Entertainment

'Godzilla vs. Kong' Delivers the Movie Monster Brawl of the Century

The big kaiju battle is playing in theaters and on HBO Max now.

Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures
Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures
Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures

There is a moment in Godzilla vs. Kong, during the second bare-knuckled fight between the fire-breathing titan and the giant ape of the title, when Godzilla straightens up after delivering a knockout blow, frames his huge head in the centre of the camera, the edges of his mouth curling upward, and laughs. It could be mistaken for a growl. It’s very growl-like. But it’s a laugh. That’s basically where we’re at with the MonsterVerse, the slowly expanding movie franchise that Warner Bros. launched in 2014 with Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla to reintroduce¬†the famous gigantic lizard and other huge creatures known as kaiju to modern audiences. That critical hit film and a less beloved sequel, 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters, have already pitted the titan against giant insects, a giant pteranodon, a giant moth, and a giant three-headed dragon from outer space, but that’s all small potatoes compared to one very, very big gorilla.

Godzilla and King Kong are, without a doubt, the most internationally famous of the great monsters of classic cinema, and this battle royale has been teased pretty much since the beginning of Warner Bros.’ Monsterverse, and definitely at the end of the franchise’s fourth entry, 2017’s Kong: Skull Island. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that, yes, Godzilla and Kong finally fight each other in this movie, and the fights (there are three) are pretty great. The main problem with the movie is that it’s a movie, and not simply a collection of X vs. Y scenes, which means that a decent amount of plot and setup and character drama about the humans in their path is required to make the entire experience worthwhile.

When our two leads are introduced-and the movie does, at least, understand that Godzilla and Kong are its main characters-things aren’t going well for them. The otherwise peaceful Godzilla has emerged from the ocean and is terrorizing cities for no apparent reason, while Kong is a prisoner on his own island, watched over by Monarch, the kaiju-monitoring organization that’s been present throughout the franchise. Kong communicates through sign language with Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) and her deaf adopted Iwi daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle), with whom Kong has formed a bond. When a company called Apex Cybernetics claims to have a way to subdue the rampaging Godzilla, Dr. Andrews is convinced by fellow Monarch geologist Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsg√•rd) to journey with Kong into the Hollow Earth (!!!) to find a power source capable of running whatever Apex is building. (I won’t spoil what that turns out to be, but if you’re a fan of the franchise, you probably know where this is going.)

Meanwhile, Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown), the daughter of Monarch director Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler, who spends his few scenes of the movie answering phones) and one of the few holdovers from the previous movie, teams up with her friend Josh Valentine (Julian Dennison) as well as Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry), a former Apex employee turned podcasting conspiracy theorist, to infiltrate the Apex facility to find out what they’re making and why Godzilla seems so hell-bent on destroying it.

For a movie that is impressively shorter than two hours and for a franchise that’s been obsessively setting itself up for years as an interconnected universe, there’s tons of background and setup of new concepts and characters to get through within the first 20 or so minutes of the movie. Director Adam Wingard is economical about it to the point where characters just say lines about how the Earth is actually hollow on the inside and how they’ll travel around it using antigravity cars (reminiscent of the delightful mid-budget sci-fi action movies Hollywood simply doesn’t make anymore) and all the audience can do is accept that before the film moves forward with the next scene. There are way too many human characters, which is maybe inevitable when you have two (and, eventually, three) camps meeting on the battlefield for the first time.

Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures
Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures
Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures

And the battlefield is what this movie is about and where it shines. I watched this at home, but I can imagine the hoots and hollers from fans who head to the theatre mainly to see two hilariously big monsters whale on each other, which is basically the point of the whole movie. The plot feels very secondary to the big action setpieces, because it is. There are rarely any moments of rest and reflection before something explodes or something else smashes a skyscraper into dust. Andrews and little Jia convince Kong to go make the journey to the centre of the Earth by telling him more of his species might be down there, but they never really get the time to examine the implications of lying in this way, since all the movie is really focused on is two big things fighting each other. That’s fine, but that means that Godzilla vs. Kong is always destined to be, at best, a fun spectacle, rather than a great movie.

When it’s fun, it’s fun! There’s a Tide Pods joke! The fights ditch the CGI-safe nighttime setting for more daring setpieces in the ocean during the middle of the day, and a Pacific Rim-style neon-soaked city just before dawn. (On a side note, it’s very funny that when two ancient titans who have hated each other for millennia finally meet face-to-face, the fight consists mostly of punching.) It doesn’t have the overly dreary tone of Kong: Skull Island, or the too-muchness of Godzilla: King of the Monsters, but there’s a definite sense of something missing, a smaller, quieter, more human element to give this spectacle a sense of scale. But neither Godzilla nor Kong is interested in giving us a break, and who can blame them? There’s no time to catch your breath with a giant lizard breathing atomic fire down your neck.

Emma Stefansky is a staff entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @stefabsky.

Entertainment

Where to Celebrate Lunar New Year 2023 in Australia

And what it means to be in the year of the Rabbit.

where to celebrate lunar new year australia

Starting with the new moon on Sunday, January 22, this Lunar New Year ushers in the year of the Rabbit. We’ve put together a guide on celebrating the Lunar New Year in Australia.

What is special about the year of the Rabbit?

As you might know, each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the moon and has a 12-year cycle. This year, we celebrate the year of the rabbit, known to be the luckiest out of all twelve animals. It symbolises mercy, elegance, and beauty.

What celebrations are taking place and how can I get involved?

There are plenty of festivals happening all around the country which you can get involved with. Here they are per state.

New South Wales

Darling Harbour Fireworks
When: Every year, Sydney puts on a fireworks show, and this year, you can catch it on January 28 and February 4 at 9 pm in Darling Harbour.

Dragon Boat Races
When: Witness three days of dragon boat races and entertainment on Cockle Bay to usher in the Lunar New Year. The races will commence on January 27 and finish on January 29.

Lion Dances
When: Catch a traditional Lion Dance moving to the beat of a vigorous drum bringing good luck and fortune for the Lunar New Year. The dance performances will happen across Darling Harbour on Saturday, January 21, Sunday, January 22, and Sunday, February 4 and 5, around 6 pm and 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at Cirrus Dining
When: Barangaroo’s waterfront seafood restaurant, Cirrus, is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a special feast menu. Cirrus’ LNY menu is $128pp with optional wine pairing and is available from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, February 5.

Auntie Philter
When: Hello Auntie’s owner and executive chef,¬†Cuong Nguyen¬†will be dishing out some of the most classic Vietnamese street foods with his mum, Linda. All of Philter’s favourites will be on offer, as well as Raspberry Pash Beer Slushies and other cocktails being served at the Philter Brewing rooftop bar on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29.

Victoria

Lunar New Year Festival
When: Ring in the Lunar New Year with food, music, arts, and more on Sunday, January 22, from 10 am to 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at the National Gallery of Victoria
When: Celebrate the year of the rabbit at the National Gallery of Victoria’s festival of art, food, and art-making activities for everyone from 10 am-5 pm.

Queensland

BriAsia Festival
When: From February 1-19, Brisbane will come alive with performances, including lion dances and martial arts displays. There will be street food, workshops, comedy and more.

South Australia

Chinatown Adelaide Street Party
When: Adelaide is set to hose a fun-filled day celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 28, from 12 pm to 9 pm.

Western Australia

Crown Perth
When: Across January and February, Crown Perth hosts free live entertainment, including colourful lion dances, roving mascots, and drumming performances. The restaurants will also throw banquets and menus dedicated to the Lunar New Year.

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