PG Score: 8/10
Godzilla vs. Kong was released in theaters on 3/31/21, and is available for streaming on HBO Max.
After many delays, the long-awaited clash between furry fists and a nuclear lizard has arrived, and it does not disappoint with its action-packed fight scenes.
Godzilla vs. Kong serves as a sequel to Kong: Skull Island (2017) and Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) pitting the eponymous titans against each other. We're introduced to new characters and storylines while also expanding upon the previous film's lore.
Taking place five years after the events of Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Godzilla has gone into hiding until he attacks Apex Cybernetics located in Pensacola, Florida. Apex is headed by CEO, Walter Simmons, (Demian Bichir) who aims to advance the human species. Meanwhile, Kong has been kept in a Monarch Research facility on Skull Island and is studied by Rebecca Hall's Dr. Ilene Andrews who is the guardian of Jia. Played by Kaylee Hottle, Jia is an Iwi (native of Skull Island) girl who has a special connection with Kong and communicates with him through sign language.
Newcomer Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry) is a conspiracy theorist podcast host and Apex employee who uncovers his employer is up to something shady. He is eventually joined by Millie Bobby Brown's Madison Russell and Julian Dennison's character Josh, who believe Godzilla is being provoked by something. Also new to the cast is Alexander Skarsgård who plays Nathan Lind, a scientist who believes the titans originate from a subterranean realm called Hollow Earth. He is recruited by Simmons and Ren Serizawa (Shun Oguri) to enter Hollow Earth in search of a power source. To do so, Lind needs to convince Dr. Andrews and Jia to bring Kong as a guide. From here, a wild ride ensues as Godzilla comes for Kong, since "there can't be two Alpha Titans."
Monstrous Point of View
This film is highlighted by its high-octane fight scenes that are made even better with its unique perspective. In prior films, a lot of the action is seen from the human's vantage point, but here, we are often treated to both Kong and Godzilla's point-of-view which adds more to each punch they hurl. Pair this with incredible fight choreography, and it makes for exhilarating showdowns that you will not want to end.
Similar to the previous Monsterverse films, Godzilla vs. Kong is loaded with stunning visuals and exceptional CGI. Granted a blockbuster budget, the VFX team goes all the way with its design of the creatures, environment, and destruction. Whether it's the lush greens and electric blues of Hollow Earth or the neon skyline of Hong Kong, many of the set pieces are popping with color. Throughout the monster mayhem and cities being leveled, the sound design is music to your ears. Roars, charging atomic breath, buildings being toppled, and aircraft carriers splitting in two all drip with the sweat of the diligent effort put into them. Complementing the terrific sound design is a great score created by Tom Holkenborg, aka Junkie XL.
More Monsters, Please
Director Adam Wingard gives the fans exactly what they are looking for as he does not hold back and pumps this film with tons of action and fun. Running at a fairly modest runtime of 113 minutes, the movie would have benefitted from additional scenes involving more behemoths. At the end of Godzilla: King of the Monsters we're introduced to a number of Kaiju that have seemingly vanished in Godzilla vs. Kong.
Needed a Deeper Dive
The film thrives in the entertainment department but falters in story with its weak characters and narrative. Wingard is given a talented cast but mainly uses them as exposition vehicles and for a few laughs. Without a doubt, Hottle's character Jia is the star of the show. In real life, the actress is deaf and plays a deaf character in the movie. She conveys a great deal of emotion through her facial expressions and her bond with Kong is palpable. Brian Tyree Henry is another standout in the cast. He brings energy, comedy, and a lot of enthusiasm to his character.
The rest of the crew isn't necessarily bad, they're just not given much to work with due to the story not being focused on them. Many actors have suspiciously little amounts of screen time like Kyle Chandler and Shun Oguri. With some added runtime it would have been interesting to explore the developments of Madison Russell and Mark Russell or the actions of Dr. Serizawa's son, Ren (Ken Watanabe, Godzilla 2014, Godzilla: KOTM 2019).
In particular, one area the story could have earned points was where the original Godzilla and King Kong movies excelled: allegory. Godzilla (1954) worked as a metaphor for the atomic bomb's destruction and King Kong (1933) symbolized colonialism. Even previous Monsterverse movies had some threads of meaning.
A Treat for the Senses
Overall, Godzilla vs. Kong is a lot of fun and serves it up to fans of both franchises. While light on story, the Kaiju battles, great cinematography, and gorgeous visual effects will be sure to entertain anyone and everyone. Be sure to catch this bout in theaters or on HBO Max.