Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)
Directed by Adam Wingard
Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller PG-13 1h 53m
Godzilla Vs. Kong roared into theaters this past weekend as the long-awaited match-up between the two legendary beasts. The film had lizard-punching action and jaw-dropping spectacle to spare, but it left me wondering: is this the movie we need right now?
I sat in the theater, my mask and face shield firmly attached to my face. Someone coughed three rows up -- but the scariest thing in this place wasn't the threat of dying from COVID. It was the lack of progressive agenda on screen as we watched a monkey and a lizard punch each other.
This ain't it chief.
That was the thought running through my head for the duration of the latest 160 million-dollar missed opportunity to stand up for trans people and fight for oppressed BIPOC bodies in America.
With so much potential for in-your-face social messaging on progressive issues, Godzilla vs. Kong utterly failed to explore Godzilla's thoughts on the greater social injustices of our day. Sure, we know Godzilla’s stance when it comes to fighting for the fate of Earth, but why haven’t we explored his take on the pandemic, gender identity, Georgia's voter law, and ease of access to government-funded abortion?
It was bad enough when Kong failed to observe the proper social distancing guidelines as he tackled Godzilla, but that’s not what completely pulled me out of the film. After escaping the clutches of the humans, my jaw dropped as I watched Kong refuse to use his platform to speak out on gun control. All immersion was lost for me as it was simply unbelievable that someone in his position would choose to remain silent instead of speaking truth to power.
And then, of course, there’s always been the nagging unanswered question of Godzilla’s sexuality. Certainly, it’s been hinted at here and there, teeming under the surface with cryptic, but obvious signs to those who are paying attention, (he's gay, by the way) but never a definitive answer. It’s beyond frustrating. With the audience left wondering, I was forced to loudly shout "GODZILLA IS GAY!" at the screen.
And in a 2-hour action spectacle, isn't there any room for a 20-minute scene in which the characters discuss white supremacy and unconscious bias? Throughout the entire film, never once does Kong step up and answer for his privilege of having his own island. Consequently, it’s unfathomable to him that others might not have had it so easy, which clearly manifests itself in his treatment towards Godzilla. I couldn't help but think of the rise of anti-Asian hate as I watched Kong punch the famous Japanese lizard.
As far as action goes, it's all done competently. The lizard breathes fire, while the monkey punches stuff. But while the two destroy the city, I noticed a complete lack of BIPOC representation among those crushed under these monsters' feet. Must we continue whitewashing an already stark white industry?
The problematic nature of the film even extends to the main casting choices: Godzilla and Kong's voices are both digitally generated. Why were they not voiced by actual giant monsters? Instead, some overpaid audio engineer collects a paycheck while two more perfectly qualified animals are out of a job. It’s hard to believe that I’m actually having to talk about this in 2021.
As the movie wrapped up its 5th all-out brawl, I found myself wondering if monsters depicted on-screen tearing each other apart shouldn’t have been us instead. That's when I had a profound and original thought: humans are the real monsters. When I choose to see the movie through this lens-- as a metaphor for all the shortcomings of peoplekind, the movie becomes somewhat salvageable.
The theater empties. I double-check my face shield and get up to leave. There's a bad aftertaste in my mouth, and it's not from the popcorn. It's from what I just witnessed: a movie that didn't advance the agenda at all. A movie on the wrong side of history. A movie that just had two giant monsters punch each other to "entertain" and "distract" an audience from the superstructure of white supremacy all around us.
I looked behind me to see a group of white men clapping, having enjoyed the film.
Of course, it's white men, I thought. This movie was made for them.
1/2 out of 5 stars