‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ or — Stupidity vs. Awe?

Despite being a big Godzilla and Kong fan I’ve not been too impressed by Hollywood’s recent franchise efforts with these guys: ‘Godzilla’ (2014) was self-serious and boring; ‘Kong: Skull Island’ (2017) was nothing more than a somewhat uninspired introduction for the big ape whilst ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ (2019) was an ugly, visual mess. So things were not looking too good for ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ (2021) during the opening thirty minutes or so as references to these previous movies — redacted opening titles, 60’s rock songs etc — clash with a plot of brain cell destroying idiocy. And there’s two hours of this nonsense?

So what’s it about? Well, Godzilla is being naughty and has come ashore to destroy an Apex Cybernetics facility. Oh no! Godzilla’s now a meanie! What can we do?

The solution is obvious — transport King Kong to the hollow centre of the Earth where he can tap into the power source of the Titans whilst reclaiming his ancestral brithrigh… what the fuck?!

Meanwhile Millie Bobby Brown and her two HIGHLY annoying friends go on a mission that would test and break the credulity of a baby whilst firing awful, irritating Marvel-esque quips at each other. Hmm, this is all a bit shit.

That’s when the realisation hits that this movie is profoundly infantile. Thankfully that also means it’s not pretentious or self-serious in anyway. It’s also incredibly well paced with the idiotic storyline allowing common sense to be totally jettisoned. That’s when the second realisation hits — this movie is FUN!

There’s a moment halfway through that, as a King Kong purist, should have broken the entire movie for me. I won’t spoil it but involves Kong at the centre of the Earth, a throne and a giant axe. It’s an act of abomination towards his character but I was sitting there thinking “This is fantastic!” This is when, for the first time ever, these monster finally felt fully let loose of their chains and this film knows exactly what to do with that freedom.

Plus, even though the human characters are two dimensional and flat the monsters are anything but with director Adam Wingard and his team knowing Godzilla and Kong’s personalities and power dynamics inside out. This is King Kong vs. Godzilla after all and the movie knows the correct (if incredibly silly) steps to get there and what to do with these two when it does. When they do smack down against each other (and there’s a big wrestling influence to these battles which is how it should be) I was jumping up and down in my seat because they had got these two right! The choreography between Kong and Godzilla (and a surprise guest) are some of the best giant monster fight scenes Hollywood has produced so far, and by quite some way.

Not only that but the biggest fun comes from seeing Kong and Godzilla attempt to try their old tricks on each other — Kong pulling jaws open to snap them apart, Godzilla powering up his atomic breath — only to be immediately countered or subverted. There’s a fantastic moment near the end when Godzilla has his face mushed into a skyscraper with mournful music played over the top, but it’s hilarious as hell because it’s so unceremonious for the giant lizard. I laughed A LOT during this movie. Plus, Kong has a hero moment near the end, along with a new finishing move that’s quite satisfyingly gross, that’s so awesome, so ridiculously triumphant it might be one of the big ape’s finest moments from any Kong film, and that’s saying something!

The reason ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ works so well is because it is filled with love and fun. Not only that but it thankfully dials back on the 9/11 imagery, something that’s been a bane of many city destruction movies since 2001. So gone are those vast clouds of debris obscuring everything or the handwringing over potential lives lost and, instead, it’s all brightly coloured, clearly visible mayhem where everything in sight can be trashed and smashed without any nagging guilt. Again, this provides an invigorating sensation of freedom.

Another positive of ‘Gvs.K’ is in the ancillary creature design. In previous films they’d always seemed lackluster and unimaginative (the mutos and skullcrawlers for example), whereas here they’re big, bold, striking and colourful. Even the skullcrawlers look decent now.

Visually the entire movie often looks stunning, and I mean really juicy. The camera work is disciplined and never gets in the way of the action allowing for some sequences to really dazzle and impress and the sequence when Kong arrives at the hollow centre is really something else, a full on riot of fantastical landscapes, magical monsters and shit I’ve been wanting to see on screen since I was a kid.

If you’re a fan of the original Japanese ‘King Kong vs. Godzilla’ (1962) you’ll love this as not only does the 2021 version contain knowing and loving nods to the original (Kong on ropes carried by helicopters or shoving a stick down Godzilla’s throat) that are a joy but it also, amazingly, captures that film’s childlike (or, let’s face it, childISH) silliness. That takes guts and total faith in your project and I responded strongly to such devotion; this movie knows the ways to let joyous infection permeate the skin.

Yet I think the most impressive aspect of ‘Gvs.K’ was the sound design which is flawless, spectacular, humourous (I laughed every time Godzilla would go to power up his atomic breath only to have it rudely interrupted by having something rammed into his gob), exciting, impactful, perfectly punctuated and… and… and just give the sound design team the Oscar now.

‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ is two hours long but by the time it was over I was left ravenously wanting more. I didn’t want it to end. Do you realise how incredibly tricky that is for a Hollywood movie to pull off?! I wasn’t too sure what to do. I mean, it’s not as though it was that good it was worth watching immediately again as soon as it finished, right?

I put it on again immediately after it finished and had a blast all over again.

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Comedy writer, radio producer and director of large scale audio features.

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Colin Edwards

Colin Edwards

Comedy writer, radio producer and director of large scale audio features.

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