It’s a true clash of the titans in Godzilla vs. Kong, which gives audiences exactly what they’re asking for – and just might save movies as we know it
Ever since Auguste and Louis Lumière astonished audiences over a century ago with their 1896 short film The Arrival of a Train, movies have continued to leave people in awe with their use of spectacular images. In a weird cosmic sort of way, that original 50 second monochrome footage of a train entering a station was always leading to two hour blockbuster about a ridiculous battle between a giant radioactive lizard and a giant ape. It’s a through line you can follow from back then to Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, to George Lucas’ Star Wars, to James Cameron’s Titanic and Avatar.
Most recently, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has captured the imagination of the masses, shattering box office records across the globe and leaving sold out theaters gasping and cheering. Interconnected media franchises are the current wonder of the entertainment world, so it’s fitting how something as literally massive in scale as Warner Bros’ MonsterVerse has suddenly snuck in to become a potential savior for a movie industry ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.
2014’s Godzilla rebooted the iconic kaiju for the modern day, with director Gareth Edwards crafting a suspenseful slowburn of a monster flick that gradually builds to a destructive and epic climax. Three years later, Kong: Skull Island switched gears by being a straight action-adventure set in the 70s. 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters traded out its predecessor’s apocalyptic tone in favor of doubling down on the monster fights and delving deep into the lore; introducing several new monsters and characters and directly connecting itself to Kong beyond mere hints and teases.
Godzilla vs. Kong maintains that more upbeat, perfect summer blockbuster attitude established by King of the Monsters, and completely delivers on its titular battle. The plot kicks off with Godzilla attacking a city seemingly at random, prompting humanity to devise a desperate way to fight back. They decide to use Kong – who has been in isolation on Skull Island – to lead them towards the newly discovered Hollow Earth in order to find a power source strong enough to take on Godzilla, but both titans have an ancient rivalry that complicates matters a bit on the journey there.
Despite the film’s title, this is very much a Kong story through and through, with Godzilla relegated to a more supporting role. Kong’s relationship with a young girl named Jia (Kaylee Hottle) is the heart and soul of what could easily be a lifeless, mayhem-filmed movie, and the rest of the human characters are mostly able to hold their own despite obvious signs that the final cut of this film has been edited down quite a bit. It’s certainly the most quickly paced out of all the MonsterVerse films – for better and worse – but that sprint carries over to the action sequences in a positive way. Unlike the lumbering, slower battles of the past Godzilla films, the couple of showdowns that the titular characters engage in are fast-paced and all the more exciting because of it. As always, the visuals and effects of the film are top-notch.
Back when King of the Monsters hit theaters in 2019, it was met with mixed to negative reviews and was a box office disappointment. Even a single dud can derail an entire franchise, and with Godzilla vs. Kong’s initial 2020 release forcefully pushed back by the COVID-19 pandemic, the MonsterVerse could’ve been in serious trouble. But the delay appears to have had the opposite effect, building up hype and giving more time for audiences stuck at home to revisit the franchises’ first three entries. When the first full trailer finally dropped in January, it became the biggest trailer debut to date for Warner Bros, earning 25.6 million views in only 24 hours (it currently has over 77 million views).
When it opened in international markets last week, it exceeded predictions and became the biggest worldwide movie opening since the start of the pandemic. Early projections for its release in the United States are promising, and with the film also streaming simultaneously on HBO Max, Godzilla vs Kong may be the first true sign that the movie business is not only still alive, but also still able to create a cultural impact, no matter how silly. A movie like this is exactly why we go to the movies in the first place – try and see it on the biggest screen possible.
Godzilla vs. Kong is now playing in theaters and streaming on HBO Max.