Godzilla vs Kong may be both the strangest and the most obvious result of Hollywood’s increasing reliance on the cinematic universe model.
Instead of being a crossover of Japan and America’s biggest monsters (like the first iteration of this fight in 1962), Godzilla vs Kong is the culmination of the Legendary Monsterverse: a set of movies specifically designed to cause this titan heavyweight bout. Gareth Edwards’s unfairly-maligned Godzilla was repurposed as an opening salvo, followed by the prequel Kong: Skull Island, which introduced the latest cinematic version of Kong in an entertaining 70s-charged action adventure. Then came Godzilla: King of the Monsters, an overserious, sometimes downright boring reintroduction to Godzilla that did boast some stunning visuals when you could actually see the damn monsters.
Godzilla vs Kong is an amalgamation, as well as a culmination, of the previous movies. It has the scale of Edwards, the light touch of Skull Island, and saves the better human characters (that would be Millie Bobby Brown’s Madison, who gets a little more fun than the crying and screaming that Brown’s roles usually consist of) while dropping the serious tone to just let these monsters fight.
Director Adam Wingard deserves a lot of credit here. While his previous movies playing in the sandbox of other intellectual properties resulted in the disastrous Death Note and the needless Blair Witch, Wingard brings the fun and style of his genre efforts You’re Next and The Guest to proceedings. He understands that this is an epic movie, but doesn’t make the mistake of forgetting that these movies need a proper sense of humor.
The plot is brilliantly simple. Instead of two hours of convoluted character assassination that made Batman fight Superman, Godzilla wants Kong’s head on a stick because he is the dominant titan. Kong hears this and thinks “you fuckin what, mate?” There’s some added-on hollow Earth patter that takes up the human characters’ attention, and an aesthetic that feels as if Wingard is making the Tron movie that only he wants, but the tone of the movie really does make its obvious flaws and contrivances go down easier. For example, Maddison plays out a familiar kids movie trope of accessing an ultra-secure government facillity by sheer luck, but she’s clearly having some fun, plus she has Brian Tyree Henry and the kid from Hunt for the Wilderpeople along for the ride. I can’t be cynical about that. It’s a fun throughline to keep the slightly too-serious Hollow Earth plot from vanishing up its own wormhole, and it’s that attitude that keeps this movie feeling bouyant.
Godzilla vs Kong is best movie of the Monsterverse because it keeps things simple. No gritty realism and a lot of great actor spouting scientific nonsense while giant pixels kickbox each other. Wingard pulled it off.
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By Kevin Boyle
(header image via Screen Rant)