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Credit: Warner Bros./HBO Max

Godzilla vs. Kong: Critics say kaiju smackdown worth seeing in theaters (so long as it's safe)

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Mar 29, 2021, 1:12 PM EDT (Updated)

Like all of Warner Bros.' 2021 film releases, Godzilla vs. Kong will hit theaters and HBO Max on the same day — this coming Wednesday (March 31), to be exact. But after a year of little to no theater-going due to COVID-19, the latest entry in WB and Legendary's gargantuan MonsterVerse could be just the thing to attract audience members back to big screens around the country. Of course, you should only do so if you feel comfortable and the conditions are safe.

"This kind of spectacle begs for the big screen, so buy a projector and beam it on the side of a barn if you can’t safely make it to the megaplex," writes Peter Debruge in his Variety review of the kaiju-on-kaiju smackdown. "Just because Warner Bros. is treating the adversaries as bona fide A-listers doesn’t mean the rock-’em-sock-’em extravaganza amounts to anything more than a dumb-fun B-movie. Nor should it. Considering the havoc a microscopic virus has wreaked on the past year, being caught between two 400-foot titans doesn’t seem so bad."

NPR's Bob Mondello writes something similar: "Not sure I needed almost two hours of throwing punches, even accompanied by collapsing skyscrapers. But after a year spent battling a tiny virus you can't see, audiences may well appreciate a title bout featuring antagonists of a certain size."

Directed by Adam Wingard (Death Note), the heavyweight battle between two of cinema's most iconic monsters serves as a direct sequel to Godzilla: King of the Monsters. When Toho's radioactive lizard starts hurting innocent people, Kong (having grown a decent amount since Bill Randa's Skull Island expedition in 1973) is brought to the mainland to teach Godzilla a lesson about minding his monster manners. Oh, and there are some humans running around as well, but reviewers aren't too interested in the literal smaller players, even if the cast does contain major stars like Millie Bobby Brown, Brian Tyree Henry, Alexander Skarsgård, and Kyle Chandler.

Thankfully, Wingard knows what we want: two massive creatures kicking, scratching, stomping, and punching one another until one of them comes out on top. The battleship showdown teased in the trailers definitely seems to be a standout moment in the film.

Here's what the critics had to say:

"There's a lot of plot, a lot of characters and a lot of different locations to keep straight in the establishing sections, and while director Adam Wingard and his writers don't exactly achieve maximum lucidity, it's easy enough just to go along for the ride until the eponymous stars start to rumble," writes David Rooney for The Hollywood Reporter. "Even if you're growing numb to all the geek-speak exposition dumps and garbled mythology, there's genuine exhilaration in watching Godzilla take out fighter planes and support vessels with a flick of his tail, and Kong sock the reptile in the jaw with fists like boulders."

"There’s still something almost quaint and old-fashioned in how this chapter makes no real effort to set up sequels or spin-offs," posits Forbes Entertainment's Scott Mendelson. "It’s an excessively simple movie, especially in its rousing second half, and it works as a Saturday matinee treat, a relic of a time before films like this were A+ mega-budget tentpoles. My kids are big fans of the previous MonsterVerse movies, and they enjoyed this one too. Godzilla vs. Kong isn’t as poetic as Godzilla or as character-rich as Skull Island, but it gets the job done as straight-up IMAX-friendly rock-n-roll."

Credit: Warner Bros.

"Godzilla vs. Kong knows exactly what it wants to be, and invests every minute of its two hours living up to that promise," says Zaki Hasan of IGN. "Somewhat understandably the humans are overshadowed by their enormous co-stars, but it is a glorious love letter to these iconic characters’ collective histories, a satisfying culmination of the arc leading up to it, and, hopefully, a jumping-off point for more stories set in this universe. Let’s hope it’s not another half-century before these two crazy kids get together again."

"Adam Wingard understands his call to duty; the maximus monster smackdown," writes Leah Greenblatt for Entertainment Weekly. "And on that the movie more or less delivers: Godzilla, looking like a cross between a Komodo dragon and a throwing star, flings his fat alligator slap of a tail toward heaven; a Chrysler Building-size Kong roars and pummels and casually rips the throats out of his challengers in victory."

"In the end, though, it’s all about the battles, and Wingard’s film offers some of the franchise’s best. That ocean-set face-off is a master class in coherent CGI extravaganzas that a) take place at dusk and b) often underwater," writes IndieWire's Kate Erbland. "The action-packed final act is crammed with plenty of fan catnip — what is a Godzilla film without a nighttime battle set in a neon-colored city? — that maintains momentum and furthers the story with every big-pawed swipe. The tantalizing final frames hint at more to come, but Godzilla vs. Kong does something rare: It offers a satisfying story that can stand alone, even when its monstrous heroes demand more exploration."

Godzilla vs. Kong hit international markets over the weekend and set a pandemic-era record with a massive overseas debut of $121 million. It beat out Christopher Nolan's Tenet (another WB release), which previously held the highest international bow of the pandemic last summer with $53 million.