Godzilla vs Kong. Cast includes Millie Bobbie Brown, Brian Tyree Henry, Julian Dennison, Alexander Skarsgard, and Rebecca Hall. Directed by Adam Wingard. Legendary Entertainment. PG-13. Runtime: 1hr 53min. 2021
Warning: I may have spoilers, if spoilers matter to you. I personally do not care about spoilers; I will watch whatever and be my own judge, but I understand some folks do care.
The TL:DR version of my review is: Just watch GvK. GvK is a great Godzilla movie and a great Kong movie. I’m not going to go into a great amount of detail about acting and such, only about four complaints I have about this movie. Otherwise, this may be one of the best, if not the best, of the Godzilla movies. Great entertainment!
I have a huge place in my heart for Godzilla, a fondness which never really developed for Kong. Don’t ask me to explain why because I have no answer. I suspect Toho Studios may be to blame and the era of my childhood, the late 60s and early 70s. The era of Godzilla I grew up with is known as the Shōwa era (1954–1975). The Shōwa era transformed Godzilla into a kid-friendly superhero with personality, comical antics, fighting against other kaiju and aliens, and mechanical versions of himself. In my childhood, no fewer than eight movies were produced, beginning with Son of Godzilla and ending with Terror of Mechagodzilla. Eight movies over eight years – and each of them are beautiful in their own way. 36 Godzilla movies have been made; I’m only referring to the eight movies which came out during my formative years and might explain my preference for Godzilla. I’m also a huge Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot fan which came out the year of my birth and lasted only a mere 26 episodes. But they are amazing episodes.
Before I dive into my issues with the movie, let me establish my basic framework for these issues. I watch these movies as if they are live-action comic books. I don’t expect physics to matter, or chemistry, or biology, but I do expect the story and such to remain logically consistent within the movie. In other words, set your brain beside the door and don’t over-think too much. My issues are mostly story-telling issues which lack logical consistency and are also problematic with Hollywood story-writing, in general.
My Issues with Godzilla v Kong
Issue 1. My biggest issue with any of the newer, Americanized versions of Godzilla is his smaller head. He doesn’t look like my Godzilla from my childhood. The smaller head removes his intelligence in my opinion, reduces the size of his eyes, both traits conspiring to transform my intelligent, comical, and expressive childhood hero into nothing but a reactive and radioactive threat to Humanity. The Godzilla I grew up with taunted his enemies, scowled at them, showed confusion and sometimes mercy through his eyes and body language. This new Godzilla, which tiny eyes and a tiny head do not give enough facial real estate for communication, for expressions, to demonstrate Godzilla is far more intelligent than American studios have made him into. Ugh.
However, I will say this: while I still do not care much for the 21st century render of Godzilla, the Godzilla in this movie is more than a simple radioactive kaiju, his eyes do show expression and he does show a little bit of compassion, mercy. Godzilla clearly could have murdered Kong, and in the end walked away, but not before making sure Kong understood if he got back up, he would not get up, again. We get to see Godzilla squint, so I guess we have to be happy about this one obvious hint of intelligence.
Issue 2. [Timestamp 14.01] Good god; when will Hollywood learn to write an effective dialogue between a smart parent and their smart child? If you are a Ph.D physicist (or whatever Mark Russell / Kyle Chandler is) and you have a smart kid who you recognize as being smart and reliable and they ask reasonable questions, they deserve reasonable responses or replies. Russell’s dialogue is garbage: “Godzilla is hurting people and we don’t know why,” “there has to be a reason, and there isn’t,” “creatures, like people, change.” Whoever wrote Russell’s dialogue has copypasted every adult dialogue from every 1980s science fiction / fantasy movie and continues the adult-smart, kid-stoopid movie trope.
“Madi look, you are right. Something is happening, and something is wrong with Godzilla. This pattern of behavior we haven’t seen before, and it is odd. We have to figure out why Godzilla is acting this way, to find a pattern. You’re right, there is a pattern, we just don’t know what it is, yet.”
I mean, how hard is it, even in a comic-book movie, to write reasonable dialogue which doesn’t insult or diminish other characters and the audience? It’s lazy writing. Speaking of lazy writing…
Issue 3. [Timestamp 16.01] Billionaire CEO of Apex Cybernetics Walter Simmons (Demian Bicher) slips into Dr. Nathan Lind’s (Alexander Skarsgard) office, along with his chief scientist, Ren Serizawa (Shun Oguri) and reveals the internal structure of the Earth. Lind was a logical choice for this reveal as Lind falls into a very niche scientific crowd who believe the earth is hollow and supports an entire ecosystem in which Titans thrive. Walter and Ren display a 3D image created using special satellites detailing the peculiar energy networks throughout the earth’s mantle, leading to the earth’s core. “We need your help to find it [this energy].”
Dude, you just mapped it. You literally have a map of the energy, where it makes contact with the earth’s crust, the network through the mantle, and the connection to the earth’s core. You literally have a map. As a geographer and a cartographer, I mildly rebelled at this scene. Why do you need this guy, this character, period? Use the same actor but develop his connection to Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) in another way.
As a side, and again, looking at the movie through a live-action comic-book lens, how does this guy pilot one of the most sophisticated vehicles ever built later on in the movie? Maybe he should have been a pilot on the aircraft carrier, or helicopter pilot or something else.
Issue 4. [Timestamp 25.15] We finally get to Antarctica (which is another issue) so Kong can lead an expedition into the Hollow Earth. Apex Cybernetics has developed a few HEAVS (Hollow Earth Anti-gravity Vehicles) which will help the team delve into the hollow earth, retrieve a sample of the energy source (another issue), and escape. We are told these vehicles are absolutely necessary in order to manage the “gravitational inversion” which killed everyone from the former team, who had as a member Lind’s brother. So, Lind has some emotional buy-in with this adventure.
My issue is the humans need the HEAVs but Kong evidently doesn’t. What? I’m supposed to suspend even movie reality to believe Kong is immune to gravitational inversion? Why? Because he is supposed from the hollow earth? I don’t think so. I think he was born and raised on Skull Island. I guess he might have some sort of built-in immunity. However, as a creature with mass I feel like he should be just as susceptible to gravitational inversion as anyone or anything else. I could go with some sort of unique energy barrier due to hollow earth, Titan ecosystems, etc. just don’t make it a gravity energy. The HEAVs can still work and whatever, but don’t use gravity.
Issue 5. [Timestamp 25.00] ANTARTICA??? What??? The seas around Antarctica are notoriously bad and there are few times of the year when supplies can be delivered to research stations. Chaining Kong to a barge and driving him to Antarctica is absolutely absurd. Back in the Good Ol’ Days, scientists would have drugged Kong, wrapped him in a giant net, and air-lifted him using giant helos to wherever. Why not to the Democratic Republic of the Congo? At least it is tropical. If you’re going to fake a location, why Antarctica? Barge Kong to Tanzania if you want a Godzilla vs Kong sea battle, then lift him to some secret location in DROC. Anyway, I find the location here to be sort of bizarre.
Issue 6. [Didn’t record] The HEAV team finally reaches the hollow earth destination and get a great representative sample of the energy Apex Cybernetics requires. This is where I have another WTF moment. The energy sample is placed in a specialized container, measured and analyzed, the results directed transmitted to Apex Cybernetics. But, the sample is still in the box! Using the energy signature Apex Cybernetics is able to put the energy immediately to use in their solution to fighting kaiju. Yeah … no. Put the box on a HEAV, fly up through the hole Godzilla created which leads directly to the Apex Cybernetics headquarters in Hong Kong, deliver it, plug it in, call it a day. Three HEAVs fly in, leaves one to be trashed, one to fly away and deliver the goods, and one to escape. I don’t like the mechanism that somehow this fantastic energy source can somehow be mimicked at a distance.
That’s it. Those are my grievances. They aren’t entirely deal-breakers, except for the dialogue between Madison Russell and Mark Russell. When the dad immediately begins dismissing his daughter and her ideas, especially in light of the last movie, I almost walked away from the movie in the first 20 minutes. Writing in movies can still be tight and sharp and dramatic and smart without losing the story elements and without giving into the stupid trope of parents being smart and kids being stoopid. And, the bit about the 3D imaging, I thought, “This is actually dumb. These dudes literally mapped the energy and a route to the energy. Now, just go get it.” This is where I have keep telling myself, “Don’t over-think!”
Watch the movie; still entertaining and worth the time. I’ll probably watch again.
P.S. If you aren’t familiar with Johnny Sokko and His Giant Robot, check out this clip. Bunch of folks in foam suits in 1967. This is the show the band from Indiana derives their name from.