‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ unleashes the kind of big dumb fun we’ve been missing

An action film that makes this writer long for the before-times movie theater experience

Brad Keefe
Godzilla and King Kong are about to do battle in "Godzilla vs. King Kong."

My Wednesday evening at-home screening of “Godzilla vs. Kong” made me emotional in ways I wasn’t prepared for, and, no, it wasn’t because of the sweeping character development.

On average, I’ve been in a movie theater at least once a week for as long as I can remember. Yet I haven’t been in one for more than a year now. I’m struggling to even remember what it’s like.

“Godzilla vs. Kong” brought that all back in a sweeping, exhilarating, leave-your-brain-at-the-door two hours that showcase everything we miss about that blockbuster experience.

The three previous movies leading to this collision course have dabbled in the storied history of Godzilla and King Kong as metaphors with themes of humankind’s hubris in the natural world. This movie does no such thing. Nor does it do much in the way of developing its human characters or giving us something to reflect on.

In a containment center on Skull Island, Kong’s human protectors, including scientist Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) and a young orphaned girl named Jia (Kaylee Hottle), are working to make Kong feel at home. But they know that his presence has signaled another “apex” monster in Godzilla, and that a clash is looming.

The human crew around Godzilla’s side of the narrative centers on Madison (Millie Bobby Brown), a teenage fan of a conspiracy podcast secretly recorded by an insider (Brian Tyree Henry) who works for the big corporation researching Godzilla.

The converging paths for the titular matchup lead to the team moving Kong by ship to Antarctica where there’s an entryway into Hollow Earth, the homeland of these mega critters that is in the center of Earth.

As I said, it's best not to think to hard about this one and enjoy the ride. And what a ride it is. The human characters mostly exist for exposition to explain, in the simplest terms, “Why are the monkey and the dinosaur fighting?”

I dimmed the lights to watch this one. I put in my (unpaid plug) Airpods Pro, a pandemic acquisition brought on by a need for noise cancellation while doing online meetings amid nearby construction. I mention this because these new gadgets also come with a feature called “spatial audio” which effectively mimics a full surround sound experience.

It wasn’t the same, but dammit if the experience of watching a big-budget spectacle with sound swirling around me didn’t take me back to that theater experience.

Director Adam Wingard delivers on the spectacle and a rollicking pace, and he delivers what audiences are here for: a three-round heavyweight bout between two cinematic titans.

Creative virtual camerawork showcases the scope of it all in fight sequences that would be leaving packed theaters cheering throughout. I could almost hear the applause.

“Godzilla vs. Kong” was the first movie of the past year that really, really made me feel it needs to be experienced in a theater. And it is in theaters, although this is one of multiple tentpole Warner Bros. releases getting a simultaneous 30-day release on HBO Max.

Movie theaters have adapted and seem to be doing a responsible job of creating a safer viewing experience during the pandemic. Even without the full houses, this is a movie that screams to be seen on the biggest screen with the biggest sound system.

As I await my second vaccine dose, I have plotted out my first movie theater experience in a year, and I know it will be a special one. But this is the movie that reminded me of what it was like in the before times. This is why the theater experience exists.

“Godzilla vs. Kong”