Godzilla vs. Kong is Dumb Fun
by Jack Sellers
In 2014 Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures started a new American Godzilla franchise releasing Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla. The release of this film marked the first American produced Godzilla film since 1998 and only the second Godzilla film to be produced in America at all. The film was a sign of the times, being a fairly gritty and dark reboot that harkened back to the destructive tone of the 1954 Japanese original. But, much like the Toho series of films, the films that would follow Godzilla (2014) would embrace the sillier and campier aspects of the concept of a giant nuclear lizard. With the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, tons of studios have tried to turn their major franchises into cinematic universes, and Warner Bros. has done exactly that with their recent film Godzilla vs. Kong.
I rewatched the 2014 Godzilla shortly after watching the match-up against King Kong. I remembered disliking the film when it initially came out but it was released 7 years ago when I was only 12 years old. I cared far more about cool superheroes and comedy moments. I didn’t care at all about the film’s long intro with Bryan Cranston, which has now become probably my favorite part of the film. Cranston in this movie is on another level, the whole beginning with him up until the MUTO is freed is so compelling and fascinating and I just wish there were more. Yes, Godzilla doesn’t show up very early on, but you get a full body shot in Hawaii, and the last 30 minutes have him all over the place fighting the MUTOs. This film established the new design for Godzilla. The monster designs and cgi are jaw-droppingly impressive and well thought out. I remember there was some flak for Godzilla’s chunkier look in this flick but it totally works and contributes to one of the best aspects of this movie: scale. Everything in this movie works according to a scale. Humans seem tiny compared to the missiles they’re transporting, missiles seem tiny compared to the male MUTO, the male MUTO seems tiny compared to the female, and everything seems small compared to the king. All in all I’ve come to think that the 2014 movie is really great and it is such a far cry from the film we got this year.
This film leans far more into the crazy and eccentric roots from the Toho series, but never fully commits to the concept of these older films. The modern sensibilities of films and cinematic universes prohibit this film from being anything special. It’s got a lot of problems that I think would be improved if they didn’t try to explain every last thing that happens in the plot. The plot is absolutely bonkers and the film spends way too much trying to make everything make sense within science and logic, when the very premise of this movie calls for such a suspension of disbelief. With Edwards’ Godzilla, the film took itself very seriously and called for genuine explanation for the elements of the plot, but with a plot like this film’s there is no reason for there to be so much real estate dedicated to trying to explain why these giant monsters are doing what they’re doing. I miss the unabashed corniness of the older movies. At least if you’re going to make this movie “realistic” and try to ground it in some kind of science then have the monster fights have actual weight instead of the characters just hip tossing one another with no effort. At least they used the proper name of the villain. That being said I had a really great time watching this with friends, and I’m glad with the turnout of the fight, but I wish they didn’t take this so seriously. I usually try not to complain about human characters in these movies because they’re all bad in all of these movies, even the especially good films, but this movie has the worst human characters I’ve seen in a kaiju movie, even worse than Rolland Emmerich’s Godzilla. At least they had personality beyond their “quirks”. I think there’s just way too many of them and they’re all relegated to delivering some kind of exposition in one way or another to make up for the fact that our title characters can’t, which leaves them feeling incredibly hollow and surface level.
The movie isn’t all bad though. It is completely and totally dumb fun. I can’t recommend watching it with a group of friends enough (Safely vaxxed or distanced of course). There is plenty to love if you watch this movie as dumb entertainment. I’d certainly hope that no one is watching this movie expecting high art, but it really delivers on the promise of watching the two monsters fight. If this movie were taking itself seriously I’d probably have some problems with how the fights are kind of weightless, but for the sake of entertainment it works very well. This film delivers on pretty much everything you could want if you go into it with a fairly open mind.