Film Review: ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’

Two iconic Titans clash in the latest chapter of Warner Bros/Legendary Pictures’ MonsterVerse series…

A monstrous clash: two cinematic titans collide in ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ (image credit: Warner Bros’ Pictures).

Spoiler-free review

Starring:  Alexander Skarsgard, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Kaylee Hottle, Kyle Chandler, Demian Bichir, Eiza Gonzalez, Shun Oguri

Directed by:  Adam Wingard / written by:  Eric Pearson & Max Borenstein (story by Terry Rossio, Michael Dougherty & Zach Shields) / 117 minutes

What’s it about?

The King of the Monsters faces the King of Skull Island as Apex Titans Godzilla and Kong grapple for their place as the victor…

In review

Not since Batman v Superman:  Dawn of Justice has there been such an anticipated cinematic smackdown between two titanic pop culture icons and thankfully Godzilla vs. Kong delivers.  The latest entry in the Warner Bros/Legendary Pictures ‘MonsterVerse’ series, Godzilla vs. Kong is grandiose, bombastic fun (embellished by Tom Holkenborg’s music score) and fully embraces its roots, melding epic scale action with the bonkers, outlandish B-movie comic book sci-fi (complete with flourishes of ropey character dialogue and moustache twirling villainy) of Japanese kaiju films with the worldbuilding and ancient mythology of King KongGodzilla vs. Kong therefore succeeds by just being what it is – a big, dumb roller coaster popcorn blockbuster that doesn’t falter in its efforts to entertain.  It’s unlikely to sway the opinion of anyone who hasn’t enjoyed 2014’s Godzilla, 2017’s Kong:  Skull Island and 2019’s Godzilla:  King of the Monsters but for fans of those films it’s a satisfying treat.

Opening with Godzilla seemingly going on the offensive against humankind as he demolishes a facility owned by the shady Apex Cybernetics, the Monarch organisation, having captured Skull Island’s Kong for study and fearing untold devastation should the two Titans meet, hastily draws up plans to return Kong home.  Director Adam Wingard (You’re Next) delivers the incredible effects-laden action with aplomb and with clear joy and enthusiasm (the recently announced ThunderCats feature film is in good hands).  From Godzilla and Kong’s scintillating initial face-off, an ocean-bound, battleship-sinking clash to the city-crumbling decimation of their brawl amongst the searing neon-lights of Hong Kong it’s all kaiju fans would want or hope for and an enthralling sugary delight for that inner-child.

Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein’s screenplay provides a functional framework to drive the narrative from point to point (alas lacking the post-war nuclear terrors and environmental concerns allegorically woven into classic Godzilla flicks) between the various showdowns of the two Apex Titans.  As was the case with the previous MonsterVerse instalments, the script draws on the rich history of both characters and laces it with fan-pleasing Easter eggs and reverence to the established mythology whilst creating some of its own – the most notable example being Kong’s wondrous journey into the home of his kind, the subterranean realm known as the Hollow Earth (culminating in a gratifying moment where the giant ape demonstrates the ‘King’ portion of his title).  Whilst the writing doesn’t seek to overly service the human characters, there’s enough interest to hold the viewers’ attention and keep them invested.

Millie Bobby Brown returns to the MonsterVerse in ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ (image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures).

Of the human cast, the returning Millie Bobby Brown (the Stranger Things actress reprising her role from Godzilla: King of the Monsters) is a standout as the sparky Maddison Russell, as is Iron Man Three’s Rebecca Hall who plays scientist Ilene Andrews, joined by Alexander Skarsgard (The Stand) as ridiculed author/scientist Nathan Lind.  Also returning is Kyle Chandler in the role of Maddison’s father, Mark Russell (it’s worth noting that Chandler also starred in Peter Jackson’s King Kong) albeit in a much smaller capacity and bafflingly, despite being billed in the opening credits, the excellent Lance Reddick makes an all-too brief appearance – leaving one to believe there may be extra scenes left on the cutting room floor.

Newcomer Kaylee Hottle provides a sweet and touching performance as Jia, a deaf Skull Island orphan, under the care of Hall’s Andrews.  Saved from devastation on Skull Island by Kong, Jia is a key presence as she utilises sign language to communicate with the great ape, providing some surprisingly heartfelt moments.  There’s some goofy humour courtesy of conspiracy podcaster Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry) and Maddison’s school chum Josh (Julian Dennison, of Netflix’s The Christmas Chronciles:  Part 2) to lighten the tone whilst Demian Bichir, Eiza Gonzalez and Shun Oguri make for a trio of suitably cheesy villains.  The cast are all fine and enjoyable in their parts, although there is a genuine lack of gravitas in the wake of Ken Watanabe’s absence…his character’s fate in King of the Monsters obviously precluding his involvement, sadly.

Again, it’s not the human characters that the audience is here for and Godzilla vs. Kong treats their true leads with awe and reverence.  Given ‘Gojira’ was last to have his own MonsterVerse film, the focus of Godzilla vs. Kong shifts a little more towards Kong who by all intents is the main protagonist and the only hope of halting Godzilla’s rampage.  Like the previous films, there is a definite sense of personality to both characters conveyed through the intricate CGI animation and their interactions with the human players – more specifically in the case of Kong here.  A little slow in its first act, Godzilla vs. Kong ramps up to a mostly even pace, carefully positioning Godzilla and Kong’s confrontations throughout the film.  The finale is perhaps a bit predictable, but the climactic Hong Kong battle facilitates an exciting finish as the two silver screen leviathans face a threat that might be greater than them both, as hinted at in the film’s marketing.

Godzilla vs. Kong obviously isn’t profound or meaningful (at least in terms of intellectual high-art cinema) nor does it intend to or need to be, it’ simply bold, awesome spectacle and the kind of entertainment that’s needed right now.

The bottom line:  Godzilla vs. Kong does what it should by bringing audiences an epic, effects-filled extravaganza that pits cinema’s (literally) biggest monsters against one another for an all-mighty clash that’s popcorn entertainment at its purest.

Godzilla vs. Kong is now in cinemas where available and is also viewable (for a limited period) via HBO Max in the U.S. and Premium Video on Demand internationally.

Image(s) used herein are utilised for illustrative purposes only and remain the property of the copyright owner(s).

12 thoughts on “Film Review: ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’

  1. The ploy may be all over the place, but its the monster action that makes Godzilla Vs Kong such an entertaining movie. It easily the strongest film in the Monsterverse saga, and it was just epic to see Godzilla and Kong slugging it out!

  2. It certainly seems interesting. I’ve heard some good things about the films leading up to this one as well, so I may have to check them out at some point. Kind of confusing that there are now two Godzilla vs. King Kong films.

    • As long as you don’t expect too much from these films other than popcorn spectacle you will probably have fun with them. Haha, well technically you’re right but the 1962 film was actually ‘King Kong vs Godzilla’ (and totally unrelated to this ‘MonsterVerse’ series)…that’s a great deal of cheesy fun as well, it’s totally bonkers!

  3. Totally agree with you. Fantastic review as always, my friend! I’ve been following this Monsterverse closely since its beginning but was never sold by the story that they had to offer. Oftentimes, I’m just there for the CGI epic battles and those never failed in all of these movies. Godzilla vs. Kong turned out to be the best of the bunch compared to the previous ones. This is what I wrote to sum up my experience with it: “A predictable yet beautifully explosive and destructive cinematic spectacle featuring two of the best kaiju flexing their legacies while irrelevant humans continue in their illusioned and as-usual ridiculous shenanigans.” I honestly just felt like they tried really hard to try and explain everything related to the monsters and lost themselves in their explanations. In Godzilla vs. Kong, it felt like they too gave up in trying to explain things and went all out for the large-scale battle instead! I wonder if they’ll resurrect the Monsterverse or continue with Kong/Godzilla.

    • Thank you sir, glad to hear you enjoyed the film as well! Have you ever seen any of the original Toho Godzilla films? If you think the story for this was ridiculous then you need to see some of those! I think that’s what sort of works about these MonsterVerse blockbusters, they just embrace the spirit and approach of those original flicks. Having said that, I did like the slightly smarter way 2014’s Godzilla was done, but that didn’t work for everyone.

      After G vs. K, I think there’s a little more mileage left in the MonsterVerse so fingers crossed it performs well enough (as it can in the pandemic) to warrant Warner Bros commissioning more.

      • The very first Toho Godzilla is actually quite good and iconic if you can get past the obviously dated effects…but some nice allegory. I’m planning to eventually review that and the original 1933 ‘King Kong’ which is just classic.

        You really should check out 1962’s ‘King Kong vs. Godzilla’…it’s hilarious fun!

  4. Very spot on review that echoes my feelings about the film. The latest Monsterverse film may not be as emotionally dense as the 2014 Godzilla but it amps up the epic factor since the fight scenes are simply stunning.

    I hope we have not seen the last of Godzilla, Kong and even the human characters in the Monsterverse, which is a worthy cinematic universe. The Monsterverse also demonstrates that one does not need superheroes to create a solid and enjoyable cinematic universe.

  5. I think you perfectly summarise why I enjoyed this movie so much: It feels like a B-Movie from the Showa Era Godzilla Movies, only with a momentous budget. It’s cheesy, messy but fun as all hell. As a kid I grew up on the Toho movies and this movie successfully made me feel like a kid again. And so while things like the original King Kong, Godzilla 1954 and Shin Godzilla may be objectively better I’ll always prefer these stupid movies over them.

    • Thanks for the kind words and for your thoughts, Godzilla vs Kong was exactly what it needed to be in order to work – a fun popcorn blockbuster that adheres to the spirit and tone of those original Toho films.

      I do wish a sequel to Shin Godzilla would happen as that was a very interesting and generally well executed new iteration of the franchise from Toho.

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