“Godzilla vs. Kong”: a stupid, beautiful Kaiju rumble

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Photo courtesy of Universal Studios

Despite the poor reception of the latest installment in Universal’s Monsterverse, the 2019 “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” corporate inertia and our culture’s obsession with seeing Kaiju battles on the big-screen ensured the creation and arrival of “Godzilla vs. Kong” to theaters.

Not even a waning pandemic could prevent this rock-em-sock-em cinematic rumble between a huge ape and a giant, fire-breathing radioactive lizard. Moviegoers everywhere saw this as a cause for joy.

“Godzilla vs. Kong” stars Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Julian Dennison, Brian Tyree Henry and Kyle Chandler as the puny, insignificant humans whose stories take up two-thirds of the film’s runtime. Meanwhile, the audience waits in anticipation for the moment when that giant monkey and radioactive lizard start to throw each other through buildings again.

Though all of these actors, talented in their own respects, do a fine job as their characters in this film, “Godzilla vs. Kong” knows that audiences are not here to watch tiny humans.

No, audiences are here for the Wrestlemania of the century, the throwdown of all throwdowns.  On this front, “Godzilla vs. Kong” certainly delivers. 

When a shady corporation provokes Godzilla to attack its facilities, Madison Russell (Brown) and her friends must defy the odds to figure out a way to stop the company from further provoking Godzilla. 

At the same time, halfway across the world, King Kong is being contained on Skull Island, kept from Godzilla’s view. Once a researcher discovers that Kong might be the only creature that can lead them to the center of the earth, the researcher releases Kong from his captivity. 

However, in doing so, Godzilla becomes aware of Kong’s presence and senses a threat to his hegemony. When the researcher removes Kong from containment, the throwdown between the titular titans becomes inevitable. 

While Kong and Godzilla toss each other through buildings, the corporation seizes the chance to test its revolutionary technology designed to protect humans from Godzilla. Russell and her friends learn that what was provoking Godzilla all along was the corporation’s creation of a terrifying Mechagodzilla. 

When the test of Mechagodzilla goes wrong and its artificial intelligence overrides the humans attempting to control it, Mechagodzilla starts to wreak havoc on Hong Kong. In order to overcome this mechanical menace, Godzilla and Kong must work together to destroy this new and greater enemy. 

“Godzilla vs. Kong” is exactly what you’d expect and hope that it would be. Though its human characters lack depth, intrigue and nuance, the riveting fight scenes between Godzilla, King Kong and Mechagodzilla more than compensate for this fault. 

Movies have come a long way since King Kong and Godzilla last slugged it out in rubber suits on the big screen in 1962. Now studios can sink hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of hours of labor into cutting-edge graphics and computer-generated imaging. All of this so  when we watch a giant monkey and a fire-breathing lizard as tall as skyscrapers go a few rounds, the end result on the screen is beautiful and striking, despite how obviously stupid it is. 

The renderings of the titans on-screen are so photorealistic that it is hard to walk out of the theater and think that such beings don’t exist. 

Despite the intricacy and detail of the images in the film, “Godzilla vs. Kong” never quite masters the art of scale in the same way that Guillermo del Toro’s “Pacific Rim” or Gareth Edward’s 2014 “Godzilla” did. Those aforementioned films were certain to construct each scene to display the sheer magnitude of the titans on-screen in a way that “Godzilla vs. Kong” and “Godzilla: King of Monsters” do not. 

Moviegoers who have been looking forward to seeing “Godzilla vs. Kong” (myself included) likely will not care about the vapidity of the film’s human characters and will not be deeply upset by the film’s mediocre grasp of scale. We’re just there to see King Kong jump off a skyscraper while wielding a radioactive mega-axe to bash Godzilla through a city block, and that is exactly what the film delivers. 

Oddly, nothing makes things feel like they’re getting back to normal more than the fixation of millions of moviegoers on films that are purely beautiful and purely stupid.

That’s exactly what this is: a silly movie that was made so that families and friends can just have a fun time at the theaters. If you can turn off your brain for a bit to enjoy something mindless and fun, you’re the type of person who would love “Godzilla vs. Kong.”

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