Review: ‘GODZILLA vs. KONG’

Legendary Pictures has been developing Godzilla vs. Kong as the main event of its Monsterverse since 2015. The fourth film in their shared universe benefits from the build-up that began in 2014’s Godzilla and the mythology and that was developed and shared with audiences in Kong: Skull Island (2017) and Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019). The film delivers on monster-on-monster action in a big way, ties up some of the series’ ongoing mysteries and would be a wild ride in cinemas (I watched it in my living room and the big action scenes certainly lost some magic on my TV). It also makes an all-too-common mistake in recent monster movies, forces an unnecessarily convoluted plot device into the mix and maybe relied a bit too much on bringing back characters from previous entries. However, with realistic expectations set about what you’re sitting down to watch Godzilla vs. Kong is incredibly fun, crazy as hell and fans who have been waiting on seeing the two titans take each other one will find themselves with a permagrin during the final act’s major action sequence.

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Godzilla vs. Kong‘s main plot centers on Monarch looking to relocate Kong, who is looking much grayer and a little larger than when we last saw him in Kong: Skull Island which was set in 1973. Rebecca Hall’s Dr. Andrews is convinced by an old colleague, Alexander Skarsgard’s Dr. Lind, that the best bet for Kong is a Hollow Earth access point in Antarctica where he might find himself not only a new home but also perhaps others of his kind. Unfortunately, Lind’s strings are being pulled by the “visionary” head honcho of Apex Cybernetics, Walter Simmons, who hopes to harness the unique energy of Hollow Earth to power his pet project which he believes will solve the Earth’s Titan problem. When former Apex employee and Titan conspiracy podcast host Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry) manages to stumble onto Simmons secret during an inexplicable attack by Godzilla on an Apex location, his podcast catches the attention of Millie Bobby Brown’s Madison Russell, who survived the events of Godzilla: King of the Monsters and apparently needed to be back for contractual reasons because I can’t come up with one other decent reason why she’s here. When Drs. Andrew and Lind move Kong, Godzilla’s Titan sense starts tingling and it’s on.

We’ve seen a good bit of the film’s first big action sequence which takes place at sea. Given that it’s the film’s warm up bout for the two Titans, it’s a good bit of fun, if not a bit too short, but it makes it pretty clear that Kong is going to have a hard time standing up King of the Monsters. The film takes a few big swings here, even taking the two Titans underwater for a prolonged sequence and, for the most part, it works. We get some creative and intense action here that whets our appetites for what we know is yet to come.

The most satisfying part of the film for me comes when it makes good on the Hollow Earth theories that have run throughout the series. A good portion of the second act is devoted to it and it really feels like time well spent both because it makes good on the promises of previous films, gives Kong a way to even the tables and bit and allows for an already interesting mythology to be built upon should Legendary hope to move forward with it.

 

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The film’s final action sequence, which includes an interloper that we’ve all seen coming since the first trailer hit, delivers on everything fans of the franchise and the genre could have asked for. For the most part here, director Adam Wingard was smart enough to take the people off the board and let the Titans do their thing. Kong uses the cityscape of Hong Kong to his advantage in some really fun and creative ways and the destruction caused by Kong, Godzilla and Mechazilla is next level. If you’re going to theaters to eat your popcorn, watch monsters hit each other and see shit get broken, there’s absolutely no way you’ll walk away unhappy.

And since that’s what this movie is, the shortcomings seem like nitpicks. While the people are out of the way in the final act, Godzilla vs. Kong goes a little too Transformers early on by forcing Brown and her friend, played by Julian Dennison, into the mix. Sure they expose the mustache-twirling bad guy to the audience and find a way to have an impact on the final fight, but that’s all less time we spend watching Godzilla fight Kong which is, you know, what we want in a Godzilla vs. Kong film.

As a teacher grading on 1-4 standards-based scale, this is a solid 3 for me. That’s not a traditional scale so it’s not a 75%; this film meets the expectations for the target it set. It’s supposed to be a monster movie about monsters fighting each other and when that happens, it checks all the boxes. It doesn’t seem like a film I immediately want to revisit or even one that I’ll remember when I make my year-end list of my top 10 films, but it’s a banging good time and I think it’s going to do killer numbers at the box office, hopefully encouraging Legendary to keep the Monsterverse alive!

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