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‘Godzilla vs. Kong:’ A fun film that fails to live up to its predecessor

Let’s get ready to RUMBLE!!! In one corner, we have the giant lizard with a nuclear laser breath attack, the devourer of his opponents, the self-declared King of the Monsters: Godzilla! In the other corner… there’s a giant monkey with an axe. Here comes Kong, getting ready for the showdown of the century. Unfortunately, after a dynamic four-way megabrawl for the championship, a two-way wrestling match can’t help but feel like a little bit of a let down.

To “Godzilla vs. Kong’s” credit, the movie never beats around the bush. Directed by Adam Wingard, this story knows that Kong doesn’t really stand a chance in a fair fight against the Monsterverse’s Godzilla. They face off twice in extended, appropriately jaw-dropping sequences throughout the film. The first fight ends in a draw because the humans involved fake Kong’s defeat, and their second face-off leaves Kong at death’s door, again requiring an assist from the human characters who, if we’re being honest, nobody really cares about.

The lackluster role of the human characters isn’t a particularly bad thing. The humans in Godzilla movies have one main role: to hold the audience’s hand until the script moves to the next giant monster fight. When 2018’s “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” received criticism for somewhat shallow character work, I was a member of the legions of fans who pointed to the four massive kaijus, or Titans as they are called in this series, and argued that watching the monsters fight each other was the entire point of the movie. “King of the Monsters” was the first Godzilla movie I had ever seen, but even I knew that the humans weren’t meant to be the focus. For the purpose they served, they were fine.

For those looking for the conflict between the two titular behemoths, “Godzilla vs. Kong” definitely delivers. Although there are only two big fight scenes between them, each is long enough to warrant the restraint the movie shows. Despite both fights being technically incredible, something struck me as off about the animation, particularly during their first encounter aboard an aircraft carrier. All of the fights in “King of the Monsters” carry a certain weight with them that I thought Kong’s first attempt to defeat Godzilla lacks. Each Titan fight in “King of the Monsters” was fun, dynamic and unique. Godzilla fought differently than Ghidorah, who fought differently than Rodan, who was totally different from Mothra. In “Godzilla vs. Kong,” the two of them just punch each other. Still, the second fight between them in Hong Kong brings a little of that creativity back to the Monsterverse and every scene with Mechagodzilla more than makes up for it.

“Godzilla vs. Kong’s” human characters do suffer in a way that those in “King of the Monsters’” never did. Although Millie Bobby Brown is always a welcome presence on the screen, her return as Madison feels unneeded. When the audience is reintroduced to the character in this film, she seems to have gone full conspiracy theorist, which strikes me as a strange turn for the character. With her friend Josh (Julian Dennison), she seeks out the help of a conspiracy podcaster, Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry). The plot line the three of them share can’t help but feel unnecessary, despite it leading to one of my favorite scenes in the film—the introduction of Mechagodzilla. In comparison, Kong’s human prep team, consisting of Dr. Illene Andrews (Rebecca Hall), Dr. Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) and Dr. Andrews’s daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle), fare a little better, if only because I believe they are given significantly more screen time. 

Mechagodzilla is an utterly terrifying presence in this movie. Everything about its introduction is perfect, from the suspenseful charging up process, to the dark scoring and the electric “proton scream,” mimicking Godzilla’s atomic breath. The last half hour of the movie is devoted to its fight against Godzilla and Kong and it utterly obliterates Godzilla before Kong comes in to help save the day. If there is any weight missing from the first Godzilla and Kong fight scene, it is because it all went towards the final three-way smackdown.

“Godzilla vs. Kong” is a movie that achieves exactly what it sets out to do: tell an entertaining story about two giant monsters beating each other up and destroying landmarks. It is not the movie’s fault that its predecessor did the same thing with significantly more success. Despite this, “Godzilla vs. Kong” is a fun film complete with great visuals that ultimately leaves the audience satisfied and beyond thrilled.

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