodowns in “Godzilla” ’14 or “King of the Monsters,” all of which felt more detached. There’s no way or reason to invest in who won in those films since at the end, it’s still an uncontrollable monster that comes out on top. But by giving us someone to root for with Kong now in the mix makes the battles feel more dangerous and meaningful, in a way.
If you’re wondering why I haven’t talked about the plot or even the set up, well, that’s because there’s barely anything resembling as such.
We pick things up a couple years after Godzilla became reigning kaiju champion and the titular king of the monsters upon ripping Ghidora asunder. Humanity seems to have accepted its status as, at best, observers of Godzilla, ostensibly under his protection from any remaining so-called Titans. However, after he destroys a research plant for the mega-corporation Apex, Godzilla is deemed an imminent threat and Kong is brought out of hiding as a possible means to stop him.
There are other machinations involving Hollow Earth Theory, mystical power sources, etc. and the humans who get tangled up in all of it, but none of it matters. And I don’t mean that in a metaphorical sense. I mean that you could (and probably should) cut out everything involving Madison (Millie Bobbie Brown), her father (Kyle Chandler) and the two conspiracy nuts who follow her around out of the movie entirely and nothing of value or importance would be lost. In fact, it’d only help make the movie get to the good stuff faster.
The human presence in these movies has largely been a hindrance, but it’s frankly astonishing just how useless and pointless 80 percent of the humans in this movie are. Either the movie got edited to shreds in post-production, or the scriptwriters simply had no idea what to do with any of the returning characters. Either way, congratulations to Lance Reddick for managing to get mid-tier billing for only saying a single line.
Thankfully though, as bafflingly awful as the humans are, it didn’t dampen my enjoyment or enthusiasm an ounce. Wingard delivers in spades the thing for which you paid your admission (or HBO Max subscription). The action leading up to it is overall excellent, including the first big brawl, but by the time we get to the neon-drenched battle in Hong Kong, the movie is positively vibrating with energy and it gets released in what is easily my favorite giant monster showdown of recent memory. I cackled like a madman so loudly on multiple occasions during this fight that I elicited stares from my fellow theater-goers.
Obviously this is not a perfect movie, but it is perfect at delivering what I wanted out of it and at a volume and tenor at which I wanted. Having been unable to watch movies in a theater for a year, I’m not sure I could have asked for much more.