HBO Max provided the simple pleasure of watching a humongous ape square off with a giant lizard to many film fans several weeks ago when Godzilla vs Kong premiered online. Not me, though. I waited a month and a half extra so I could experience the film on the big screen. We hopefully won't have to wait as long to make a choice about where to see James Gunn's The Suicide Squad, which comes out in theaters and on HBO Max on August 6.
While the film debuted on HBO Max and US theaters on March 31 (and on VOD in the UK), it wasn’t available on the big screen here in England until this past week. Cinemas have only recently been permitted to reopen their doors as part of the latest round of lockdown restrictions being loosened.
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I can’t lie. My decision to delay watching Godzilla vs Kong until theatres re-opened was partially due to apathy. I was not especially enamored with equally destruction-heavy movies like Pacific Rim, Rampage, or even the previous two MonsterVerse films. That said, I also thought Godzilla vs Kong would be the ideal film for my return to the theaters, a place I spent so much time in pre-COVID that I could practically get my mail sent there.
My decision to hold off was completely vindicated within the first 15 minutes of the film. Streaming services most certainly have their merits, but some movies are made for the silver screen.
You can’t beat the big screen experience
For reference, I loathed Godzilla: King of the Monsters and never got around to seeing Kong: Skull Island, so it’s fair to say that I’m hardly the biggest fan of the so-called MonsterVerse. Yet I practically stood up and cheered when Kong’s fist first made contact with Godzilla’s scaly temple.
Maybe it was just the novelty of actually being outside of my house for a reason other than buying food or exercising, but the big screen experience has rarely been more enjoyable to me. And I saw Avengers: Endgame at a sold-out IMAX screening.
There are some movies that are simply designed to be enjoyed on the biggest screen possible with an audio system that makes your chair noticeably vibrant with each massive stomp of a computer-generated creature’s foot.
I didn’t even mind that roughly half of my fellow moviegoers arrived after the film had already started and spent what felt like an age using their smartphone flashlight to find their seats. I welcomed each interruption like seeing an old friend, almost laughing at the days where I used to incessantly moan about these small annoyances. Eat your nachos loudly teenagers in the front row, it’s music to my ears!
Overall, Godzilla vs Kong itself is a fairly ho-hum experience in isolation. The effects are truly impressive, and the fight choreography is surprisingly coherent, but the human characters are annoying and the plot holes are plentiful. It’s a solid B-movies but nothing more.
However, what stood out to me most was how much the cinema experience added to the film. If I’d opted to watch at home on a streaming service, I suspect the numerous faults would have overpowered the childlike fun of watching two titans clash. But by viewing the film on a gigantic screen with a top-notch audio system, those moments are what I came away thinking about. Not the terrible screenplay or wooly plot.
Streaming still has its place
This article is not my attempt to argue that streaming services don’t have a place in the film industry. Some movies deserve to be experienced on the big screen, but not all movies need to be watched in that environment.
I actively subscribe to four different streaming services (and I mooch off family members to have access to two more), so I’m far from a streaming-skeptic. But the talk of day-in-date streaming being the end of movie theatres is greatly concerning.
For me, a hybrid model makes the most sense going forward. Films like The Trial of the Chicago 7, Nomadland, and Minari, all of which launched on streaming platforms due to cinemas being shut across the world over the last 14 months, are natural fits for at-home viewing.
I’m not saying these are lesser films — all are vastly superior to Godzilla vs Kong. It's just that I felt very little was lost by experiencing these films through the lens of my fairly unimpressive at-home television setup (I’m ashamed to admit, I don’t even have separate speakers).
The same wouldn’t have been true of Godzilla vs Kong. If I’d chosen to forgo waiting and watched it had home, I’m convinced I’d have a much more negative opinion of the film as noted above. For upcoming blockbusters like Black Widow, Mission: Impossible 7 and Dune, you better believe the only place I’m seeing them is from a cinema seat.
Now I’m off to book my tickets for Mortal Kombat. I need to see all that bloody carnage on the big screen.