We can all agree that the restrictions brought about by Covid have reinforced all the things we previously took for granted. Some miss their loved ones. Some miss the pulsating mass of warm strangers on an unplanned night out. Me? It turns out that I apparently miss the sight of a massive gorilla punching a radioactive sea monster right in the middle of its dumb face.
I didn’t know this, of course, until I watched the trailer for Godzilla vs Kong. Ostensibly, Godzilla vs Kong is the grand culmination of a long-gestating plan; a cinematic universe where we are first introduced to the biggest, most iconic creatures in movie history, then gasp in awe as they’re trained upon each other. Ostensibly, to enjoy Godzilla vs Kong, you would need to re-watch and appreciate 2014’s Godzilla, 2017’s Kong: Skull Island and 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters in quick succession. But you’re not going to do that, because the entirety of this film’s backstory is completely contained within its three-word title. It’s a film about King Kong punching Godzilla.
And, honestly, I can’t wait. No, really. In terms of sheer cinematic spectacle, the past year has been a total non-starter. I’ve managed to see just two films theatrically in the last 12 months; one was Proxima, a sad French drama about maternal guilt. And the other was Tenet. Tenet, for crying out loud. A film that committed the dual sins of being too incomprehensible to stay awake for and too noisy to sleep through. Tenet was advertised as nothing less than the saviour of the theatrical cinematic experience, which would have been great save for the fact that it wasn’t very good.
Now, imagine if Godzilla vs Kong had taken Tenet’s place. Imagine if cinema’s escape plan had been a film where a 120-metre prehistoric allegory for nuclear destruction gets the atomic beam smacked out of its mouth by a gorilla wielding what appears to be a skyscraper aerial like a medieval battleaxe. No, really, imagine it. Because it is my sincere belief that a film like this would have not only kept the cinemas open, but forced the coronavirus into a terrified retreat.
I’m exaggerating, but not by much. After the year we’ve all had, the act of watching the Godzilla vs Kong trailer was like getting a massage. It felt like someone had lifted your brain from the top of your skull and carefully dipped it into a nice warm bath. “I know things have been tough”, it seemed to say, “But here’s a film about two gigantic idiots whaling on each other for reasons that aren’t even slightly important. Nothing to worry about here. We’ve got this”.
Genuinely, they should put that trailer on the Headspace app. There’s something so relaxing about how completely, unapologetically stupid it is. To see King Kong jump off an exploding boat like he’s auditioning for a 1990s Steven Seagal film. To hear Rebecca Hall say like “I made a promise to protect her, and I think that in some way Kong did the same”. To see the shot where someone has taped the newspaper headline ‘Monarch stumped as to Godzilla’s motives’ onto a map of the world like it is somehow a clue. To hear the agitated choral stirrings on the soundtrack, reminiscent of Ligeti’s Requiem, and think “Bog off, this is a film about a monkey fight”. The whole thing is perfect.
True, the film itself could be awful. It could wrongly assume that people want to see a film rich with mythology and well-drawn characters, when all anyone wants to see is King Kong punch Godzilla in the mouth for two hours. It could get bogged down by an over-complicated plot, like Godzilla: King of the Monsters did, when all anyone wants to see is King Kong punch Godzilla in the mouth for two hours. It could have identifiable scenes and motivations, when all anyone wants to see is King Kong punch Godzilla in the mouth for two hours. Any of these would be a crying shame.
Because this is what cinema is for. It isn’t about important character pieces, or even tentpole juggernauts. It’s about stupid, middling, March-released monster movies like this, that you only go and see because it’s raining and nothing else is on. It’s about leaving all your expectations at the door and still sort of hating it. It’s about the experience of collectively gasping with the realisation that someone actually made this rubbish. I’m not joking. I miss that. And, as such, Godzilla vs Kong has got me more excited than any film I can remember.