It’s amazing just how much Godzilla there is. I consider the series a formative work through my younger years, but I haven’t been able to watch every film. But I do remember when “Big G” went on hiatus. And I remember when he came back. Now with Godzilla vs. Kong, we’re at the end of the “MonsterVerse,” or at least it should be the end, anyway. What was once a promising return has become a giant, expensive bag of nothing, a total misfire and misunderstanding of the source material.
I don’t even know where to start with this damn movie. And I don’t think the studio knew where to start with its hokey “MonsterVerse” thing either. Godzilla (2014) feels like it came from another world compared to everything that followed. And while King Kong is more of a blank check, I don’t think “ancient monkey god-king Thor” was on top of anyone’s list. Actually, that’s a great place to start.
I don’t think I can point to anything like the “Titan” origin material that damns this cynical “verse” more plainly. Out of absolutely nowhere, Godzilla vs. Kong opens its narrative volley with some Hollow Earth nonsense, like the original King Kong was a Jules Verne novel or something. For no productive reason, this movie goes out of its way to present an explanation for all the giant monsters existing, and it’s the dopiest, flimsiest pile of sci-fi camp nothing I’ve ever experienced. Literally half the movie is spent answering a question nobody asked.
The way Godzilla, especially, is handled in this movie is just embarrassing. The last two films had their ups and downs, but they were thematically consistent. These monsters, or Titans as they needed to be branded, were a consequence of humanity’s ecological arrogance. They were unfathomably large, godlike figures so wondrously, beautifully terrifying that even the cameras cowered in their presence. The antagonistic variable in King of the Monsters was entirely about that theme of natural balance! Why are we launching people into goofy gravity portals now?
Now Godzilla’s just like, a badass lizard boy with Judo skills. In order to set him up as the initial threat in this movie, Godzilla’s whole thematic purpose was replaced with comic book bullshit. Worse, because this movie can’t think of better ideas than contrivances to justify its existence, Godzilla moves and behaves like a giant domestic lizard, like a Gecko or something. His CGI is all wobbly now so he can do a fistfight with Kong, completely trivializing the character down to just a big monster instead of a force of nature. Even Godzilla's roar, which the first two movies did a totally fine job with, is totally different and way less reminiscient of the original. You have to get the roar right! The theme is here, but the arrangement is pretty boring. Welp. It's just the intro loudly jammed into generic film score.
At least the earlier movies were more comparable to the Japanese series, in which Godzilla’s origin was literal nuclear warfare. This entire franchise was borne of World War II, and even many of the sillier movies out of Toho put effort into internal logic and some kind of point. Even Final Wars, a slugfest flick similar to this one that sees Godzilla murking everyone (like, everyone including the first American Godzilla), had more to say and the bad guys in it were aliens.
Godzilla vs. King Kong didn’t have to be as stupid as it is. You can have a giant monster movie that also has some sort of relatable, human resonance baked into the script. No, it doesn’t have to be Shakespeare, but something beyond getting high and reading Wikipedia pages on dead science theories and calling it a night should be the minimum. And that’s without mentioning how harebrained the “evil corporation” plot ends up by the end. Going into that would be too spoilery, but rest assured it’s just as much a Hollywood conveyor belt as everything else.
All of this is meant to lead up to a brawl between the two iconic movie monsters. That’s the point, right? I’ve seen a million comments on reviews and such noting how “enjoyable” Godzilla vs. Kong is, how the other stuff doesn’t matter because CGI Kaiju Battle was the whole point. But if that’s the point, why go to so much effort to spend the majority of the movie doddering around a bafflingly thoughtless sci-fi romp? A coherent, creative or thoughtful story can be paired up with dope monster destruction. Both can happen, and in fact have happened dozens of times with much smaller budgets.
The fight scenes weren’t even good. It’s two rubbery CGI puppets slapping each other around, each fight sequence playing out with the same general ideas, without any visual artistry or storytelling. We just watch the monsters fight until one of them falls down to make the script go on to the next fight. The stuff in Hong Kong with the RGB gamer lights on skyscrapers seemed to be the big “ooh ahh” set, but so what? Splashing bright colors on the screen just for the purpose of a neat visual is totally pointless, especially if there isn’t actually any visual technique on display. There’s a huge, smouldering crater of a difference between “use of color,” and “color is present in the shot.”
At the end of the day I was just confused. Godzilla vs. Kong was a total departure from the previous MonsterVerse movies, in nearly every way. There’s a total absence of filmic drive or creativity. The storytelling is worse than vapid. It isn’t even tonally consistent with what came before. It’s like Legendary just handed some dude the keys to the car and didn’t ask him if he’s ever seen one like it before or understands what makes it special.
This movie is a wreck, the whole MonsterVerse plan is a mess, and I hope it’s over so we can all move on. If there’s a silver lining, it’ll be that studio execs realize connected cinematic universes aren’t a magical box office buzzword. You still have to make a movie. In the meantime, Shin Godzilla still exists; watch that instead. Or any of the other Godzilla flicks out there, yes even the previous American ones. My personal favorite is Godzilla vs. Destoroyah. King of the Monsters even cribs from that one a bit. For real, it’s a good one.