“Well, that wasn’t very intellectual”, the middle-aged cinemagoer muttered as he exited rear theatre after a showing of Warner’s latest monsterverse effort.
You’d think the absence of Daniel Day Lewis’s name on the credit block of the “Godzilla vs. Kong” might’ve tipped him off to that.
If you head into a film titled “Godzilla vs. Kong” for anything other than a couple of hours of high-price visual effects, towering monsters putting the smackdown on one another, and tiny people running for their lives, then you’re going to be seriously disappointed.
Just as predecessors “Godzilla”, “Kong Skull Island” and “Godzilla : King of the Monsters” proved, -worthy writing, profound human drama, and intelligible plot are not the strong suit of such films.
Where “Godzilla vs. Kong” exceeds though is in its sheer fun factor – the kind of fun factor that will hopefully gets bums back on seats after a punishing year saw most theaters shuttered. With its sweet-honey DTS soundtrack, larger-than-life visual effects, and bonkers fun leave-your-brain-at-the-door concept, it’s the kind of film 60 foot screens were designed for.
We open on Skull Island. Here, Kong, seemingly happy and freethinking in an island prison, communicates – assumingly, daily- with his little friend, Jia (Kaylee Hottle), an orphan who has taught the big guy sign language.
On the other side of the world, Godzilla re-emerges, attacking a cybernetics facility in Miami. Convinced he’s not-so-bad, a conspiracy-theorising podcaster, Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry) and two daring teens, the returning Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) and her pal, Josh (Julian Dennison) — team up to break into the facility and uncover what the slimy suits are up to.
When word reaches Skull Island that Godzilla, Kong’s long-time enemy, is on the loose, it’s quickly decided NAVY transport will sail the latter to somewhere safer… in this case, a mythical interior of Earth’s crust – called ‘Hollow Earth’.
It goes without saying that the plan goes awry, and before he knows it, the big guy is having a nostril-puffing contest with his spiky-backed foe in Japan.
The plot – most of which we can likely attribute to screenwriters Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein – doesn’t make a lick of sense but boy is it fun watching it all unfold.
Humans are merely hot props here but there’s some fun performances on show – Henry’s wisecracking conspiracy-theorist is a highlight, and Demián Bichir revels in his role as the over-the-top corporate nasty – none so much as the title characters. Kong is an intimidating, overpowering presence (with heart- don’t forget the heart!), and Godzilla is a purple-tinted Jurassic lord of the sea that sends chills up the spine whenever he emerges from the deep. Their clashes are an absolute hoot – – bold, engaging and vividly shot. All are lovingly created by a masterful VFX board that includes WETA digital, MPC, Scanline VFX, and Luma Pictures.
Director Adam Wingard (“You’re Next”, “Blair Witch”), known for his brutal indie horror films, reins himself in here (the studio likely wanting a lesser rating on this than his previous films snag), but where blood and gore would normally be, he gives us eye-popping, wide-smile effects to die for – neon-lit Japanese landscapes being pummeled by colossal creatures – and some absurd but fun screen locales the likes of which we haven’t seen since the classic “Sinbad” and “Doctor Who” pics of the Eisenhower-era. Clearly, the filmmaker’s inspiration isn’t so much the super-serious, contemporary effects-clad blockbusters like “Pacific Rim” or “Transformers” but the campy, pulp pics of the ‘60s – – of which Ishirō Honda’s original “King Kong vs. Godzilla” belongs.
So, no, “King Kong vs. Godzilla” isn’t “intellectual” but if you’re going to lose braincells, there’s no better way to do it!