‘Godzilla vs Kong’ is exactly what it needs to be

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Film critic Hunter Friesen reviews the latest blockbuster ‘Godzilla vs. Kong.”

HUNTER FRIESEN

It’s a debate that has dominated lunchrooms and sleepovers for generations. Who would win in a gladiator death match, Godzilla or King Kong? In one corner stands a prehistoric sea monster covered in impenetrable scales and the ability of atomic breath. In the other corner is a 337-foot-tall gorilla that has battled dinosaurs and other monsters on his home of Skull Island.

This battle is a part of the MonserVerse Cinematic Universe and has been three films in the making with 2014’s “Godzilla” kicking things off. After that came Kong’s introduction in 2017 with “Kong: Skull Island.” In 2019, it was time for Godzilla to show off once again in “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.”

Why are King Kong and Godzilla fighting each other? The answer lies in the hands of an evil tech billionaire (as it always does). Walter Simmons, president of the ironically named Apex Cybernetics, is hunting for the glory of being the man who protected the world from these titans. Like Lex Luthor’s plan in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” Simmons wants to pit the two titans against each other and hopefully have one kill the other in the process. A few other side plots and revelations come up to the surface (literally), but I’ll avoid that for the sake of spoilers.

Director Adam Wingard has heard your complaints about the previous two Godzilla movies. Unlike Godzilla being kept away from the spotlight like in 2014, he’s in full daylight wreaking havoc for all to see. The visual effects and sound work are quite gorgeous as we are awestruck by the might of this god-like creature. The experience can only get better as the screen gets bigger. Composer Tom Holkenborg, incorporating the world’s largest bass drum, provides another epic score just as he did a few weeks ago in “Zack Snyder’s Justice League.”

And instead of the human characters getting the large majority of the screen time like in 2019, their storylines have been drastically reduced to allow for a more condensed runtime that favors fists over words.

Wingard does give those fists some dramatic weight as he takes a page out of Peter Jackson’s playbook that was used in the 2005 King Kong film. Kong is the most developed character here as he is given a new way to express himself through sign language. Wingard also gives us several close-up shots of Kong’s face, which looks incredible. Despite being as tall as a skyscraper, Kong isn’t so different from you and I. He just wants to return to his home and figure out if there are any other super monkeys like him.

The trimming of the humans does come with a price as no character is given enough development to become memorable and some just become unbearable. The humans merely only exist to dump exposition and reveal enough information to keep the plot moving at a reasonable clip.

But this problem is the lesser of two evils as I (and I’m assuming you) didn’t go into this movie expecting Ingmar Bergman-level human drama. I came into this movie to see a giant ape punch a giant lizard in the face, and the movie more than delivers on that promise.

For all you betting fans, there is a clear winner in this versus matchup. Obviously, I can’t tell you who wins, even though the outcome will already be public knowledge by the time this review comes out.

The camera whips and pans around as we are given front-row seats to this matchup. It reminds one of the “Rocky” movies as our prizefighters duke it out with uppercuts, haymakers and a flurry of combos. It’s gloriously over-the-top as Hong Kong acts as the boxing ring.

The previous Godzilla movies tried to push the idea of the collateral damage caused by these titans, similar to how Superman was treated after beating Zod in “Man of Steel.” Wingard throws that idea out the window as he has his monsters push each other through buildings and use the environment to their advantage. The casualty rate for this fight has to be in the millions, but that thought never comes across in the movie or your head.

Overall: 3.5/5

“Godzilla vs. Kong” is ludicrously stupid and silly in just the right way. The humans may be boring and forgettable, but that’s to be expected in a movie where the main attraction is an ape fighting a lizard. Find the biggest screen you possibly can to see this as it deserves the full attention of all your senses.

*“Godzilla vs. Kong” is in theatres and available on HBO Max through April 30*