ST. LOUIS — Watching "Godzilla vs. Kong" is like watching one of those overly expensive boxing pay-per-view cards. You purchase the thing to watch two people fight, but have to first watch six other less-interesting matches first. In addition to all those delays, you hear all the stories and struggles those individuals went through. All the while, you just want to see two men go toe-to-toe in the ring. By the end, was it worth the price and time?
For the majority of Adam Wingard's (who really scored with 2011's "You're Next") new film, you will be chanting "fight" at the screen, asking the boring human characters to stop their worrisome bickering and just let the big fellas dance. The two names on the card don't need an introduction. Our first scene here shows us a just-waking Kong, stretching his limbs and pounding his chest before realizing the United States Government created a fake world for him to live in. Cyber-enhanced and definitely not home, the King rebels against his new cage.
Meanwhile, outside "Zilla" is losing his mind for some unknown reason. Saving human lives during his last cinematic blockbuster go-round, the always-angry reptile is destroying cities, setting his sights on Hong Kong. Via a series of events, guess who meets him there to say hello? Only one clue: he's a lot like the Hulk, but skipped the pants.
Confession: There are TWO big throwdowns between Godzilla and Kong here. Both of them are exciting and will reduce adult men into young boys for 5-10 minutes. This is where the film flies high, producing the kind of popcorn spring delight that only ridiculous battles can provide.
I'm talking about a movie where a spaceship is used like a defibrillator. A movie where thousands of buildings and city blocks are wiped out when Godzilla bodyslams King Kong. Instead of a fighter plunging into the ropes, the monstrous gorilla just stumbles into a skyscraper! It's over-the-top but genuine in its delivery. The truth is whenever any number of creatures are fighting, "Godzilla vs. Kong" is highly entertaining. That's what got people into theaters. That's what the hype promised.
What I don't need is recycled "Transformers" human stories hogging up most of the two-hour running time. Alexander Skarsgaard, Millie Bobby Brown, Brian Tyree Henry, Rebecca Hall, and Kyle Chandler are all very good actors-but their dialogue and actions here were ripped off from a Michael Bay fever dream that should have faded away. Demian Bichir is determined to be in every other movie this year, but he just chews scenery here for a matter of minutes. He's the billionaire who makes these unlikely fights take place, even in the world of make-believe. Their storylines merge with the two leads, and yes there are a few surprises that only fans of the genre and history of these indestructible movie creatures will instantly register. If only the non-fighting scenes carried an ounce of conviction or need to exist.
Just give me more peace-before-battle shots of Kong chilling in the jungle, communicating via sign language with a little girl (Kaylee Hottle) from his computer-created "home." I don't need the podcast conspiracy theorist (Henry), the science fiction novel theorist (Skarsgard), or the over-anxious teenager looking shocked and scared over and over (Brown). It's all a waste.
But when this film does reach Tokyo and the REAL fight begins, I was sitting up. The couch no longer carries a huge dent. My son, Vinny, and I leaned closer to the television, as if this thing was actually happening overseas. Your brain tells you it is fake, but your heart and adrenaline join the reality resistance anyway.
Special hat tip to the VFX work. While all the visuals and effects pop (easy to do when your movie has thousands of them), there are quite a few breathtaking shots. When Kong is standing on top of that battleship, staring face-to-face with his sworn enemy, it's something else.
I will recommend "Godzilla vs. Kong" because it was a blast watching this with my kid. We were both kids for stretches, basking in awe of what a big movie should create and deliver. The end battle is satisfying, which is why this troublesome movie-misguided at times in filling their runtime quota with boring subplots-is certified fresh. The winner isn't important here, and what does happen should be more predictable than even the filmmakers would like you to believe.
But you won't come here to see a real winner, for the same reasons you wouldn't expect a realistic movie-because you really subscribe to that boxing P.P.V just to see a good fight.
If you want some larger-than-life action. "Godzilla vs. Kong" offers a good fight.