There’s something remarkably minimalistic and old-fashioned about Godzilla vs. Kong. Surprisingly, that’s true for its budget, too. The film cost $155 million to produce, making it the cheapest entry in Legendary’s MonsterVerse. Not only that, but it boasts a tone and a soundtrack that harken back to simpler days, when blockbusters had substance and used more discretion. Also consider its lean runtime and streamlined story, and it’s easier to see that director Adam Wingard is only giving us what we need and not much more than that.
But the erosion of quality criticism starts with entitlement. Unfortunately, this trend seems to follow monster movies wherever they stomp. Many feel that they’re owed a great experience, and to a certain degree, they’re right. But if that experience doesn’t meet every expectation the way they deem necessary or desirable, then they riot, review bomb, etc.
There’s a saying amongst speculative fiction writers: “Establish your rules early and often.” That absolutely applies here, and Wingard recognizes that instantly. Because it isn’t predicated on anything remotely plausible, Godzilla vs. Kong gets to set the rules. Wingard and his cast do excellent work reinforcing those rules, which more closely resemble guidelines. A reasonable critic, then, will stick within those parameters when crafting an argument, because doing anything else is ignoring why this preposterously fun romp exists at all.
Godzilla vs. Kong happened because blockbuster fever has elevated our collective temperature and increased our appetites for mindless, monster-mashing fun. But with these demands for bigger, more bombastic CGI slugfests comes a responsibility. We have to remember what we are getting into and why we’re getting into it. We did, after all, ask for it. As expected, there is an incredibly on-brand disregard for its human characters here, so go ahead and set aside your need to connect with these people. It won’t happen. That’s not why you’re here.
Godzilla vs. Kong moves quickly – sometimes too quickly – but that’s just the film honoring the limits of its appeal. Clocking in at a lean 114 minutes, Wingard’s titan-focused epic spares us the build-up and immediately dives into the absurdity of its premise. The action alone is bigger, cleaner, and more exciting than any of the previous entries in the MonsterVerse, and Wingard’s knack for efficient world-building and coherent fight scenes helps elevate the picture further. Characters throw around terms like “titan” and “Hollow Earth” like they’re supposed to mean something. And that’s fine. To a certain degree, that’s part of the deal. This is the kind of thing that requires not your suspension of disbelief, but your abandonment of it. If you can do that, you have everything you need to enjoy the ride.
From its surprise villain to its treatment of Kong as an ’80s action hero, Godzilla vs. Kong packs in too many visual treats and explosive action sequences for viewers to mistake it for anything other than a mind-meltingly good time. It doesn’t even matter who wins. The draw here is the idea that they’re fighting at all, and for most, that will be more than enough.
Granted, there are aspects of Godzilla vs. Kong that don’t quite add up to a flawless experience, even within those previously discussed parameters. The humans are astoundingly thin and uninteresting, with Millie Bobby Brown and Brian Tyree Henry being the only people appearing to put in any real work to entertain. The cast is reasonably stacked, but few of them are used well and in a way that acknowledges their talents.
But I’m not faulting Godzilla vs. Kong for lacking emotive, fleshed-out human characters. That isn’t an appropriate expectation to have for a movie this big and ridiculous. I’m faulting it for trying to connect us with its human side at all. But it’s tough because audiences need people to which they can anchor their emotional investment and feel connected to what’s happening onscreen. In that respect, Wingard does a bang-up job delivering a well-rounded blockbuster worthy of our attention and admiration.
Minor gripes aside, a film so sublimely itself deserves a perfect score, so it’s getting one. If you want to enjoy Godzilla vs. Kong, abide by its rules, buckle the hell up, and have a blast. It’s difficult to imagine anyone else doing a better job.