Giant monsters soar – and smash – in glorious 4K
By Jim Bray
If Hong Kong is going to be the setting for a sequel to this smash-em-up giant monster film, it would behoove the city poohbahs to up their building code requirements substantially.
Why? Well, because in Godzilla vs. Kong, a great part of the city is laid waste as the titular Titans tussle against each other and, eventually, an even bigger threat than that of "merely" two giant monsters laying waste to your city.
I didn't want to see Godzilla vs. Kong, but I watched the 4K disc last night and I'm really glad I did. I love monster movies – a lifelong Harryhausen fan, am I – and the original King Kong is one of my desert island discs (Peter Jackson's remake is nearly as good, but a tad bloated). I've seen a few Godzilla movies and always thought for the most past that the Toho universe (the Japanese company that brought us Godzilla and other silly critters like Mothra, Ghidra, etc.) wasn't fit to shine the real Kong's, well, fur. There were a few Godzilla flicks that were pretty cool, but mostly the producers chose hack writing and havoc wreaking over high drama.
And that's fine; to each his/her/its own (did I miss a gender or several there?).
As it turns out, Godzilla vs. Kong shows you don't really need a compelling – or at least a logical – story in order to craft a fun flick. And it does so in spades! This is a popcorn movie at its most basic, but done with state-of-the-art technology that's an absolute joy to behold.
Especially in 4K!
I'm not going to dwell on the story because, well, it didn't make a lot of sense to me, though I may have missed some back story in previous such films I may not have seen (or couldn't be bothered remembering). Suffice it to say that Kong is a good guy, kept under wraps in a high-tech enclosure on Skull Island, while Godzilla is a good guy who suddenly shows up and starts attacking a high-tech company's facility in a way that makes them think he's suddenly become a bad guy.
So someone hatches a scheme to take Kong to Hollow Earth, a nifty-looking land accessible deep underground by an entrance somewhere in Antarctica. There he's supposed to lead them to some power source the humans can exploit to tame, destroy or otherwise neutralize Godzilla while there are still some high-rise buildings left on planet Earth.
Or something like that.
Along the way, we have a terrific ship-based tussle between Kong and Godzilla on the former's way to Antarctica, a slugfest that sets the effects standard for the battles to come. And then we get to that spectacular and weird Hollow Earth, where more spectacular strange things happen until, finally, Kong and the humans in their high-tech ships (and I want one of those!) get back to the planetary surface and head for the climactic donnybrook in Hong Kong.
Why not Tokyo, if tradition is to be maintained. Beats me. Chinese money?
We also discover that there's a neat subterranean subway system linking the U.S. with Hong Kong, and there's enough other "underground" development and other secret stuff revealed that it was nearly enough to make me fish my tin foil hat out of its closet.
It's all pretty silly and it's okay if you turn off your brain. This is a movie for the eyes and, to a certain lesser extent, the ears – though as far as the latter is concerned this is another Warner Brothers title that piles on so much bass, I had to turn down the volume on my high-powered system so it didn't shatter the glass in the picture frames hung (stupidly, actually) on our home theatre's wall.
Ah, but the visuals! We live currently in the golden age of special effects where, thanks to computers and a bunch of talented nerds who grew up on Ray Harryhausen and Willis O'Brien and George Pal and George Lucas and Steven Spielberg et al, anything imaginable can now be put on screen. So we have movie after movie now that, once upon a time, would be "B" movies with cheesy effects and often even cheesier writing and acting.
Fortunately, we're really only here for the effects anyway and in this particular example they deliver in spades. It's a LOT of fun.
I've never been to Hong Kong, so I don't know what it looks like, but the Hong Kong that's partially laid waste here looks as believable as all get out and the painstaking work of pummelling it into little, tiny pieces is accomplished beautifully, and as believably as something like a giant monster movie allows.
The creatures are rendered wonderfully, too. Kong looks even better than in Jackson's version of the original 1933 movie, and Godzilla, even though there are a few times when it sure looks like it's a man in a suit (or at least performance capture), moves well and is incredibly detailed. And when he fires up that radioactive breath, or whatever it is, look out!
I called the ending about a half hour before we got there, what with Hollowwood's current penchant for tolerance and inclusion (as long as you aren't non-liberal wacko), but they handled it pretty well so that, even though I could see it coming, it was still fun to watch. But that's more because of the exquisite job the filmmakers did at creating digital havoc than any logic or political correctness in the screenplay.
Warner Brothers' 4K disc, encoded with HDR10+ and Dolby Vision, also includes a regular Blu-ray and a digital code for download. The 4K disc contains only the movie and a commentary by director Adam Wingard, though there's a reasonably decent set of extras on the Blu-ray.
As hinted at, the video quality of Godzilla vs. Kong is simply spectacular. I wish there were fewer dark scenes, where things can tend to get washed out and/or confused if your home theatre's lighting isn't controlled properly, but when you can see what's going on, it's quite lovely. Check out the fine detail on the critters, the costumes and sets, and the glorious depth of colour and ultra deep black levels. This disc can be used as a reference for when you're evaluating video equipment, and I plan on doing just that with it. It's that good!
The audio, despite the excessive bass, is involving and as spectacular as the video. It's Dolby Atmos, which defaults to Dolby TrueHD 7.1 when your equipment isn't Atmos-compatible. That's like mine, though I only deal in 5.1 currently because I would be a dead man if I were to add all the extra channels and speakers to our existing room.
There's a lot of neat hardware, from fighter jets to Ospreys, to made up vehicles, and it all sounds terrific – and wait till you hear Kong and Godzilla (and some other thing that crops up later) at full throat! All channels get a good workout, though as mentioned you may want to ride herd on your subwoofer lest your neighbours head over to your place with pitchforks and "racist torches".
Besides the audio commentary, the Blu-ray contains "over an hour of excitement" (according to the package) which includes features about the creatures, looks at the history of both Kong and Godzilla, looks at stuff such as Hollow Earth itself, the battle sequences, and more.
I was disappointed that there wasn't more info on the special effects, instead of all the Kong and Godzilla history lessons – as interesting as they are – but what can you do?
Obviously, Godzilla vs. Kong finds itself smack dab in the "guilty pleasure" or "summer popcorn movie" categories, and while it's nice to stretch the cerebrum once in a while, it isn't necessary every time. And this is a perfect example of that – a silly and illogical movie that's still a relative blast to spend a couple of hours with.
And this one manages to wreak all its havoc in less than two hours!
Copyright 2021 Jim Bray