Amidst all the spring blockbusters moving back to the fall, we are guaranteed one big movie to watch (at home): Godzilla vs Kong, which will premiere in whatever theaters are open and on HBO Max on March 26. Sure, everyone hates Warner Brothers now, a bunch of their creative partners have lost faith in them and might jump ship to other studios, and their financing partner Legendary is forcing them to pay upfront for lost theatrical profit in order to keep the whole mess out of the courts, but Warners’ decision to dump their 2021 slate on streaming is totally worth it so that we can see cinematic masterpiece Godzilla vs Kong at home on the teevee. It is just as the gods intended, to watch a lizard the size of a skyscraper and a gorilla as big as a mountain hit each other in the face on a 32” television. Some movies can thrive in the home environment, THIS movie is not one of them.
You can actually feel how poorly this franchise works in the lack of thrill in seeing Godzilla and Kong punching each other. A giant lizard and a giant gorilla fighting will always be entertaining in a basic kaiju way, but this should feel MUCH bigger than it is. Think back to the first trailer for Avengers: Infinity War and seeing Thor meet the Guardians of the Galaxy, or Tony Stark meet Doctor Strange, and how thrilling that was. That sense of “oh man, it’s HAPPENING” is totally missing in this trailer. And I’m mad that they killed off Ken Watanabe’s character in the last movie because now there is no one to say, “Let them fight,” which is the closest the nuGodzilla series has ever gotten to anything even resembling the idea of iconic. (Hollywood is not good at making Godzilla movies and should stop.)
Kong has a little bit of a personality, but the monsters in these movies have always been blank slates (because Hollywood won’t code Godzilla as a stand-in for nuclear power because Americans don’t want to feel bad about the atom bomb), which means the excitement of seeing them on screen together is limited to face-punching. There’s no chance of Kong and Godzilla interacting in a meaningful way, they’re not real characters. But the humans are even worse—I have seen ALL of these movies, some more than once, and I cannot remember ANYONE’S name. Millie Bobby Brown and Kyle Chandler are returning from Godzilla: King of the Monsters, but since Kong: Skull Island was set in the 1970s, Alexander Skarsgard and Rebecca Hall are taking over in the present day as Kong’s human champions. New cast members also include Brian Tyree Henry, Eiza Gonzalez, Demian Bichir, Lance Reddick, and Julian Dennison. All of these people are, I assume, playing themselves because characters don’t exist in these movies.
But it’s all we have to look forward to as far as blockbuster entertainment goes for the next few months. And I hope it turns out at least okay, because Godzilla vs Kong is directed by Adam Wingard, a filmmaker I immensely enjoy (The Guest is one of my favorite films of the last ten years). I just think the entire Hollywood approach to Godzilla is fundamentally flawed, the movies thus far have merely been okay—at best—and a lack of meaningful character development for anyone or anything on screen means that there is no real anticipation to see these monsters meet, except as cool pixels punching each other in the face. If, however, this does not look like your bag but you’re still jonesing for a monster movie, might I recommend Jim Cummings’ The Wolf of Snow Hollow? It’s TREMENDOUS. Actually, maybe the way to make a good American Godzilla movie is to give Jim Cummings two million dollars and let him do whatever the f-ck he wants with it. At least we’d get memorable characters out of it.