A few nights ago, I had the chance to drive up to Long Beach and experience a drive-in event. Popcorn, shirts, candy, water, and even my picture taken with a background that almost looked like a mix of the leads, were provided to enjoy for the night. The staff wanted to see the eagerness levels by having the trailer play over and over. It had the audience going a bit over the top by yelling and honking as a golf cart with inflatable costumes of the titans drove around. As the world sits still in a pandemic world, it is easy to get lost in the emotion of seeing a film on the big screen again as things get better. Big studio films are being pushed out well past their original release dates and helping our need for stories in these troubling times and what better way to clear your head of the fears of outside than to relax to the hype machine that is building-sized monsters beating each other up?
The long-awaited and heavily built up American match-up between the Godzilla and King Kong is finally here. Horror director Adam Wingard’s perfectly named Godzilla vs Kong is an all-out battle of the ages that gives fans the chance to see some of their favorite icons of all time do the things they are known for: messing things up. Critics won’t find this to be an Oscar contender, but for those of us who have been stuck at home due to the crumbling world around them, Adam Wingard restores the feeling of comfort and excitement that belongs to the blockbusters that we, the fans, love to enjoy with popcorn and a soda in hand.
King Kong is set in a closed off building with a holographic background of the jungle in hopes of keeping him sane. He is surrounded by people who care about him like Jia (Kaylee Hottle), a generous young deaf girl who we quickly come to learn has a strong bond with Kong and their caregiver, Ilene Andrews, played by Rebecca Hall. As the film develops, we quickly see and absorb the lonely and desperate emotion of King Kong being entrapped as there is a disturbance in the balance of nature that he needs to correct: Godzilla.
We all know that the reason we watched this was for the title card event. Kong and Godzilla look angry and ugly with a small layer of sadness to them that does or doesn’t need to be felt, but it only adds to the size of these monsters. They swing with passion and land with big dumb grace. The pair do a fine job of making those punches feel real and that is all you could really want. It put a big dumb grin on my face as I tried so hard to be objective, but I know I won’t be the only one liking like a maniac every time Kong bashes Godzilla and Godzilla thrashes Kong. With that feeling and delivery of that animalistic urge that we get when we watch a boxing match, Wingard is able to make up for the minor plot that takes the necessary backseat to the major event. Well, of course, there could be a bit more, right?
Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Yes. There can always be more for better or for worse. For example, human villains Walter and Maya Simmons (one played by the great Damian Bichir, the other by the lovely Eiza Gonzalez) don’t offer the story much than to pad the runtime and steal the spotlight from time to time. In something like this, it felt overkill when the fans would have been fine with a 2 hour brawl and maybe a generous 100 words delivered by the actors. It is perfect that Jia, the emotional core to the film, doesn’t talk and she doesn’t need to. Her bond with Kong speaks louder than the awkward dialogue that makes it harder to ignore the failings of Godzilla vs. Kong. The film is suitable for the couch and a good time. We aren’t here for thoughts and emotions. We are here to see a big lizard and a big monkey use fist and claw to make each other feel it in the morning.