Film review: “Godzilla vs. Kong” makes for monster-sized blockbuster

By Anastasia Bekker

Elm Staff Writer

Directed by Adam Wingard, and packed with familiar faces and intense special effects, “Godzilla vs. Kong” is just the kind of fun thriller that could bring audiences back to theaters.

The movie focuses on the inevitable battle between two monsters: the giant radiation-breathing lizard Godzilla, and the skyscraper-sized ape King Kong, who have an ancient rivalry that can only end in an impressive CGI showdown.

Kong begins in a research enclosure, surrounded by scientists, including Ilene, played by Rebecca Wood, employed by the experimental research company Monarch. A team of researchers wants to take Kong to Hollow Earth, the true home of the monster, where there may be a power source that can stop an energy crisis before it begins.

The team recruits Dr. Nathan Lind, played by Alexander Skarsgård, as well as employees from Apex, a technology company, to help them complete this possibly deadly mission. 

Along the way, however, they encounter Godzilla, leading to several battles in which the two monsters fight over who will be the planet’s ultimate behemoth.

Meanwhile, Bernie, played by Brian Tyree Henry, a conspiracy podcaster who’s trying to take down Apex from the inside, is tracked down by Madison, played by Millie Bobby Brown, and her friend Josh, played by Julian Dennison, serving as the comedic relief of the film as they clumsily attempt to stop Apex’s schemes.

For some viewers, however, everything aside from the two giant monsters is just noise.

“Every bit of dialogue serves only to help explain why a dinosaur with radiation breath must fight an overgrown ape,” The Atlantic reporter Shirley Yi said on March 31.

Plot aside, a major pull of the movie is its imagery — it’s visually appealing, with colorful scenes of Hong Kong, futuristic labs, and prehistoric landscapes.

“Most blockbuster fight scenes are visually incomprehensible, with seemingly very little thought put into where the camera is, what needs to be seen, and how to keep the audience rooted in space and time,” Vox writer Alissa Wilkinson said on March 30. “Not so with ‘Godzilla vs. Kong,’ which absolutely nails it.”

The film also brings new and impressive graphics to the classic movie monsters, enhancing the battles and changing the viewers’ perspectives of the monsters.

In previous MonsterVerse films, like “Godzilla” in 2014, the monsters were viewed through the eyes of spectators looking up towards the action. However, in “Godzilla vs. Kong,” the perspective shifts focus onto the monsters themselves, capturing each fight from a higher angle so that viewers can easily follow their movements.

And with improved special effects, the monsters themselves can be treated as characters rather than plot devices. When Kong isn’t bashing in another monster’s head, he has a variety of human emotions.

Kong even befriends one of the humans, a young girl named Jia, played by Kaylee Hottle, who communicates with him through sign language. Before Jia was adopted by Ilene, Kong rescued her when her parents were killed — more evidence of the complexity of the giant ape. 

Despite the monsters’ human-like qualities, there are no larger messages about humanity as a whole. Other MonsterVerse films were allegorical, using the monsters as metaphors for real-world issues, but “Godzilla vs. Kong” went a different route.

Some critics say that the biggest selling point for this film is its lack of theme. Rather than being subject to a character preaching about ethics, viewers can just sit back and enjoy the excitement.

“At this stage of late-pandemic exhaustion, watching a film actively reject relevance and refuse to dwell on human emotion wasn’t an annoyance, but a relief,” Yi said.

 Rather than morality, the focus is on the thrill.

Other critics wish that there had been more emphasis on theme, as past MonsterVerse movies delivered on that front.

“Given the rich history of both Godzilla and Kong, it’s sad to see such a muddled story, without an allegorical layer attached,” Wilkinson said.

However, there’s no room for moral messages, as high-risk situations and eardrum-bursting action scenes take up the length of the film. Coming in under two hours, the plot itself is fast paced, almost choppy, quickly moving from fight to fight.

Marketing-wise, this strategy seems to have worked. Although Christopher Nolan’s 2020 film “Tenet” was supposed to bring viewers back to the theater, “Godzilla vs. Kong” has proven to be more effectively bringing a return to movie theater culture, according to The Guardian.

According to The Guardian reporter James Hanton, “Godzilla vs. Kong” made $200 million in the box office in half the time it took “Tenet.”

“[The film] speaks volumes about what it will take to keep the movies alive,” Hanton said on April 7. “Something that makes you forget about the outside world, rather than have you longing to go back to it.”

For viewers who are looking for the action blockbuster experience, with high stakes battles and no moral strings attached, “Godzilla vs. Kong” is the next movie to watch.

Featured Photo caption: While the film’s focus on these monstrous, cinematic giants might not offer an in-depth look at the world around them, “Godzilla vs. Kong” is what audiences need the most. Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *