2 monsters, 1 cup. The winner is us.

By: Steve Pulaski

If you think you’ll like Godzilla vs. Kong, then you probably will. It knows exactly the type of film it wants to be. The action is clear, the effects are gorgeous, and the chaos is thunderous. I went in not expecting to give a rip about the human characters and was not disappointed on that front. The monsters and the ensuing brawl takes centerstage and delivers as no-strings-attached popcorn affair.

It’s been three years since any titans have walked the earth. That said, it’s about time Godzilla resurfaces to attack the Pensacola APEX manufacturing plant. The media panics. A podcasting conspiracy theorist named Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry) begins foaming at the mouth with potential justifications. Hayes as been working a low-level position at APEX in an attempt to blow the lid off the operation. His ramblings attract Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown), who suspects something shady is going down at the company as well.

Meanwhile, Kong is confined to an artificial simulacrum and is beginning to lose patience. Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall in a role far too undernourished for her skillset) and her adopted daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle) try to discern his mannerisms, but it’s the deaf Jia who develops a communicative relationship with the ape via sign language. Then there’s the slimy APEX CEO (Demián Bichir), who hires geologist Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) for an expedition by which Kong will lead them to “Hollow Earth.”

Now, “Hollow Earth” is a pretty cool place. It’s an underworld at the Earth’s core where the titans originally emerged. The journey there is a dizzying display of strobe-lights and hypnotic colors as Kong descends hundreds-of-thousands of feet below the Earth’s surface, followed closely by Lind’s ship. That’s when the showdown between Godzilla and Kong takes form, culminating in a battle with a neon-drenched Hong Kong serving as the backdrop.

Godzilla vs. Kong feels decidedly old-fashioned for a studio blockbuster. Unlike Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla from 2014, which set the stage for the MonsterVerse, it’s not concerned with apocalyptic subtext (blessed so, since it was a slog at times). It’s neither as dynamic in location nor characters as Kong: Skull Island was — the tone for which these films should’ve consistently strived, in my opinion. Instead, it’s tethered ever-so-loosely to ideas of technological overreach and pleasantly unconcerned with glaring fan-service. Those who like to bitch and moan about movies being “political” these days shouldn’t find much to lament here. There’s also no desire to set up a sequel. It’s a lean, satisfying beat-em-up between two hulking icons of the monster world that haven’t shared the screen since 1962.

Adam Wingard captures the action with decisive spatial clarity and sweeping longshots. During the chaos, the “arena,” so to speak, is wide-open and immersive, sure to be appreciated by those anxiously awaiting the MonsterVerse’s long-promised finale.

Godzilla vs. Kong is truly a King Kong movie, which makes sense seeing as the proclaimed “King of the Monsters” already got both a highly anticipated debut and a financially underwhelming sequel in 2019. I’m forever in my boy Kong’s corner. In my lifetime, I got to see an engrossing epic revolving around the Eighth Wonder, a campy, character-rich monster flick with him at the center, and now a battle between him and the granddaddy of Japanese monsters.

Godzilla vs. Kong will never be my type of movie. I’d take a character study over a blockbuster any day of the week. But in a day and age where theaters are projected to be the home for tentpoles and little else after weathering a catastrophic pandemic, I can’t deny Godzilla vs. Kong would be a good time at the movies. If you’re vaccinated or if it’s safe to attend, you should see this on the biggest screen possible. Its release on HBO Max is appreciated, but viewing the film on the small-screen reminds you how necessary theaters are for the culture.

That said, let’s demand Wingard get back to business and make some more quality horror flicks now that the MonsterVerse seems to be a wrap, at least for the meantime.

NOTE: Godzilla vs. Kong will be released theatrically and available to stream on HBO Max for 31 days on March 31st, 2021.

Grade: B

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odM92ap8_c0 [/embedyt]