Apr 9, 2021 | LIFE | By Andrew Rodden | Illustration by Xixi Qin
Don’t kid yourself; Adam Wingard’s “Godzilla vs. Kong” is not one of those arthouse films with strange things like “a plot that makes sense” or “thematic content that makes you think.” No, no, the latest Warner Bros. release is complete Hollywood schlock, urging you from the first scene — in which King Kong vibes in his “Kong Containment” unit on Skull Island, a massive dome akin to “The Truman Show” (1998) — to slow down, relax, and shut off your brain. A disjointed poser like Gareth Edwards’ “Godzilla” (2014) might try to convince you otherwise, but “Godzilla vs. Kong” wears the badge of unadulterated trash with pride.
It goes like this: The Apex corporation sends King Kong and his human protectors to Hollow Earth, a sphere at the center of the Earth inhabited by other titanic monsters, to find a way to stop Godzilla, who is rampaging Apex factories for seemingly no reason. Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown), daughter of top scientist Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler), joins forces with podcaster Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry) to figure out what is really going on, and in the process, they discover Apex is up to no good.
There is absolutely no cohesion to the plot; it is a loose patchwork of dialogue and exposition, meant only to serve as a vehicle to get to each monster fight. At least it is not offensively egregious, as the story elements are somewhat serviceable to support the monster battle scenes. And sure, the moments when Godzilla is not beating up King Kong are totally, utterly worthless — being bridged by painstakingly dull human drama — but it was still a riot to watch two monster dudes brutally pummel one another.
While Godzilla is clearly the most kickass of the movie monsters, the Godzilla franchise has a long lineage of being bad. There are a select few genuinely great Godzilla movies, such as Ishirō Honda’s original “Godzilla” (1954), and Hideaki Ano’s “Shin Godzilla” (2016), two of the finest movies to come out of Japan. But all too often, Kaiju movies are churned out as entertainment products instead of movies more artistically inclined, and “Godzilla vs. Kong” is no exception.
Where can the modern American blockbuster go from here? As the scope of such blockbusters — like “Avengers: Endgame” (2019), “Justice League” (2017), and anything Star Wars — grows to absurd interdimensional levels, I am left wondering how long big movie studios can keep up such unsustainable growth. While “Godzilla vs. Kong” is an entertaining mess, it is still a mess.
Profit has been the driving motivation for film studios since they’ve been around, but given the current engorged state of the American blockbuster, I can’t help but see this system of movie-as-a-product inevitably hurtling towards a pathetic cataclysm. Witnessing the spectacle of King Kong and Godzilla duke it out is stupid fun, but if movies like this are meant to prop up Hollywood, collapse is unavoidable.
No, the savior for cinema is not here, regardless of high box office earnings, but at least it’s both fun and new, two rare adjectives for the few movies released during the pandemic. Sheesh, the bar is low these days, but hopefully “Godzilla vs. Kong” represents the first (but I pray not the best) of an exciting movie lineup for 2021.