Sunday, September 26, 2021

In the Reels: ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ battles on HBO

Cameron Kaercher

The creation of Godzilla is rooted in history. While the original film depicted man in a rubber monster costume stomping on miniature cities is funny to look at, there is a darker history to the monster that not everyone may know.

Godzilla is a symbol of the nuclear atrocities that Japan faced near the end of World War II. Released nine years after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 1954’s “Godzilla” is a confrontation and processing of the nation’s grief. The film is powerful due to the historical symbolism, which has significantly waned in the subsequent films about the nuclear powered kaiju.

A more American, larger than life monster is King Kong, an enormous gorilla-like ape. He was introduced in 1933’s “King Kong,” iconically scaling the Empire State Building to avoid the US military that was hunting him down. His evolutionary proximity to the human race allows for some characterization and he is usually provided a female character to humanize him.

The latest cinematic monster mash puts Godzilla up against King Kong in the aptly titled, “Godzilla vs. Kong.”

The story finds a reason to pit these two titans against each other as a montage during the opening credits explains to the viewer that they are biologically opposed. It is bred into Godzilla and King Kong’s genetics to attack one another when they are in proximity to each other. Due to Godzilla’s tendency to level cites when enraged, as seen in 2019’s “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” the humans want to avoid this battle, and they embark on a mission to return King Kong to his homeland and avoid Godzilla at all costs.

In most films about larger than life monsters, any non-monster characters are aggressively paint-by-numbers, but there are some acceptable humans here. Kaylee Hottle and Rebeca Hall play environmentalists who have developed a Koko-esque connection with Kong through sign language. Brian Tyree Henry plays against type as an on-edge conspiracy theorist who believes that the organization working with transporting King Kong has sinister intentions.

The cast is then rounded out with Alexander Skarsgård, who plays a geologist with the key to saving King Kong, and Millie Bobby Brown, who plays a teenager who teams up with Henry’s theorist to uncover the truth.

This isn’t a character driven film in the slightest, but the actors’ performances justify their own presence in this film.

However, the actual fights between the monsters do justify the film’s entire existence. While they do not reach the Vietnam-influenced peaks of 2017’s “Kong Skull Island,” they are head and shoulders above the migraine inducing messy action setpieces of “Godzilla: King of Monsters.”

Director Adam Wingard has a great sense of scale when directing the action despite coming from a background of smaller scale horror films like “You’re Next” and “The Guest.” The punches between the giant monkey and the laser beam shooting sea monster connect with a great sense of weight. They are truly enjoyable, it is just a shame that they have to be experienced on such a small screen.

While “Godzilla vs. Kong” is playing in the theaters that are open across the country, for example Plattsburgh’s Cumberland 12 Cinemas, the pandemic has swayed the majority of audiences away from the theaters at this time. It would be great to see larger than life action like Godzilla fighting Kong on a big screen again, but the film is also readily available on HBO MAX. Why go out into the scary world masked up and sitting in a sparsely attended room when one can stay in the comfort of their home and watch the same movie?

There may be a light at the end of the tunnel as theaters are reopening again across the country, but right now convenience beats out experience. “Godzilla vs. Kong’’ is fine enough to watch at home.

 

 

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