The Movie Guru: “Godzilla vs. Kong” worth it only for the monsters
When you watch something called “Godzilla vs. Kong,” the entire reason you’re there is to see a gigantic gorilla and a gigantic lizard in an epic smackdown.
The last half hour of the movie, which is both in theaters and on HBO Max, delivers beautifully on the title’s implicit promise. The brawl is just as glorious as any of the fights in “Pacific Rim,” with a surprise guest appearance that makes it all that much better. It’s completely ridiculous and over-the-top in all the best possible ways, and the sheer absurd majesty of it makes for an incredibly satisfying half hour of watching.
Unfortunately, “Godzilla vs. Kong” is two hours long. Everything that comes before that last, glorious fight is nearly unwatchable, save for a brief earlier battle and a mildly entertaining subplot with a conspiracy theorist and two children. The rest of the movie is a barrage of technobabble and references to previous movies, all trying to set up and justify a fight we don’t need any set up or justification for. We know what we’re here to see, and we don’t really care how it happens. If anything, it’s the rest of the movie that needs to justify itself.
The plot manages to be both heavily referential to previous films in the series and invents enough “backstory” that I was half convinced there was an additional film I had somehow missed. The short summary, and the only parts you really need to care about, is that a mysterious corporation made something that angered Godzilla enough to start attacking people. The shadowy corporation wants to stop him, and they need some mysterious power source to make that happen. They need Kong to get that power, so they get him off the dome-covered island scientists apparently tucked him away in at some point.
Also, the earth is hollow, and Kong’s people used to live there. (Yes, I know, but try not to think about it too hard. The writers certainly didn’t.)
This will all come to you in a barrage of information delivered by random, interchangeable characters we’re supposed to care about but don’t. Feel free to ignore all of it, since trying to make most of it sound coherent or interesting will give you a headache. Also, it has almost no bearing on how cool the fight is.
If you do want to pay attention to at least part of it, focus on the moments where Brian Tyree Henry, Millie Bobby Brown and Julian Dennison are on the screen. Brown manages to hold on to enough of her character from the previous Godzilla movie, Dennison is charming even when he has nothing to do, and Henry literally gets all the movie’s best lines. I’m serious — all of them.
Still, they don’t hold a candle to our two favorite monsters. They’re even more delightful than usual, when they actually get the screen time they deserve, and if I could judge the last half hour on its own merits I would absolutely give it four stars (out of four).
Until then … well, maybe you can take a nice nap.
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of creature violence/destruction and brief language
Story by: Michael Dougherty, Terry Rossio, and Zach Shields, screenplay by Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein
Directed by: Adam Wingard
Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Shun Oguri, Eiza González, Julian Dennison, Demián Bichir, Kaylee Hottle, and more
Grade: Two stars (out of four)
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at email@example.com.