Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)
Directed by Adam Wingard
Who needs a COVID shot when you can get a shot of adrenaline this weekend? (You do, that’s who. Consider this your reminder.) In the nearly 70-year history of the Godzilla character, “Godzilla vs. Kong” is the 14th title with a “vs.” in it. But almost none of those have stacked up to the excitement packed in these two hours. This is the best Godzilla movie Hollywood has ever made, and it tops “Kong: Skull Island,” too. Sure, there are narrative flaws, but I came for a spectacle…and that’s exactly what I got.
In the years since the events of “Skull Island,” Kong has been housed in a high-tech containment facility. Dr. Ilene Andrews has been dubbed Kong’s whisperer, for her ability to keep the ape contained, but it’s really a young girl (and former Skull Island native) named Jia (Kaylee Hottle) who has formed a real bond with Kong. Despite this, scientist Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgard) has a plan to remove Kong. He wants his help leading scientists to the underground lair where Kong’s species originated. But moving Kong will tip off Godzilla, who has stayed dormant until a recent attack on a Florida laboratory. Everyone expects that when Godzilla is made aware of Kong, he’ll start a fight in order to remain the planet’s only alpha. They’re not wrong.
Whenever Kong and Godzilla share a screen, it puts Toho’s old Godzilla fights to shame. Sure, the costumed brawls of Haruo Nakajima’s day had a level of authenticity that’s missing from “Godzilla vs. Kong,” but I’d take a good CGI showdown over the average Toho fight any day. But even compared to Hollywood’s latest attempts at Godzilla and Kong, this movie is tops. I enjoyed Gareth Edwards’s 2014 monster, but we saw so little of it over the course of his bloated and boring movie. The sequel, “King of the Monsters,” was downright ugly. While we saw slightly more of the monsters, they were nearly always shrouded in darkness or rain so that we couldn’t really see them at all. And I liked “Kong: Skull Island” more than most people did, but I still prefer what director Adam Wingard and his team did here. The epic smackdown in the streets of neon-lit Hong Kong was truly spectacular. And one character’s cameo is too exciting to spoil (but needless to say, it made the movie’s conclusion even more epic).
Whenever Kong and Godzilla are on screen, that is. When the monsters take a back seat, the movie slows down a bit. Not that that’s always a bad thing. A movie with nothing but Godzilla would probably get old fast. But “Godzilla vs. Kong” does have its weak spots. A side plot featuring Millie Bobby Brown (reprising her role in the previous two Godzilla movies) and Bryan Tyree Henry (as a paranoid podcaster who thinks he’s on to something) is vital to the plot, but is much more predictable and less interesting than the rest of the movie. I wish the movie’s five credited writers had found a better way to tell that part of the story.
But I had high hopes that a major battle between Godzilla and Kong (like what we saw teased in the trailers) would blow me away. And it did. Junkie XL’s score was characteristically bombastic. Like a great DJ, he knows how to use music to get your heart rate up effectively. “Godzilla vs. Kong” is pretty good at doing that, generally. Now’s your chance to see the biggest blockbuster of the year—in theaters, if you’re fully vaccinated (a few weeks after your last dose of the vaccine), or on HBO Max all throughout the month of April.