It’s finally happening. After three films in Legendary’s “MonsterVerse,” Godzilla is finally fighting Kong.
For anyone looking to watch two monsters duke it out with immaculate photorealistic detail, down to the hairs on Kong’s pelt to the pink flesh of Godzilla’s throat (and without spoiling anything), your time has come. Yet, “Godzilla vs. Kong” is more than a 20-story Battle Royale. Besides the fact that it has a giant ape throwing fighter planes like darts at a flame-spewing dinosaur, the film is something truly distinct.
The MonsterVerse, if anything, has been singular. Its three preceding movies — with almost completely different casts, directors and tones, hit or miss — feel like films in their own right, instead of stepping stones toward some larger arc.
“Godzilla vs. Kong” takes this a step further and combines the best elements of its predecessors — which should hang together as well as a picture frame made of earwax and bricks — with uproarious, thrilling aplomb and a unique visual language. It blends the intense horror of 2014’s “Godzilla,” the groovy pulp of “Kong: Skull Island” and the reverent nostalgia of 2019’s “Godzilla: King of The Monsters,” while adding some surprising and relevant satire.
Demián Bichir (“Land”) plays Walter Simmons, the CEO of a company called Apex, which has some dark, Kaiju-centered secrets. Simmons tries to manipulate Godzilla, thinking, like most corporations, that the natural world is humanity’s playground and will take abuse without fighting back. While the satire is about as subtle as Kong’s huge fists (think of a modern, shady company that sounds like “Apex”), it’s still entertaining. Bichir, like the rest of the cast, including Millie Bobby Brown (“Stranger Things”) and Alexander Skarsgård (“Big Little Lies”), sell everything — no matter how stupid — with total dedication. One almost, almost buys the idea that the Earth is hollow and filled with giant monsters. Sure, it’s stupid. But who cares when stupidity is this beautiful?
The visuals soar high enough for even the most jaded cinephiles to enjoy themselves. “Godzilla vs. Kong” is pure, spectacular escapist science fiction; its aesthetic is a strange, thrilling combination of Silver Age comics, Jules Verne and “Blade Runner.” Even if COVID-19, the real-world monster, has denied it the IMAX screenings it deserves, there is no better escapist fare than this movie.
Speaking of COVID-19, Kaiju films have, horrifically, been relevant for a while. In 2021, these massive creatures, who kill indiscriminately and cause tsunamis, storms, earthquakes and political radicalization, seem a lot less silly than in ages past. In “Godzilla vs. Kong,” everyone’s efforts, including those of greedy capitalist tycoons, environmentalists and the world’s militaries, are useless in the face of these (somehow cute) monsters. There’s something comforting about seeing a world even worse off than ours and, for a few hours, only worrying about stampeding lizards and giant apes instead of climate change.
More than anything, though, “Godzilla vs. Kong” is fun — absolute fun, without propaganda, unnecessary darkness or unresolved story threads pointing toward inevitable sequels or spin-offs. At a roundtable for the film, actor Brian Tyree Henry (“Atlanta”) said, “It was just fun to be a part of something fun, to be a part of a movie that you could gather around with your family and just shout at a screen.”
Bernie Hayes, Tyree Henry’s character, sums it up about halfway through the film, staring up at a facility carved in the hollow-earth: “It’s just so massive,” he said, with a sort of joyous, beleaguered awe. “It’s so stupid.”
“Godzilla vs. Kong” is massive, stupid and a Kaiju-sized good time.
Daily Arts Writer Andrew Warrick can be reached at email@example.com.