A beast brawl free-for-all on HBO Max

When RKO released the cultural touchstone that is King Kong in 1933, the titular titan served as a dire warning of how man should not exploit nature or attempt to control it for selfish reasons. When our other favorite giant beastie, Godzilla, showed up 21 years later, he was a dark, serious metaphor for nuclear annihilation (a fear that was very much in the zeitgeist of the Japanese people at the time for obvious reasons). These monsters instantly struck a chord with the public, and fast forward however many years and countless movies later, we get the two meeting in a feature film for the first time (or since 1962’s King Kong vs. Godzilla, anyway). Here, in Legendary Picture’s Godzilla vs. Kong, the rich tradition of these kaiju conveying deeper themes is continued by asking the thoughtful and important question, “What would happen if giant monkey fought giant lizard?” Without a doubt, I can say that … well, yes. This happens. 

Look, you know this movie isn’t a masterpiece, even if you haven’t seen it or never plan on seeing it. It’s not like the transformation of the two franchises from serious art to silly-but-fun popcorn flicks was sudden and something that Godzilla vs. Kong pioneered. In the last movie in Legendary’s thoroughly okay MonsterVerse, Godzilla gets dropped from space by King Ghidorah, and we find out that the earth is hollow. Godzilla vs. Kong was never going to be art. What it is instead is a middling action movie that suffers from the same thing that other movies in the MonsterVerse are guilty of: too much time with boring human characters who mostly exist to spout exposition. Godzilla vs. Kong has some great actors in it, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, and Brian Tyree Henry, to name a few, but it is hard to take any of them seriously when all they do is give bland backstories, quip, shout techno babble, and quip some more. Can we just get back to giant monkey fighting giant lizard, please? 

Because despite the billing and the fact that the movie gets right into things without pausing to explain who these human characters are — a mixed blessing, it turns out, as no one really cares (and a situation that might be remedied if one has seen all of the previous three movies in the continuity, which I have not) — it still drags in places. The two titans don’t even meet each other until roughly forty minutes in. And sure, Kong gets plenty of screen time (and to a slightly lesser extent, Godzilla, even though Kong is clearly the focus here) before then, but I still found my attention wandering whenever the two weren’t beating the crap out of each other. 

But when there is action, there is action. Monkey and Lizard have never looked cooler, and their battles are something to behold. Godzilla vs. Kong is the latest Warner Bros. movie to be released on both HBO Max and in the theaters simultaneously, and if you have the chance to see it in theaters, make sure you take it (while taking all the necessary precautions). It might be worth your time if you go in expecting no more than some cool surrounded by a whole lot of stupid. 

Godzilla vs. Kong is now available on HBO Max.