Little kids find creative ways of play and mine was to pile all the blankets on my bed all around me into great mountain formations, full of dark caverns and deep valleys, through which my assorted action-figures would cavort. Existing at the center of this made my own self, my body, a titanic part of the action—when I would stand or move the mountains would quake and crumble; I was God there and all the He-Men trembled in my wake.
And that’s really all I ask for when I go to a Kaiju Movie now—for a little vacation back to that place, to that imaginative mindset of creation and destruction sitting right at my fingertips. I wanna feel the dizzying spectacle of the earth quaking beneath me, of towers and cities and stone shooting up into the stars, and I wanna feel like I can reach out and smoosh something; smoosh something but real good. Weirdly nothing makes me feel more like a kid again than the seduction of being bigger than life; of every footfall mattering. When you’re feeling small and helpless in the world bigness is intoxicating.
Godzilla vs Kong delivers pretty dang well on that child-minded promise. Like most of the so-called “MonsterVerse” films—starting with Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla in 2014 this series also includes Kong: Skull Island and 2019’s surprisingly forgettable Godzilla: King of the Monsters—the powers that be again spend too much time world-building amongst the human characters to anybody’s liking. But when the monsters go boom, they’ve never looked better booming. Director Adam Wingard (of You’re Next and The Guest) differentiates the settings and maps out the playing-fields clearly enough that you remain in it when you want to be. From my sofa fists might have been pumped and yee-hawing howls emitted.
Those humans characters include, on the Skull Island half of the checker-board, a Kong Whisperer named Dr. Andrews (played by Rebecca Hall who hilariously plays up the vibe of a person who’s gotten maybe a little too close with their Kong-Whispering), a deaf orphan called Jia (Kaylee Hottle), and the strappingly goofy Dr. Lind (Alexander Skarsgard) whose big plans consists of dragging the big monkey down into a big hole to prove the much ballyhooed across-the-Monsterverse theory of “The Hollow Earth,” aka the place where all of the Titans come from.
Meanwhile Madison (Millie Bobby Brown), left over from the last Godzilla movie, is chasing Japan’s giant lizard around the globe trying to make sure everybody knows gosh-darn it the beast means well, even as it’s stomping through major cities. She’s joined by best bud Josh (Julian Dennison) and Q-like podcasting conspiracy-theorist Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry), whose conspiracies all turn out to be terrifyingly true, which… well, in 2021 that might be a crutch that storytellers might want to reassess. Glorifying conspiracy theories is maybe a remnant of the last decade we can say goodbye to now. Please? Thanks?
There’s another dozen characters I could name but y’all I am bored, so bored, laying down the plot of this movie—that’s not where the fun lay. They know that, we know that, and I don’t know why the movies keep frustratingly pretending anybody from here to Planet X cares about extensive governmental procedures and corporate espionage. That said I do think Godzilla vs Kong does as good a job as any of these films have, maybe even better, with pushing us through to the righteous smooshing goods. For one the whole “Hollow Earth” thing actually pays off in a way that made little-kid-me mussing about under a pile of sheets and comforters absolutely dizzy, in the best of ways, when we’re introduced to an upended Escherian paradise of big beasties run amok, of CG used for good not ill—to make our imaginations spin. And man, I spun.
I just think at this point everybody knows what these films have in store for them, and Godzilla vs Kong delivers pretty much just what is expected and promised, but with even some extra vigor to boot. Days later I’ve still got some bone-crunching fisticuffs and dizzying twists of camerawork lingering on my sense-places—every so often Wingard inserts these POV shots into the battle-scenes that wrenched my inner child right on up out of his hiding place and handed him the wheel. So when one of these movies can do that, can toss you right back into that unspoiled, untethered place where anything seems possible, you just gotta say thanks. So thanks, movie.
Godzilla vs. Kong is now in theaters, and hits HBO Max for 31 days, starting on March 31.
Epidemiologists do not think it’s safe yet to go to theaters even with social distancing and safety measures in place. This review of a theatrical release is not an endorsement or suggestion otherwise. This film was reviewed via a screening link.
Image sources (in order of posting): WarnerMedia, HBO Max