There are times when I watch a movie and I think, “Were there prerequisite readings I was supposed to complete before viewing this stuff?” I cannot take full credit for that thought. I got it from an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. And you know that whenever something conjures that great show about riffing on bad films, you know you are seeing something dumb. The reason that line came to mind while watching Godzilla v. Kong is because there seemed to be a bunch of things going on that the main characters knew about but I had no reference point for understanding. Perhaps this was covered in its prequels: Kong: Skull Island (2017) and Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)? I am assuming the former is lead into Godzilla vs. Kong. I know that the latter does as this new film features Millie Bobby Brown reprising her role as Madison Russell. I did not see either of the previous two, so this is guess work on my part, though I am pretty sure I am correct. Whatever. I do not like movies that rely on previous iterations to be understood fully, nor do I care for this one.
Then again, if you like giant monster action, Godzilla vs. Kong is the film for you. You see one of the title behemoths right away, with Kong moving through a mountainous landscape picking its butt. Comic relief already? Watching from a distance is a little deaf girl named Jia (Kaylee Hottle), who has some kind of special bond with the giant gorilla. We also learn that it is being kept in an artificial reality on an island in the Pacific where, on the outside, it is perpetually raining. Later they mention a storm that has apparently been going on there for some time, but why that is a thing I have not a clue. Rain is more dramatic? Anyway, Kong knows its surroundings are not real because it hurls objects that disrupt the panels that surround the enclosure and create the illusion of a vast tropical paradise. This makes the beast sad, which it has somehow communicated to Jia, who then relays this to the chief scientist on the island, Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall). Meanwhile, the other monster, Godzilla, is scouring the earth, attracted to a mystery energy source that it does not like for unexplained reasons. This elicits a response from a big (dumb) corporation led by Walter Simmons (Demián Bichir). In a plot devise that would make many a nineteenth century crackpot chortle for joy, somehow they have determined that these monsters came from what they refer to as the hollow center of the Earth and that there is an energy source there that they need. In order to get there and access it, they first approach an apparent modern crackpot named Dr. Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård), who is the “expert” on the hollow earth. Simmons wants Lind to lead a team to the center of the planet, which they will access through a hole in Antarctica because, why not? Once Simmons has Lind, Lind is sent to Andrews to convince her to enlist Kong to go along and bring them to the source of this energy. So, they load Kong on to the biggest boat ever and begin moving towards the South Pole. Because Godzilla can magically sense Kong’s presence (though not when he was in his enclosure in yet another undeveloped plot point), the big lizard swims out to find and combat the big monkey. After a ridiculous monster fight featuring them both standing on an aircraft carrier at one point, Lind feels that it is the electricity that is attracting Godzilla. Thus they cut their power, rig up a humongous net, and helicopter the rest of the way to Antartica with their Kong cargo. By the way, that is all plot A. Plot B features the comic relief Apex (Simmons’ company) maintenance man Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry) attempting to uncover Apex’s shady dealings. He has a podcast dedicated to conspiracy theories, and it is listened to intently by Madison. She wants to get to the bottom of it as well, and she enlists her friend with a car Josh Valentine (Julian Dennison) to go meet Hayes. The three of them sneak into the Apex facility in Pensacola, Florida, that had been destroyed by Godzilla. In a truly bizarre twist (if you know your geography), they travel thirty-three levels below ground and end up trapped in some kind of cargo container that is then whisked away in a tunnel . . . all the way to Hong Kong. Once there, they discover that the mysterious project they are working on is literally Mechagodzilla. I wish I was making this stuff up. They know this because they stumble into a test area test area of sorts where the robot version takes on other monsters Apex has seemingly harvested from Hollow Earth. Speaking of which, plot A gets there, Kong leads them right to where they want to be (probably because the script said so), and they find their energy source. Topside, Godzilla has come to Hong Kong looking for more Apex buildings to destroy, but when it senses the energy below it uses its atomic breath (again, not my invention but the movie’s) to blast a hole directly down to it. In miraculous fashion, Kong climbs up through this tunnel in roughly ten seconds. Another titanic battle ensues, which levels the city, but at least plot A and B are finally joined. And because Simmons’ subterranean team had somehow emailed the energy to him above ground, he was able to use it to activate Mechagodzilla. In a disaster that seemingly everyone but Simmons saw coming (because, you know, rushed science is always best science), this move makes Mechagodzilla go insane and start smashing everyone. Now Kong and Godzilla must team up to take down this bigger threat, which they inevitably do. They then go their separate ways with a nod, and Kong gets to go home.
Look at a globe some time, and you will understand at least part of the reason why so little makes sense in Godzilla vs. Kong. I just Googled how long it would take Kong to run across the United States, but did not find any answers. Does thinking about such things take me out of a movie that is supposed to be about the sheer “joy” of watching two titans duke it out? Of course. You know what else ruins these films for me? Seeing the utter chaos the wreak upon the cities in which they end up trading blows. Why does this always happen in populated areas? Could you imagine if such creatures were real? It would be a cause for utter panic. What disturbs me the most is that Kong and Godzilla are made to be sympathetic characters. There is some half baked give away line about an ancient war between the behemoths about which we are told virtually nothing. To echo Yoda, and centuries of Catholic teaching, “Wars not make one great.” Whenever any Catholic, or Christian in general, talks about our Faith’s commitment to peace, invariably there is some troll that all but shouts, “What about the Crusades!” as if that invalidates everything else said on the subject. Look, I am not trying to argue war necessarily. What I am referring to is that the loss of life that we see in films like this should not be taken lightly. It is not simply the fighter jets that Godzilla swats out of the air with one flick of its massive tail. As soldiers, death is something that could come with most any activity. It is the people in the Apex buildings, or those running in terror through the streets of Hong Kong, for whom I feel the most sorry. You may say, hey, it is just a movie, calm down. Yes, but as viewers of this one in particular we are meant to be cheering for beasts that it tells us are also our protectors. And yet they are willing engage in the fights with enormous collateral damage about which they do not have the capacity to care. If it is because of my Faith that I do not care for a film like this one where we see so many innocent people killed as the result of the actions of monsters that are supposed to be our friends, then so be it.
Aside from the apparent lack of concern for the destruction caused by the lizard and the monkey, I find Godzilla vs. Kong boring. There is no real main character in it, and nothing else to which to attach myself. It is rated PG-13, but it is pretty safe for most audiences. Kids might enjoy seeing the monster fights, but there is not much in it to elevate their spirits. None of the characters really captured my attention, though I suppose it is kind of nice the way Andrews takes care of Jia. Otherwise, skip it.