Godzilla vs Kong review: A fun monster showdown with familiar weaknesses

Godzilla vs Kong Monster movie Warner Bros King Kong
Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures

Leading up to the release of Godzilla vs Kong, I got into a ‘twar’ over which movie monster would prove victorious. My money was on the monkey. King Kong has enjoyed a 1-0 lead over the lizard since they first duked it out in cinemas in 1962.

And now, they’ve returned for a rematch. Godzilla vs. Kong is the fourth entry in Legendary’s Monsterverse franchise. It’s been a long time coming with Godzilla first making his rebooted appearance in 2014.

And despite 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters not doing well at the box office, director Adam Wingard has delivered the battle that many people, including myself, were keen to see on the big screen. That fight is delivered unto the audience, but honestly not much else.

Hail to the Kong

king kong

Taking place after the events Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the world is shook (literally) as Godzilla wreaks destruction for reasons unknown.

It’s up to Madison Russell (played once again by Millie Bobby Brown) to find out why, with the help of conspiracy podcaster Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry). Meanwhile, anthropologist and Kong’s caretaker Dr Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) is dragged into a plan by Dr Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) to use Kong to find a place of great importance to the Titans.

But it’s not long before Kong and Godzilla clash in a battle for supremacy. And as they clash, a plot involving the sinister technology company Apex and its founder, Walter Simmons (Demián Bichir), emerges.

With a film like Godzilla vs. Kong, one has to have a certain mindset. Traditionally, plausible storytelling has to take a back seat in favour of a setup to get two giant monsters to fight. I am very pleased to report there is plenty of that.

The movie delivers on the ape-on-lizard smackdown that was promised. The fight scenes are exhilarating and well-shot with plenty of light (looking at you two, Godzillas ’98 and ’14). They are structured well and are diverse in their settings and sequences. The last third of the movie is all about this delicious action (with an amazing turn of events I cannot reveal) and it’s for this that the movie is recommendable.

You want giant fighting monsters? You got ’em!

It’s monster-eat-human out there

Godzilla vs Kong King Kong Monsterverse monster movie

What you don’t get is likeable people at the feet of the two sparring titans. Godzilla vs. Kong has a large cast of human characters.

In addition to the main leads, you have Shun Ogiri, Eiza González, and Julian Dennison bringing up the rear. Kyle Chandler also returns in this film as Brown’s father, but he really didn’t need to be there.

Dennison is the only person I found myself rooting for and I suspect it’s because he was the only one not burdened with a mountain of exposition to dump on the audience.

That is the fatal flaw for a movie like this. The film’s cast simply serves to provide exposition during the first half of the movie. It’s a ton of information that you find yourself not really caring about and ultimately only act as means to get Godzilla and Kong to fight, but again, no compelling people delivering it. Give these characters some credit, they don’t make any decisions as stupid as the ones they made in King of the Monsters, but it was a mission to spend so much time with them.

Thankfully, the movie doesn’t waste time with stuff like romantic subplots. The only real relationship is between Kong and Hall’s adopted Deaf daughter.

It doesn’t add much but it’s sweet and the film does explore ideas regarding Kong’s relationship with the humans. However, while asking these questions about Kong is okay, it’s really not in the case of his scaly opponent.

Keep it simple for the fight, guys

monster movie Monsterverse

There are moments throughout Godzilla vs. Kong that did leave me scratching my head in terms of filmmaking. For instance, Kong’s introduction to the film borders on outright humour, which didn’t fit in with the rest of the serious story that follows it. And in the face of uncertainty when it comes to future Monsterverse movies, the movie’s ending feels very abrupt. Especially following the octane-fueled madness of the last 30 minutes.

Story-wise, the movie’s alright. It has to work with a complicated narrative to create a reason for the two stars to end up fighting each other. Some of that complexity seeds results in the form of interesting fight settings. This a good-looking movie and always it’s nice to see big-budget popcorn munchers in this vein.

Despite not bringing much charisma with them, Rebecca Hall and Alexander Skarsgård are competent leads in a movie that flows well.

Godzilla vs Kong verdict

Godzilla vs Kong King Kong monster movie Monsterverse

The movie delivers on what the name and poster promised. Godzilla vs Kong is focused on pitting the two titans of cinema against each other in a film with eye-popping spectacles.

The movie leads to an awesome climax and has a plot that will leave monster lovers grinning.

It is let down by its lack of interesting human characters and interactions (and comedy that won’t resonate with everyone) — elements that make up a good chunk of the running time. Nevertheless, it remains a fun monster movie.

Feature image: Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures

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