Everything is woke, everywhere is woke, everything is confused, as we unlearn all that humans have learned over the past millennia.
Except Godzilla vs. Kong. The new kaiju flick from Warner/Legendary isn’t woke. It isn’t political at all (though I’m sure someone somewhere is complaining about cultural appropriation since Godzilla was originally Gojira, created by a Japanese special effects creator — who, for what it’s worth, was a Christian in a deeply non-Christian country).
The film’s total lack of cultural comment is a welcome change of pace in a time when even baseball has given way to America’s new pastime: dividing the nation and destroying ourselves.
In Godzilla vs. Kong, we have monsters around to do that. Or not. It depends on who the monsters are and where they’re fighting.
When they fight, which the movie doesn’t make you wait very long for and gives you more than one helping of, it’s good, old-fashioned big-screen spectacle fun. And yes, I saw it in a theater. It’s the only way to truly see these big guys in all their glory.
The story is spare but mostly works. The titans are spoiling for a fight, but why? Something’s up, that’s why. It’s almost refreshing when one of the adult characters notes that a child shouldn’t be burdened with a massive responsibility because she is in fact a child. It’s refreshing again when characters who appear to be doing evil pay for it.
The price can be pretty steep in a world of titans at war. It’s gonna hurt.
There are monsters (beyond the two in the title), there are battles, there are buildings getting blown up and stomped on, there are villains and there are other things I won’t spoil if you haven’t seen it. GvK does nod to the podcast conspiracy theory culture in a fun way. Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things) is excellent, as she always is. Both Godzilla and Kong look spectacular. The acting is fine without anyone getting in the beasts’ way. The film is full of nods to previous kaiju flicks, including the original 1962 King Kong vs. Godzilla. The treatment of the titans’ paths that led them to this battle is treated as a kind of March Madness for Monsters, which is fun.
There are also nods to some great music — Bobby Vinton’s “Over the Mountains, Across the Sea” and The Hollies’ “Air That I Breathe” provide musical perfection scoring the on-screen visuals. And those visuals are a feast from start to finish. An Elvis song also makes an appearance in a spare but great soundtrack. The song choices suggest Guardians of the Galaxy’s imprint on movie montages and the sound will be with us for a while yet. Smart movies will keep using vintage music that feels like comfort food even to those of us who were a bit too young to be aware when those songs first appeared. Good songs that tell their own stories help tell other stories too.
It’s an admittedly low bar as kaiju movies go, but Godzilla vs. Kong is probably the best one yet, or at least since the 1954 original Godzilla masterpiece by Eiji Tsuburaya and the original 1933 masterwork King Kong that starred Fay Wray. I’ve seen them all at one time or another, most more than once, and even toyed with writing a book about Godzilla’s place in movie and U.S-Japanese history. Don’t go expecting heavy character development or conversations about existential angst. It’s digital monsters and big roars with fire and explosions every few seconds. It’s kinetic, not Kierkegaard.
It’s good to see that Hollywood hasn’t entirely forgotten how to take us all out for a fun couple of hours. Godzilla vs Kong does that and it’s the king of the great monster mashes.