Captain Broshi Reviews
“Godzilla Vs. Kong” (2021)
Director: Adam Wingard
Distributed by: Warner Bros.
Cast: Kaylee Hottle, Millie Bobby Brown, Alexander Skarsgård, Rebecca Hall, Shun Oguri, Brian Tyree Henry, Kyle Chandler, Julian Dennison.
Writer: Eric Pearson, Max Borenstein
D.P.: Ben Seresin
Plot Synopsis: Godzilla is attacking cities of innocent people, seemingly in an uncontrollable rage. The facilities of Apex, which is a company that is searching for an immense power source somewhere within the Hollow-Earth, appear to be his main target. The owner of the company hires a team, that has been working with King Kong on Skull Island, for the job of somehow convincing the over-300-foot gorilla to lead them to the power source. Kong, as well as all Titans, originate from the bowels of the inner-planet. Another reason for kidnapping the ape is because the human characters know that the presence of Kong will challenge the alpha status of Godzilla, so a confrontation between the two giants is inevitable. Reluctantly becoming humanity’s bodyguard, Kong must brace himself for the fight(s) of his life! Who will bow?
The Review (Spoilers!)
This film… this film splits me right down the middle. I don’t just mean the conflict of choosing a favorite in a fistfight between the two most beloved movie monsters in cinema history, Godzilla and King Kong. No, as a film consumer, I am torn between the man-child and the intellect within, that are constantly wrestling each other for dominance over my taste in movies.
The history of these two’s individual careers and their legendary rivalry is a very well-documented one, full of twists, turns, betrayals, misinformation, and all the drama that would actually make for a good film or series in and of itself. However, I am here to talk about 2021’s “Gozilla Vs. Kong”, and the turmoil that has manifested within my mind as a result. This film’s titular battle pales in comparison to the clash of fanboy versus filmmaker taken place in the recesses of my nerdy brain.
“Broshi”, is a term I have created to describe the state of mind I go into when being entertained. Willing to suspend disbelief for the sake of a good story, but unwilling to compromise fundamental writing and/or basic film-making for a cheap or quick “pop”. In other words, when I am in “Broshi” mode, I fuse the uncritical acceptance of flight and fancy, one may find in an imaginative child, with the knowledge and wisdom of someone who has habitually, perhaps trivially, studied the process of making movies for almost 2 decades.
This has (mostly) served me well as a lover of both the art of entertainment and the craft of its artisans. “Broshi-ing” allows me to forgive certain “flaws” of any given production, such as the ones found in a Godzilla or King Kong movie. For example, “it’s obviously a man in a rubber suit” or “when Kong picks her up, she totally becomes a toy!” So long as the story, actions, characters, and motivations make sense, and the scenes are well-paced and exciting, I’ll gladly absolve any obvious model-work or shoddy CGI.
Unfortunately, however, sometimes one side of this fusion is far more competent than the other. As for “Godzilla vs. Kong”, the kaiju lover, obsessed with fantastical depictions of high concept ass-kicking is completely satiated! I honestly left the theater with a big, dumb smile on my face. Then, on the way home, the smile began fading when applying logic and scrutiny to the flow of the script, the choices in actors, or the odd editing decisions. Needless to say, I am substantially less satisfied with anything that exists outside of the eponymous characters’ showdown.
“Godzilla Vs. Kong” marks the fourth film in the shared universe, dubbed the “Monsterverse”. Beginning with the “Big G”’s return to the American silver screen in 2014’s “Godzilla”, followed by the introduction of this generation’s Kong in 2017’s “Kong: Skull Island”, and eventually, in 2019, we saw the release of “Godzilla: King of the Monsters”.
While neither of these films is on the hot-seat today, the overarching story needs to be considered when examining lore and continuity.
The plot revolves mostly around Kong, with Godzilla playing the end boss for a lot of the film.
Godzilla is attacking majorly populated areas. In particular, it seems to be facilities owned by the Apex corporation. Apex is run by people who want all the titans dead, as they believe the earth belongs to the humans. In the end, we(the audience) find out that Apex is in possession of King Ghidorah’s severed head(KotM main antagonistic titan) and is using his telepathic abilities to control the mind of their very own, homegrown titan.
The lead humans for this part of the story are three conspiracy theorists(well, two are anyway). One of them is Millie Bobby Brown, again portraying Madison Russell, but outside of the returning actress, the character bears little resemblance to the previous, as here all she does is sit around and listen to a very uninteresting conspiracy podcaster, who the writers try to play as funny, but just came off lame mostly.
Bryan Tyree Henry is a hilarious guy, but just like with Brown, is wasted completely, with some of the worst dialogue in the movie.
I’m not going to waste time talking of the third space-filler, as he is completely pointless. He brings the van… I guess… Anything he “accomplishes” in the movie could have been any other person.
In the Kong story, the humans are only slightly better. Rebecca Hall and Alexander Skarsgard try to get Kong to lead them and Apex to the hollow earth in order to jack into the seemingly unlimited power source that rests there. They are unaware of Apex’s nefarious schemes.
They achieve this through the assistance of a deaf native to Skull Island, Jia, acted by deaf actress Kaylee Hottle. Honestly, this little girl is the best human in the movie and easily acts the majority of her costars under the table.
Jia has a connection with Kong, who vowed to protect her once she became orphaned. Kong reveals his intelligence, displaying his ability to communicate through sign language with the young child. Again, I am a fan of this, as the trope of Kong falling in love with a human female is flipped with him showing a more paternal love, as opposed to romantic.
The two monsters eventually square up, and we are treated with some bad-ass, well-choreographed fights, with first taken place in glorious daylight(a rarity for these flicks) at sea, on various logic-breakingly strong aircraft carriers that can support the weight of both creatures. The terrible lizard gets the upper hand and almost drowns the big gorilla before the humans drop some sort of weapons that disorient Godzilla. Kong survives only to play dead(along with the human fleet), so Godzilla leaves, returning to his previous mission. This confrontation establishes that Godzilla is the more world-weary warrior of the two, with superior resistance and abilities, such as his trademark atomic breath, but Kong has the advantage of smarts and agility.
We are eventually shown the hollow earth. The entry into said area is another homage, within the Monsterverse, to Kubrick’s “2001”, with several visual references to the “Beyond Jupiter” sequence(the first reference was a music queue in 2014’s trailer).
Inside the earth, gravity is an illusion, as it changes depending on where one is located. A pretty cool effect, honestly.
Upon investigation, Kong discovers a badass axe. It is implied his ancestors used such weapons to wage war against a Godzilla race, millions of years ago. It is made up of one of the back spikes on Godzilla and what looks to be a bone of some other titan. Being made of one of the plates that Godzilla channels his atomic power through, it possesses many unusual properties, even glowing the powerful blue glow, characteristic to the monster’s finishing move.
The ability to use create and adapt tools gives Kong another advantage.
The stage is set for their final battle, as Godzilla wreaks havoc on Hong Kong, having sensed King Ghidorah’s brain waves, again being manipulated by the scientists at Apex. Once the power source is successfully tapped into by the villainous group, the signals drive G into a frenzy, causing him to Atomic blast a hole down to the center of the damn planet!
Kong makes his way back to the surface and challenges Godzilla once more, this time armed with the axe. The fight scene is brutal, with Kong putting up one hell of a struggle. However, ultimately Godzilla is victorious, pinning the gorilla under his foot, displaying his status as the alpha of planet Earth by unleashes his iconic roar! Unwilling to submit, Kong thunders back with a battle cry of his own.
Big G leaves the king of Skull Island to die. Unable to enjoy his victory for even a moment, the nearby mountain erupts from within, as Apex has successfully infused the power source with their artificial titan: Mecha-Godzilla! The Robotic monster immediately begins acting under its self-accords, killing off the Apex leaders and attacking Godzilla.
A positive point I would like to point out now is how mean Mecha-G is. When considering the last memory Ghidorah’s brain has is his death at the hands(and breath) of Godzilla, it becomes understandable why he is so sore!
Exhausted from his previous fight, Goji is undeniably curb-stomped by his mechanized doppelganger, who is equipped from head to toe with weapons specifically designed to kill titans.
The humans, once again, bail out Kong from meeting the kaiju reaper, by jump-starting his heart through an electric shock. I think this is a subtle reference to the original 1962 film depicting the meeting of the world’s most popular movie giants, where King Kong inexplicably is resurrected via lightning bolts.
The rest plays out just a predictably as you could have… well… predicted. The two team up to defeat the common threat, with Kong getting the kill!
Essentially(and appropriately), the movie ends after this climactic clash, with a short scene tacked on of Kong seemingly deciding to explore and perhaps dominate over the hollowed innards of earth, while Godzilla presumably remains king above.
A major complaint is the lack of consistency from the previous films to this one, with essential elements and plot points that do not make any sense in the world established thus far in this saga.
For example, in the context of this cinematic universe, all human weaponry and technology have been fairly believable, and comparable to contemporary tools. “GvK” is based only a few years after “KotM”, wherein the highest form of sci-fi tech is a machine that allows humans to communicate with the titans, similar to machines that have theoretically been proposed in real life, that might allow for some form of communication with sea life.
A brief explanation as to why and/or how such advancements have taken place in such a short period would have sufficed plenty, but we are given nothing.
It is my opinion that a large portion of this film was left on the cutting room floor. That’s the only excuse I can fathom as to why certain characters’ motivations are so unclear.
True, the previous movies received a lot of flack from fans, describing the human characters as boring and intrusive(a claim that I 100% agree with) to the plot.
That being said, fan reaction is no excuse for neutering any human element therein. There is a right way to do the mortals in these giant monster movies, and it is not by ignoring them and/or making their presence seem superfluous. When you do that, any chance you may have of enjoying the human-only scenes go the way of the dinosaurs, becoming extinct.
The actors are all serviceable enough I guess, but they are given so little to work with.
The biggest disappointment for me was the character of Ren Serizawa, portrayed here by Shun Oguri. Based solely on the last name being mentioned once in passing, the audience is supposed to pick up that this is Ken Watanabe’s character’s son, with Watanabe appearing in the first two Godzilla films. Outside of the name drop, this relation is never brought up, much less be fleshed out.
Ren was primed to be a secondary or perhaps third antagonist, but ultimately only served the same purpose as any character not rendered through CGI, to give the viewer and plot a reason to move from one set piece to the next.
All the human villains are killed off with little attention or fanfare once the real baddie appears, showing off his shiny, metal exterior.
Another nitpick that just doesn’t suit me is some of the decisions made by the editing team. I’m not sure if it was the director’s choice or some sort of studio bigwig sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong, but the sound design pissed me off in some scenes.
Not only was the music mostly forgettable(surprising to me, as I usually love Junkie XL’s work), but during certain moments, where I am expecting a bombastic sound design to blow me away, instead all diegetic sound is dropped for some sort of atmospheric, low humming.
Again, this particular criticism is completely subjective, so take it or leave it.
To be conclusive, the film is a thrilling and entertaining drive on a very slow and boring road.
Think of an awesome roller coaster in the middle of a substandard amusement park, that forces you to listen to clowns do bad stand-up before you can get on the ride itself.
Once that bullshit is over with, it is everything you could possibly expect or want from a movie titled “Godzilla vs Kong”.
You are most definitely not going to get high-caliber performances from any of the leads(maybe excluding Jia), nor will you get any satisfying resolutions to the build-up from previous films or even early in this one.
What you will walk away satisfied with is the computer-generated monsters, who all look incredible, occasional brilliant cinematography(the Hong Kong scenes are amazing and are gorgeous to look at), and some kick-ass action scenes that easily play to the strengths of the real stars.
Godzilla and Kong are both very likable in this film, and I sincerely wish to see further adventures starring the two, individually or separately. I just hope we don’t have to keep sacrificing any compelling human element to do so.
As for the struggle that is continuously waging within me, I would like to quote Ken Watanabe’s Ishiro Serizawa from 2014’s “Godzilla”:
“LET THEM FIGHT!