Godzilla vs. Kong

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 6/15/21;
Warner;

Sci-Fi;
Box Office $100.1 million;
$34.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray, $49.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of creature violence/destruction and brief language.
Stars Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Shun Oguri, Eiza Gonzalez, Julian Dennison, Kyle Chandler, Demian Bichir.

The title fight between two monster-movie heavyweights delivers pretty much what one might expect from such a premise: a lot of spectacle, flashy visual effects, rampaging destruction on a massive scale, and a completely disposable story to provide the flimsiest of excuses to set it all up.

The clash between Godzilla and King Kong is a rematch of sorts, the pair having faced off in 1962’s King Kong vs. Godzilla, a Japanese production from the “Godzilla” creative team (and the third “Godzilla” movie to that point). But this is their first encounter in the new “Monsterverse” franchise that began with 2014’s Godzilla remake, which got a sequel in 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters featuring Godzilla battling several of his traditional enemies. This Kong was introduced in 2017’s Kong: Skull Island, a 1970s-set adventure film in which humanity discovered the giant ape and all the strange creatures of his mysterious homeland.

Godzilla vs. Kong is under no illusions that it exists for any reason other than to put the two titans together. It even structures the opening credits as a tournament bracket showing which creatures each defeated in the previous movies.

The story, such as it is, involves Godzilla attacking research facilities of a company called Apex and putting the local population in danger. Apex wants to access the power source of the mythical “Hollow Earth” (a hidden underground world) to power a defense against Godzilla, and recruits a scientist named Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) to lead the expedition. To access Hollow Earth, they need two things: special vehicles that can withstand the gravitational fluxes of the subterranean barrier, and a Titan to locate an entrance. Lind knows a scientist (Rebecca Hall) who runs a facility on Skull Island where in the past 40 years they’ve managed to entrap Kong and keep him contained in a giant dome.

Anyway, the plan is to take Kong to Antarctica to locate a portal. But since Godzilla can sense the presence of other Titans, he can track Kong once the ape leaves the dome. So Godzilla attacks the fleet transporting Kong, and the Titans have their first throwdown on the deck of an aircraft carrier, and it’s pretty awesome.

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Meanwhile, Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) from King of the Monsters joins up with a conspiracy podcaster to investigate why Godzilla would be attacking cities again, since she believes Godzilla is meant to protect the world. So they look into Apex and discover the company is building Mechagodzilla, the famed giant robot version of Godzilla, which the original Godzilla doesn’t like.

Through some more plot mechanics, Kong ends up in Hollow Earth and finds his ancestral homeland and an ancient axe his ancestors once used to fight Godzilla’s ancestors in some ancient war between the Titans. The axe allows Kong to harness the same radiation Godzilla uses, which evens the playing field a bit since Godzilla is a lizard that can fire nuclear blasts from his mouth, while Kong isn’t much more than a big monkey.

But Kong turns out to be pretty smart, and to speed things along the movie treats Kong as another protagonist, communicating with a little deaf girl from his island in order to join forces with the humans against Godzilla.

So, Godzilla attacks the Apex facility that is building Mechagodzilla, and Kong returns to the surface to fight him again, and glorious destruction of many neon buildings ensues. It’s quite a sight to behold. And the facility is in Hong Kong, because of course King Kong has to end up in Hong Kong or else what is even the point of it all?

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The Blu-ray of the film is loaded with more than an hour of featurettes exploring the history of Godzilla and Kong and the making of their epic clash. Many of the featurettes are also available with copies from select digital retailers.

The extras are broken down by character, so there are two focused on Godzilla, four focused on Kong, and one on Mechagodzilla. There are also three featurettes covering the major fight scenes, one for each.

For the Godzilla featurettes, “Godzilla Attacks” is a six-and-a-half-minute look at the character’s use in this particular story, while the 10-minute “The Penomenon of Gojira, King of the Monsters” is a look at the history of the creature in film, featuring interviews from cast members and filmmakers from all the Monsterverse movies.

The Kong featurettes mostly deal with visual effects and production design, with one, the eight-and-a-half-minute “The Evolution of Kong, Eighth Wonder of the World,” is a history of King Kong as told through interviews with Monsterverse filmmakers. In a not altogether unexpected move, only clips from Warner-owned Kong movies are shown; the 1976 (Paramount( and 2005 (Universal) remakes are mentioned briefly without any clips from them being played.

The regular Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray editions include an exclusive commentary track by director Adam Wingard. Much of his discussion centers on technical details, but Wingard is also a fan of the characters and admits that part of his motivation for making the movie was to follow up on debates he had in second grade about who would win in a fight by making sure the character he had always picked would end up winning.

Originally published as a streaming review April 19, 2021.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 3/19/19;
Sony Pictures;
Animated;
Box Office $189.87 million;
$30.99 DVD, $38.99 Blu-ray, $45.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG’ for frenetic sequences of animated action violence, thematic elements, and mild language.
Voices of Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Luna Lauren Velez, Zoë Kravitz, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Nicolas Cage, Kathryn Hahn, Liev Schreiber, Chris Pine.

One of the Holy Grails of adapting a comic book to film is the idea of evoking the feeling of reading a comic while watching the story play out. Filmmakers have tried different techniques over the years to achieve this, such as brighter colors or hyper-stylized action, to varying effect, with the best results often focusing on just telling the story in a way that brings the spirit of the work into a different medium.

Animation would seem to be closer to the artistic foundations of comic books, but often present challenges of their own.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is probably the closest a movie has come to finding that sweet spot between telling a comic book story while immersing the viewer in the fantastic art that is often unique to the panel-to-panel format.

Its innovative animation style, layering hand-drawn animation over CGI, combined with a thrilling story of self-discovery are just a few of the reasons Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature at the 91st Academy Awards.

The film is a deft blending of self-parody with an ambitious attempt by Sony Pictures to explore new aspects of the Spider-Man concept while the live-action version of the character is on loan to Marvel Studios.

In particular, the film is an adaptation of the Miles Morales version of the character, a mixed-race teenager who gains the powers of Spider-Man in an alternate reality in which Peter Parker is killed.

In the film, Miles (voiced by Shameik Moore), stumbles upon a plot by the villainous gangster Kingpin (Live Schreiber) to open a portal into alternate dimensions in search of replacement versions of his recently deceased wife and son. The plan goes awry when versions of Spider-Man from a variety of realities began to appear, and they team up to help Miles learn how to control his new powers and figure out how to return home before Kingpin’s machine damages the multiverse.

The alternate versions of Spider-Man really let the creative team shine with the parody aspects of the film by introducing characters in a variety of styles. There’s a late-30s Spider-Man (Jake Johnson) who has become depressed after years of being a hero has left his personal life in shambles; there’s Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), a teenage girl version of Spidey; there’s Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), a black-and-white private detective from the 1930s; there’s an anime version involving a little girl and her pet robot from the future; and there’s Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), essentially Porky Pig in a Spider-Man costume.

The combination of the various versions offers not only some of the best laughs ever to be had with a superhero movie, but make for a terrific tribute to what has made Spider-Man such an iconic character over the years. There’s also a post-credits sequence that really takes it up a notch in that regard.

It’s enough to thrill longtime fans of the character, particularly the Miles Morales version, while providing enough nods to the aspects of the mythology that most average viewers would already be familiar with so as not to need to be an avid comics reader to follow along.

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The Blu-ray is loaded with a ton of bonus material, including the new animated short “Spider-Ham: Caught in a Ham,” which serves as a prequel to the film in showing us a Spider-Ham adventure that was interrupted when he gets pulled into Miles’ reality.

In addition, there’s an “Alternate Universe Mode” for the movie in which some scenes are replaced with storyboards of earlier concepts, as a way for the filmmakers to ponder how the film could have turned out. It runs about 26 minutes longer than the theatrical cut (which comes in at 117 minutes) and even starts with the Spider-Ham short.

The regular version of the film includes a commentary with the filmmakers, which is a nice guide to how the various creative decisions evolved to get to the final movie, including casting decisions and the re-imagining of certain well-known characters.

Many of the topics are covered in specific featurettes as well.

The eight-minute “We Are Spider-Man” examines the key messages of the film, while the five-minute “Spider-Verse: A New Dimension” deals with the animation style and techniques for adapting the comics.

The 15-minute “The Ultimate Comics Cast” showcases the actors involved in the film and what makes them such a good fit for their characters. The two-part “Designing Cinematic Comics Characters” offers an eight-minute look at the design of the heroes, and five-minutes devoted to the creation of the villains.

“The Spider-Verse Super-Fan Easter Egg Challenge” is a five-minute video that points out some of the references hidden throughout the film, while inviting viewers to look for more.

There’s also the eight-and-a-half-minute “A Tribute to Stan Lee & Steve Ditko,” the co-creators of Spider-Man who both passed away in 2018. Stan Lee recorded one of his famous cameos for the film.

Finally, the disc includes music lyric videos for two songs, “Sunflower” and “Familia.”

There are also some digital-exclusive bonus featurettes. The three-minute “Another, Another Times Square” provides a primer on the concept of alternate realities, the minute-and-a-half “Meanwhile, in a Gassy Universe” is a juvenile montage of various clips from the film with dialogue replaced by fart sounds (no doubt the work of Spider-Ham).

Vudu has a minute-long “An All-Star Cast” promotional video, while Movies Anywhere provides videos for how to draw Miles and Gwen, about three minutes for each character.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse