We all have an image in our heads when we think of those classic monster movies, those hilarious distractions that we would find on our TV as we would channel surf on a lazy Saturday afternoon, the cheesy, black-and-white movies with a big creature stomping around on a model supposed to be a city, inspiring equal parts amusement and curiosity. Far from the more familiar, human-based monsters like Frankenstein or Dracula, these animal-based creatures were rawer and simpler in their destructive appetites, not needing us to engage as much on an intellectual level, intentionally silly, yet just menacing enough to get drawn into the struggle to defeat them.
But there was something uniquely appealing about King Kong and Godzilla, the undeniable masters of the monster genre, as their existence and rage became a metaphor for humanity’s destruction of the natural world. We got what we deserved in these creatures, as their destructive force was the inevitable result of our careless treatment of the planet. Our insatiable appetite for versions of their story, in all media, makes me wonder what that says about us, about our self-awareness, about our own sense of existential dread.
While Marvel Studios have been carving out an entire superhero universe through film and television, Warner Bros. has been quietly building their own monster universe right under our noses. It started in 2014, with Gareth Edwards’s new version of Godzilla, starring Bryan Cranston, which received universally rave reviews, from audiences and critics. The studio followed in 2017 with a new King Kong story, Kong: Skull Island, directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, starring the fresh-off-her-Oscar-win Brie Larson. While that film had a far less positive reaction, the studio was in for a penny, in for a pound, and released Godzilla: King of the Monsters in 2019, directed by Michael Dougherty, starring Kyle Chandler and Millie Bobby Brown. And now comes the culmination and continuation of all of these films, Godzilla vs. Kong, directed by Adam Wingard, starring Alexander Skarsgard and Brown, reprising her role from Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
I was worried that I might not be prepared to watch Godzilla vs. Kong, considering the facts that, not only haven’t I seen any of these recent films, I’ve actually never seen a single Godzilla movie at all, and the only version of King Kong I’ve ever seen is the 1978 Dino DeLaurentis version starring Jessica Lange (of course). Would my lack of knowledge of the history and mythology of these creatures be a detriment to my appreciation and enjoyment of this film? Not one bit.
The difference between Avengers: Endgame, which was the culmination of a plethora of Marvel Studios films that preceded it, and Godzilla vs. Kong, is that the former required you to have seen all the previous movies in order for any of it to make sense, and the latter only requires a desire to have fun. Yes, there are references to the previous films, and some things that a first-time-to-the-franchise viewer will miss, but let’s face it: we are all here for the same thing, and none of it has to do with any complicated character backstory or detailed plot. We are here for the monsters and, boy, do we get them.
Wingard and his entire team of special effects wizards (the credits alone take almost 15 minutes to run) have created the most eye-popping, colorful and spectacular monster movie in history. There truly is no way to describe this movie, except to say it is over-the-top in all the best ways. Godzilla vs. Kong is the kind of movie that reminds us why there are movies. Maybe I’ve been too knee-deep in quiet, independent, character and story-driven stories in the past year due to all the blockbusters being pushed off from 2020, but this movie felt like a big gulp of ice-cold Coca Cola after drinking nothing but water for a month. It is completely unnecessary, without any nutritional value and COMPLETELY delicious.
I’m really not going to convince anyone who knows this isn’t their cup of tea to spend the time with this movie. But if you are somewhat curious about it, or you just want to be in on the conversation, you must find the time to see this movie, on as large a screen as you can safely allow. The effects are unbelievable and the monsters themselves are everything you want them to be. And, if you wonder if it gives us what we are looking for, which is the ultimate battle royale between the two titans of Monster-ville, trust me, you get it.
The only downside of Godzilla vs. Kong, as is the downside of all monster movies, is the fact that there are humans in it. And the filmmakers try to tell a story with those humans, which is, really, just a distraction. Don’t get me wrong, the humans in it are great, like Rebecca Hall and Skarsgard and Bryan Tyree Henry, but we’re not here for them. Whether I was completely uninterested in the “plot” of the movie because I hadn’t seen the previous movies or not, I found myself tapping my foot, just waiting for the two true stars of the film to come back onto the screen. And if you’re wondering if Kong and Godzilla look cool, don’t you worry. They are awesome, in every sense of the word. And their battle is fierce, violent and brutal. There is a kind of cathartic release, especially after the year we just had, to let yourself be immersed in this world and allow the visceral experience of watching two CGI monsters destroy an entire city while engaging in the heavyweight fight of all time. I didn’t even know how much I needed it until I had it.
Wingard’s entire team of designers create a world that is stunning to look at. What struck me the most were the bright, vivid colors that explode from the screen. Every scene is sharp, crisp, and loaded with detail and color. They even find a way to slip in some of that existential dread and even tug at your heartstrings, but it’s not over-indulgent and, surprisingly, quite effective.
In the end, there is just nothing to complain about with this film. These filmmakers were handed a small fortune and they put every bit of it onto the screen for us to enjoy. If you have been waiting to escape to the movies, your wait is over.