I grew up watching as many Godzilla movies as possible. The awe in the face of something bigger than ourselves, and how we deal with such a threat, has always drawn me into the franchise.
After seeing so many Japanese gigantic monster films, or kaiju, I became more accepting of ridiculous narratives and learned to enjoy the film for what it is rather than analyzing every detail. But, above all, it taught me that movies are supposed to be enjoyable.
Godzilla may have begun as a symbol of suffering, sorrow, and dread of nuclear war, but the series has grown beyond that. The franchise embraced the zaniness of having so many gigantic monsters wandering around Japan, and it became more about being an experience.
That is one of the reasons why monster movies are so popular. You’re merely supposed to go along for the trip and not take things too seriously. After all, what’s the point of going to the movies if you’re not having fun?
Thankfully, “Godzilla vs. Kong,” the latest installment in the franchise, continues this tradition. The long-awaited showdown between two of cinema’s most iconic enormous monsters learns from the flaws of the previous films in Legendary’s MonsterVerse, particularly “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” and builds on the strengths of the franchise’s better films, such as “Kong: Skull Island.”
The $180 million movie from director Adam Wingard is action-packed and exhilarating, play to the strengths of the monsters, and yet can be quiet and somber when needed. The film does a fantastic job of living up to the legends of its two namesake creatures.
Godzilla assaults a robotics facility in Florida related to Apex Cybernetics, which starts the narrative. Because this is Godzilla’s first strike on humanity, the entire planet is on edge.
Apex wants to ensure that the world is prepared for the next Godzilla onslaught, so he employs Dr. Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgard) to head an expedition to the Earth’s core in search of a power source. Nathan, on the other hand, will require another creature who knows the route to lead them to the source.
This brings him to Skull Island, where king Kong is imprisoned since Godzilla would attack him otherwise. Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) is persuaded by Nathan to take Kong from his home to a cave that would bring them to the power source. Godzilla, on the other hand, has other intentions for Kong.
“Godzilla vs. Kong’s” strength is how well it delivers on the monster fun. Unlike the previous Legendary Godzilla films, all of Godzilla and Kong’s sequences take place in daylight or in brilliantly lit locales, allowing the monsters to explode off the screen.
It also helps to make their conflicts more visceral, as each of Kong’s punches or Godzilla’s atomic breaths carries a lot of weight. Their battles are fast-paced and utilize each monster’s skills, particularly Godzilla’s ferocity and Kong’s ingenuity.
There are even references to their previous battle in “King Kong vs. Godzilla,” such as Kong being transported by a large number of helicopters and Kong pushing a tree down Godzilla’s neck. This fight, unlike their previous one, has an obvious winner.
Above all, the monsters’ scenes are entertaining in the most traditional meaning of the word. I’m not one to scream at the screen when something amazing happens in a movie, but there were so many times in this one that I couldn’t stop myself.
It transported me back to my boyhood when I would sit in front of the television and watch kaiju fights without a care in the world. Kong and Godzilla fighting on top of an aircraft carrier, or Kong hiding from Godzilla by ascending Hong Kong’s skyscrapers. “Godzilla vs. Kong” made me feel like a kid again more than any other film in recent memory.
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Human characters are kept to a bare minimum, although they are largely effective. Throughout the film, there are two distinct groups of people. The two physicians with Kong and a deaf girl who befriends the world’s eighth wonder are the greatest. Because of how much they actually care for one other, her and Kong’s bond is one of the most heartwarming aspects of the film.
Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown), a returning character from “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” and two new characters try to figure out what Apex Cybernetics is up to in the second group.
The sequences with them are the film’s weakest point. Everyone is there mostly for the comic relief, which never materializes. Thankfully, unlike the previous MonsterVerse film, they only appear in a few sequences.
“Godzilla vs. Kong” is everything a monster movie should be: terrifying, thrilling, and entertaining. It’s short on people, and the plot is only there to bring the monsters together. Once it’s there, however, the movie is pure kaiju joy.