Despite being 36 films deep into the Godzilla franchise, the writers still can’t maneuver a thrilling and enticing Titan film.
The following review contains spoilers for “Godzilla vs. Kong.”
A huge monkey, a lizard with radioactive powers, and Millie Bobby Brown — what could go wrong? “Godzilla vs. Kong,” the 36th installment of the Godzilla franchise, returned to the screens of thousands of American viewers watching at home on March 31, 2021.
“Godzilla vs. Kong” is a weak screenplay that fails to breathe life and excitement into its human characters. Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) is rendered obsolete due to every cut to her storyline failing to push the narrative and entertain viewers. Madison doesn’t like her father, and she listens to a conspiracy podcast, and she throws whiskey to disarm MechaGodzilla; most of the information provided through Madison would have been relayed better through more prominent characters like Dr. Lind (Alexander Skarsgard) and Dr. Andrews (Rebecca Hall). Not even actor Brian Tyree Henry (Alfred Miles on Hulu’s comedy show “Atlanta”) could save the Titan-less scenes. Henry’s range of emotion and quick, flawless wit alluded to a potential saving grace; unfortunately, the plot still failed to entertain. The movie’s inability to showcase its cast’s abilities as a result of its poor writing predestined it for disaster.
Another major flaw was the Kong cop-out in choreographing the Titan fight scenes. Kong is armed with a staff made from a scale from Godzilla’s back. It is attached to a wooden stick found in the center of the earth, and is used to finish off MechaGodzilla. When viewers attend a Titan fight movie, they want to see the Titans fight. Yet, giving Kong a staff equates to bringing a gun to a fist fight: it’s a cheap end to a highly anticipated fight. This cop-out — the radioactive staff — nullifies the need to choreograph extreme lizard and gorilla kicks, punches, and throws, which is what viewers find exciting about the film. It is degrading to the integrity of the fight film and disappointing for the audience members watching.
Lastly, the sympathetic narrative for King Kong and the demonization of Godzilla within the plot inadvertently leans into underlying anti-Asian messages to viewers. Godzilla was born as a symbol of the numerous American atomic attacks and everlasting effects on Japan. Professor Tsutsui (Univ. of Kansas) was quoted during a talk explaining “Godzilla’s genesis ‘was also conditioned by Cold War tensions and atomic age anxieties,’” and the original rendition was “intended to be a very serious fare.” Even during the first American adaptation of Godzilla (1956), many of the World War II and atomic bomb references were removed, marking the beginning of American involvement in altering and defacing Japanese symbols in the Godzilla franchise.
The defacing of Godzilla continued in “Godzilla vs. Kong.” Throughout the first half of the film, Godzilla is made out to be a horrible, scary Titan that attacks Americans and Kong seemingly out of nowhere; however, Kong signs English, he saves the Americans from Godzilla’s attack on their ships, and all he wants to do is go home — all factors that garner sympathy for Kong’s character, further demonizing Godzilla. By stacking Godzilla against a strong, sympathetic American character like Kong, the creators’ intentions are no longer an important factor. This type of subliminal messaging is inherently harmful and perpetuates anti-asian rhetoric and continues to mass-market normalized racism.
“Godzilla vs. Kong 2021” was less than desirable during the watch. From its mediocre human-centered narrative to anti-Japanese propaganda slapped in, there was not much that could save this film from the slaughter of negative reviews. Taking into account all the mistaken choices made in the Godzilla film, it would have been better to just choreograph three Titan fights and slap them into a short film — at least this would have saved the viewers from the constant fast-forwarding.
Film Review: “Godzilla vs. Kong”
Director: Adam Wingard
Starring: Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Alexander Skarsgard
Release Date: March 31st, 2021
Image courtesy of IGN.