I will admit right here at the top of this review that I am a solid Team Kong. In fact, Kong: Skull Island is my fave of the monster movies. I love it because, of all the films, this one has the best mix of human character interaction and the monster destruction we all come to expect from these films. It was the perfect summer film, as Godzilla vs. Kong is now.
Coming off a record-breaking weekend, GVK the first film to reclaim the pre-COVID box office. Doing so surprised critics, like myself, who had written off the theaters for dead. Well, the monsters brought them back and just in time too. People are getting vaccinated and are waiting for great content to bring them out of the house, finally. GVK does that, as it is the perfect summer blockbuster. However, like every summer hit before it, we can’t scratch too hard at the surface of Godzilla vs. Kong. Underneath the grand battles, the big ideas, riveting fights, and emotional moments lie a story that will leave some audience members feeling unsatisfied.
The People Part of the Film is the Lack…Part of It
GVK does one thing very well. It is the perfect film to enthrall audiences and break up long summer days. the story is easy enough to follow. The same company that has been causing destruction all over the world since Godzilla (2014) is back at it again. They are creating a top-secret weapon that investigative podcaster Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry) is trying to infiltrate. Driven by losses that happened in previous monster attacks, he tries to expose the company. Along the way, audiences are reunited with Madison (Millie Bobbie Brown) whose mom started the Titan madness in the last movie. There’s also her friend Justin (Julian Dennison). Together, this trio makes a thrilling mission to find the truth. However, they end up getting a lot more than they bargained for.
Meanwhile, we join up with Kong, who is living in a habitat that is basically a cage–a colossal one–but still a cage. Ilene lives there too and so does Jia, a little girl who lost her family in that last monster disaster. They are inside the “cage” with Kong. Jia even interacts with the Titan in moments that provide the tender emotional element of the story. The rest of the film is all about how Godzilla is awakened as a result of the aforementioned top-secret project. Meanwhile, Kong is hog-tied to a barge and shipped to the South Pole as Illene (Rebecca Hall) and Jia (Kaylee Hottle), joined by a scientist named Nathan (Alexander Skarsgard) all embark on a quest to find Hollow Earth. It’s Kong’s ancestral home and also the place where the company will get the power to juice up their top-secret project… Yes, Kong is being caged by these same people.
The Monsters Keep It Interesting
This part of the film is full of a lot of information at a point where people just want to see the monsters fight. Fortunately, the human interaction is and the exposition is augmented by regular big action scenes involving one monster or the other. This way, the audience does not get bored. However, they also do not get to see enough of the human’s backstory. Many will question this as it will make the film seem lacking.
But not for long. Just as you start asking questions about the backstories and seeking more character development, the Titans get up to their old ways, destroying things and each other. Mechagodzilla joins the fight late in the film after being revealed as the top-secret project. It steps out of the shadows just as Kong and Godzilla are fighting.
Kong’s turn in hollow Earth mirrors Godzilla’s journey to Mechagodzilla’s manufacturing space. The destruction and spectacular graphics follow both, Kong more so as he literally tears through Hollow Earth inhabitants who think he is dinner. The reverse true. In Hollow Earth, we see so many hints of the origins of both monsters. It alludes to a fight and then a union. Kong has a throne and Godzilla’s likeness is carved into the floor. Kong’s axe is charged by the same light that lights the carving, hinting at the unity that must come later in order to beat Mecha.
Yes, Black Women Save the World…You’re Welcome
Our human investigative squad makes it into the Mechagodzilla factory to find that the Titan is being controlled by Hollow Earth juice, a dead Godira head, and what is now a human sacrifice. They have a series of thrilling misdirections before getting to the control center for Mechagodzilla. Outside, we are back to Kong, wielding his axe, but not for long, against an angry and still agitated Godzilla. This is the battle the fans signed up to see and it does not disappoint.
At the moment that Kong and Godzilla get the hint that they are meant to play together, Bernie and the gang are in the control room. As one last ditch effort, Bernie pours out the flask of Japanese whiskey that his wife bought him before she died. The short gives the Titans the opening they need to destroy the metal monster. See, Black women saved the world.
The Hit Film that Saved Cinema?
Godzilla vs. Kong racked up $48.5 million in sales over the first five days of its initial run in the U.S. This is in theaters, a number that hasn’t been recorded in this country for well over a year. This and the news of over 18.5 % of Americans receiving the COVID-19 vaccine is giving everyone the hope that we could be back watching this films and others this summer. Just go for the great effects, thrilling story, and colossal fights. Don’t expect an Oscar contender or even a groundbreaking movie. These are meant to enjoy, for the moment. Scratch too hard and the whole thing falls apart.
Stream Godzilla vs. Kong on HBOMax and in theaters.
Rating 4.5 of 5
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