I rewatched Godzilla vs. Kong and felt the same as in my earlier review from the theatrical release: This is one of the lesser Godzilla films and by far the worst of Legendary’s now-complete sojourn with the iconic monster. I hate Junkie XL’s offbeat and repetitive score. I think the monsters are consistently off-scale. The first of the two fights is a complete dud. The second has the physical weight of two big CGI creatures fighting rather than the mythological intensity of the previous Legendary movies. It’s a film that mostly just never works for me because it seems so concerned with pitting the title characters against one another but never actually treats them like Gods. Which they are. Which is the greatest success of the Monsterverse movies so far.
Although director Adam Wingard is signed on to direct another Monsterverse film, it seems unlikely Toho will be licensing out Godzilla again, which leaves the studio with Kong and whatever foes they dream up for him in the Hollow Earth. That’s actually a movie I’d like to see. The Hollow Earth stuff here is great, classic sci-fi stuff. As it turns out, it was also the part Wingard was most concerned with during the development cycle.
Regardless of my feelings, GvK was an inevitable and important addition to my Godzilla collection, so I’m glad to discover the banger that is Wingard’s commentary track. He’s frank, insightful and engaged in talking through the weirdness of developing such a massive film on time and on budget.
A few tidbits:
- Wingard hired Junkie XL was after his original instinct for how to score the film failed. He’d originally commissioned a synthwave soundtrack by the band Makeup and Vanity Set but pivoted back to something a little more traditional after that was met with mixed response in-house. “John Carpenter always said his movies are Westerns in disguise … I could say every movie I’ve done is a musical in disguise,” Wingard muses, explaining how important the score is to his films (odd in this case because he was always going to abandon Bear McCreary’s perfect score for Godzilla: King of the Monsters). At least his reason for going a different direction from the was the noble pursuit of differentiating the movies, which I understand artistically, but man, Junkie XL’s score sucks. I wish there was a way to see GvK with the synthwave soundtrack WIngard had originally intended. It might not reach the heights of McCreary’s work in the preceding film. But if you can’t do it right, you might as well do it weird.
- The scale issues I note seem to bother Wingard, too, in hindsight. Unlike the score, he chose to retain Godzilla’s design from King of the Monsters (which was itself an alteration from 2014’s Godzilla to make him more of a brawler). In keeping that design, he ended up with a Godzilla whose head looks very small compared to the bulk of his body. Fans online have noticed this, too, and Wingard muses briefly that he wishes he’d played with Godzilla’s proportions somewhat to make him look less goofy. He waves off other scale problems but talks at length about using three different visual-effects studios to finish the movie. Not an uncommon practice, but as he points out which studio handled which scene, it becomes apparent that they were working to finish the film and not necessarily stick closely to a rigid set of size parameters for the characters.
- A lot of commentaries I’ve listened to are superficial, offering lists of facts rather than genuine enthusiasm. Wingard constantly loses his train of thought throughout the commentary track because he’s having so much fun watching the movie. His excitement is contagious. Although the fights didn’t work for me for reasons stated in my previous review, it’s hard to deny Wingard was approaching GvK from the perspective of someone genuinely excited to embrace his own vision for these two characters and what their showdown would look like. Pitting Godzilla and Kong against each other is an inherently cynical corporate move (the original Japanese movie is a satire of that very fact), and having disliked the movie, it was nice to hear that the people who physically made it were genuinely enthusiastic and thought everything through … except, well, the basic logic of the story. Wingard admits it makes no sense but, like most film critics, shrugged it off. “It doesn’t really matter,” he says. Hey, at least he’s honest about it.
The other special features on the home-video release of GvK are pretty standard: small documentaries made for marketing, subtitle options, audio options. I think the film itself looked better on standard Blu-ray than it did when I watched it on HBOMax last March, and I’m sure the 4K disc looks as gorgeous as a big CGI-fest can look.
Like I said earlier, GvK on home video was an inevitability for me. There are few movies in franchises I love that are so bad and frustrating that I wouldn’t give them a second chance. I’m easy to please. When it comes to Godzilla, disliking a new Godzilla movie is part and parcel with being a fan of the character. Most of the films are three-star films at best. I’ve previously ranked the whole series in terms of whether each movie is worth watching, and really only a handful of the 30-some films are recommendable. Even then, few of them are approachable without a specific love for the genre or the character.
Although it didn’t do much for me, Godzilla vs. Kong is an inimitably approachable action blockbuster that delivers what it promises to wider audiences, if not much more than that. Godzilla can (and has) done a lot worse.