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Tuesday, April 20, 2021
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Godzilla vs. Kong knows exactly what kind of movie it is

The long awaited film delivers epic fight scenes, but is held back by its lackluster plot

After years of anticipation, this flick finally pits the titular titans against each other for the first time since the 1962 Japanese film, “King Kong vs. Godzilla.”
After years of anticipation, this flick finally pits the titular titans against each other for the first time since the 1962 Japanese film, “King Kong vs. Godzilla.”

This story does not contain spoilers.

Movie buffs hoping to catch a giant gorilla punch a radioactive, skyscraper-sized lizard in the face, all while desecrating entire cities, will find themselves right at home watching “Godzilla vs. Kong.” 

After years of anticipation, this flick finally pits the titular titans against each other for the first time since the 1962 Japanese film, “King Kong vs. Godzilla.” The 2021 film, which has been described as an “epic battle for the ages” for today’s generation, is filled with mind-blowing fights. This blockbuster knows exactly what it wants to be and is excellent for anyone looking to sit back and enjoy some solid action.

These beasts hold little back and find themselves in battles that feel like they came straight out of the WWE, with an extravagant set design and liberal use of the environment to gain the upper hand in battle. Both Godzilla and Kong each have their own advantages in battle: Kong uses his smarts and agility to jump around and find Godzilla’s weak spots, while the reptile uses its brute strength to take down his opponents. 

The two-hour adventure feels like a climactic sporting event and will be sure to evoke plenty of cheers, no matter who moviegoers are rooting for. When Kong punches Godzilla to the ground, some may be left cheering as if the Bulls just scored a touchdown, while others may be left feeling as if they’ve been punched in the gut as they watch their titan fall. The whole movie feels like a boxing match, with fans on both sides cheering and jeering from the stands, screaming, “C’mon, he’s not that big, you can take him!”

Needless to say, the action is excellent. The camera always seems to be at the perfect distance, with long shots revealing the ruins of each battle and tight shots making viewers feel like bystanders, watching the fight from the streets of Hong Kong. The camera occasionally switches to a first-person perspective that makes viewers feel like they’re actually swinging along with Kong or punching Godzilla in its reptilian face. Viewers will feel every punch, kick and roar from the behemoths. 

The fight scenes are mesmerizing in no small part because of the well-executed CGI. Viewers can see the ripples of Kong’s muscles beneath his fur and the sun glistening off Godzilla’s wet scales after it emerges from the water. The idea that the viewer can interpret and even empathize with the feelings of a giant lizard is outstanding. It is even better with Kong, who at times expresses more emotion than some of the main cast. 

But as always in giant monster movies, it’s the time between the fights where the film’s weaknesses truly begin to show. As with the previous entries in the aptly named “Monsterverse,” “Godzilla vs. Kong” is needlessly bogged down, with not one but two uninteresting human plotlines that have been shoehorned into the film. 

2014’s “Godzilla,” 2017’s “Kong: Skull Island” and 2019’s “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” all inspired similar complaints, with fans begging the producers to get rid of the human aspect of these films for years, to no avail. 

The first plot centers around a group of scientists and a young deaf girl, Jia, who can communicate with Kong via sign language. They go on a far-fetched quest to find “Hollow Earth,” a supposed hidden environment full of giant creatures as big and otherworldly as Kong found in the center of the globe. While it may be slow at times, it does at least lead to a few fun fights between Kong and other giant creatures found in Hollow Earth and explores some of Kong’s origins. 

The second plot follows a group of conspiracy theorists as they try to unearth the real reason Godzilla is suddenly attacking humans when he’s previously been relatively peaceful — as peaceful as a lizard the size of a building can be. Unlike the first plot, this one is painfully slow and has little impact on the story at large until the very end of the film, although the payoff is worth it. Additionally, none of the characters featured here are particularly likable, nor do they directly connect to the monsters, like Jia did in the first plot. It feels like they are in a completely separate movie from everyone else. 

To put it bluntly, both plots fall flat and serve to keep viewers from what they came to see: giant monster fights. These plots are both time-consuming and revolve around characters whose names are barely memorable. 

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At one point, after a character gets hurt, someone asks him, “Nathan, are you alright?” 

Instead of being concerned for Nathan’s wellbeing, viewers will say to themselves, “Wait, his name was Nathan?” 

However, it’s not all terrible with the human characters. The friendship between Jia and Kong is genuinely sweet. The two care about each other in ways that no one else in the movie seems to understand. Their relationship is truly the heart of the movie. It also allows the humans to communicate with Kong, letting the audience better understand why he goes along with their quest to Hollow Earth.

Despite the many problems of “Godzilla vs. Kong,” it is still worth the watch if viewers have the means to do so. The director, Adam Wingard, promised plenty of monster action, as well as a definitive winner between the two titans, and the film delivers on both parts. 

It’s not going to be the next “Citizen Kane,” but “Godzilla vs. Kong” is an excellent movie best enjoyed with friends and a brain that isn’t thinking too hard. Sit back, don’t take it too seriously and you'll have a great time.

“Godzilla vs. Kong” is available to stream on HBO Max, and in some theaters.

The arts desk can be reached at arts@ubspectrum.com

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