Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)
Written by Eric Pearson, Max Borenstein, Terry Rossio, Michael Dougherty, and Zach Shields
Directed by Adam Wingard
No one ever thought the Godzilla films had great human stories, even going back to the original Toho productions. I’m not kidding myself that we ever had some person on the ground that delivered a compelling character arc. However, I feel like we are at a point where you could do that? But this movie certainly doesn’t achieve that, and I would be hard-pressed to recall a single name of any human character in this movie. Below I will include them when I summarize the plot, but that will only be after googling the cast list because they leave no impression whatsoever and probably should have just been deleted from the final cut.
Kong is held inside a special facility on Skull Island where we don’t learn much about what was going on with him since the last Kong movie. I guess he was just hanging out until Monarch came and put him into captivity. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) lives on Skull island with her daughter Jia. The young girl has developed a bond with the ape, and she’s about the only human he trusts. Meanwhile, Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Harris) is a low-level employee of Apex Cybernetics and believes they are doing something concerning the Titans like Kong and Godzilla. He has garnered Madison Russell’s interest (Millie Bobby Brown), who has a connection to these creatures (see Godzilla: King of the Monsters). Meanwhile, Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgard) is recruited by the owner of Apex to use Kong to reach the Hollow Earth where the Titans came from.
But literally, none of this matters because the only reason anyone is watching this movie is to see Kong and Godzilla’s fistfight. And they do. There are three fights throughout the picture, and they never overstay their welcome. The fights’ structure is paced well, and they take place over two settings that make them enjoyable. The first fight, which was spoiled by the trailers, takes place in the middle of the ocean on the way to Antarctica. You certainly have Kong out of his element, which ratchets up the tension, but no adult seriously believes either of these characters would be killed off. How would you keep churning out the sequels, then?
I applaud this movie for getting weird with it when it comes to the Hollow Earth sequence. They play with gravity and introduce a literal throne room for Kong. I’m not clear if we’re meant to believe there was a civilization of Kongs at some point. The movie did make me think that Hollywood has not realized the potential of prequels for these monsters yet. Let’s see Kong Begins where, taking a page from the Land Before Time, he’s born, but his parents are killed early on. Then he finds other baby versions of the Titans, similarly orphaned, and they have to fight their way out of the dangerous Hollow Earth, which brings them to the planet’s surface. It literally would be no more ridiculous than any other film in this series.
Back to those humans, who are utterly inconsequential to the plot. I am willing to bet no one watching this movie became deeply invested in what happened to a single one of these characters. The one thing that seems like they might have had a bearing on (disabling the antagonist of the final act) doesn’t really do much, and it’s the monsters who do most of the work anyway. That felt like a weak attempt to make the humans relevant, and it fell flat. Also, if I had a top-secret facility where I was housing dangerous experiments, I might actually have some level of security present, like cameras or access panels that required a keycard instead of just touching it. I’m not asking for high art here, but please, just some basic logic in the story would be nice.
I think from here on out, any of these Godzilla films should keep the humans as ants on the ground and just sub-title the monsters. They would have to be more compelling than the actors who are wasted in meaningless roles which exist so that the audience has someone to relate to, I guess? They honestly do not need to go to the effort of adding these people. I’d be happy reading sub-titled smack talk between Kong and Godzilla before they start beating the ever-loving shit out of each other.