Movie Review: 'Godzilla vs Kong'
Previous Godzilla movies help lower the bar and make Godzilla vs Kong a great improvement.
As part of my preparation for the new movie, Godzilla vs Kong, I decided to rewatch one of my least favorite movies of the last few years, Godzilla King of the Monsters. I wrote about that experience and how miserable it was. Godzilla King of the Monsters can barely be favorably compared to a Michael Bay Transformers movie. It’s just as incomprehensible as a Transformers movie but thanks to star Millie Bobby Brown, it’s slightly more tolerable than a Transformers movie.
This rewatch of Godzilla King of the Monsters turned out to be just the right choice for me. Watching that awful, thudding, loud and messy action movie was the perfect way to lower the bar for the new Godzilla vs Kong. I went in planning for tedium and headache inducing noise and came out pleasantly surprised. Director Adam Wingard has a deft touch and while the movie is still very, very noisy, it’s noisy with better direction and a much improved sense of humor.
Godzilla vs Kong kicks off with the reveal that the legendary Kong is being hidden away from the kaiju Godzilla. A team of scientists, led by Dr Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall), have created a seemingly impenetrable energy dome over Skull Island in hope of keeping Kong invisible to Godzilla. The big green monster is triggered by fellow alpha monsters and would no doubt come for a fight with Kong if he knew he were nearby. Dr Andrews doesn’t believe the friendly giant Ape would stand much of a chance against the fire breathing King of the Monsters.
While Kong is imprisoned on Skull Island, Godzilla has been laying low since he defeated the fellow alpha monsters of Earth. That changes when Godzilla catches a hint of another alpha being housed at the Florida seaport of the Apex corporation owned by Walter Simmons (Demian Bechir). Godzilla attacks and destroys a portion of the city, and thus becomes an enemy of humanity once again.
However, not everyone is convinced of Godzilla’s heel turn on humanity. Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown), for one, doesn’t buy that Godzilla would attack humanity without first being provoked. Madison has become enamored of a podcast about the Apex Corporation and hosted by Bernie (Bryan Tyree Henry). Written off as a mere conspiracy theorist, Bernie has embedded himself undercover at Apex with an aim toward exposing the company’s dirty secret, a secret that may hold the key to why Godzilla attacked humanity.
With Kong looking to escape Skull Island and his friends wanting to protect him from Godzilla, Dr Andrews, with her adopted daughter, and Kong’s best friend, Jia (Kaylee Hottle), in tow, agrees to join forces with former Monarch scientist turned outcast, Dr Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgard), to take Kong on a perilous mission to the center of the Earth where it is theorized that Kong and Godzilla were born and where the scientists may find the source of Godzilla’s power.
That’s all for the plot description, there’s a lot to unpack there. That said, director Adam WIngard does well to keep the pace up and remember why we are here, monster on monster action. Wingard smartly does not keep us waiting as Godzilla and Kong clash early in the movie before settling into separate stories and missions involving Demian Bechir’s shady company and his attempt to even the score between the monsters and humanity.
I won’t reveal the big twist, though I'm sure most of the rest of the internet has spoiled it. It’s a terrific choice, even if it does render things a bit Batman Vs Superman. Hey, I liked that movie and I liked this one as well. The fight scenes in Godzilla vs Kong are first rate monster movie stuff. Where Godzilla King of Monsters was loud and incomprehensible, Godzilla vs Kong offers much cleaner, clearer and more professional CGI fight scenes.
The fights between Kong and Godzilla are tremendous with callbacks to the 1962 original King Kong vs Godzilla that absolutely delighted me. Whether the homages were intentional or not, they give Godzilla vs Kong the feel of the old Toho programmers with men in rubber suits throwing rocks at each other just by simply throwing rocks at each other. The fight scenes in Godzilla vs Kong are fun and I definitely could not say that about the other recent Monsterverse movies which mistook volume and chaos for action and excitement.
Godzilla vs Kong embraces the silly conceit of the Godzilla franchise while still allowing this stellar cast to ground the drama of the movie in a serious fashion. They are in a life or death situation but it is a surreal life or death situation involving giant monsters. Wingard captures the surreal nature of this story brilliantly and pulls off the tricky tone of fun and excitement and serious character acting.
There are a few plot holes and plenty of unnecessary filler in Godzilla vs Kong. For instance, Kyle Chandler is in Godzilla vs Kong and is almost completely sidelined. This is a bad use of your Kyle Chandler. The same could be said for Lance Reddick who also returns from Godzilla King of Monsters and is mostly unused. Then there is a plot point about Bryan Tyree Henry’s conspiracy theorist character. He steals files from Apex on a flash drive that is then never used throughout the remainder of the movie.
These are nitpicks, of course, minor problems that can’t really harm the movie. Godzilla King of the Monsters did such a good job lowering the bar of quality for Godzilla vs Kong that I was bound to like this movie simply for not being as unwatchable as its predecessor. It also helped my viewing experience that I had watched the 1962 King Kong vs Godzilla on YouTube prior to watching Godzilla vs Kong.
The team at Japan’s Toho Studios were ingenious in their use of models, miniatures and rubber suited stunt men. King Kong vs Godzilla is incredibly fun to watch, a cheesy bit of nostalgia that set a strange precedent for Godzilla vs Kong which director Adam Wingard was smart to follow up on. Wingard, like the team at Toho, remembered to have fun and not forget that he was making a silly giant monster movie.
Wingard doesn’t take this material and try to turn it into Oscar bait with big meaty emotional beats. The director smartly embraces the idea that a monster movie can be funny and silly and still be thrilling and awesome. It’s a neat trick to pull off and Wingard pulled it off in Godzilla vs Kong.
Godzilla vs Kong is in theaters and on HBO Max.