Godzilla and King Kong are two of the most legendary monsters to ever grace the big screen. They’ve fought before, back in 1962’s King Kong vs. Godzilla and now they’re ready to face off yet again in the fourth entry in Warner Brothers’ current Monsterverse. The series, which has spanned 2014’s Godzilla film directed by Gareth Edwards, Kong: Skull Island in 2017 and Godzilla: King of the Monsters in 2019, has led to this moment, but should you be investing your time to watch these two titans go at it?
Let Them Fight
Directed by Adam Wingard (the man behind the criminally underrated film The Guest), the film, which was one of our most anticipated films of the year, isn’t shy about what it’s trying to achieve. This is a movie called Godzilla vs. Kong and the movie very much sticks to those guns, rather than trying to be something else. Yes, these two creatures fight-quite a few times, and the mayhem was wild, fun and just over the top enough to be cartoony in the best way possible. Unlike its predecessors, Godzilla vs. Kong is having a lot of fun with these kaiju battles and the lore around the creatures themselves. The titular beings have their first throwdown while standing on top of an aircraft carrier for goodness sake. But it’s that silliness that makes this movie far more fun to watch.
What’s more, is the more creative and playful nature of the fights in Godzilla vs. Kong. The camera often does a first-person view of what’s going on from the perspective of Kong, and it really puts you there in the chaos. Likewise, it’s far less grim-looking than the previous two Godzilla movies, which saw their climactic battles shrouded in darkness and smoke. One fight in this movie takes place in Hong Kong and the two titans are bathed in the neon glow of the many skyscrapers. Pink, blue and green overwhelm the screen and make this a much more pleasant and engaging spectacle than any that’s come before it. And while Kong may be more integral to the plot, the movie makes sure Godzilla gets plenty of cool moments to satisfy that fanbase.
Despite Godzilla being the first name on the billing, I would say that Godzilla vs. Kong is very much Kong’s movie. Without diving into spoilers, the plot sees Godzilla on the rampage, attacking without any explanation. Meanwhile, Kong has been chilling inside a dome on Skull Island. A perpetual storm has almost destroyed most of the island but Monarch has built a foundation to keep Kong safe and contained, away from Godzilla, who has been attacking the remaining Kaiju on the planet. That’s as much as I’ll say concerning the plot around the titans, but know that it gets wacky, weird and out there in a fun way. This is certainly the most fantastical of the Monsterverse films to date. And the CGI used to bring the monsters to life has never been better. We see so many emotions come from Kong’s face and behaviour that it becomes impossible not to care for him as the movie goes on. He’s definitely the emotional core of Godzilla vs. Kong and the character you want to root for. Godzilla doesn’t get this kind of attention, but considering his baser instincts, that’s understandable.
Along For The Ride
But Godzilla vs. Kong can’t only be about monsters punching each other for just under two hours. The story has numerous threads surrounding the human characters as well and thankfully, they’re much better than they have been in previous entries. There are two primary threads. The first involves Dr. Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård), a Monarch geologist with a theory to prove. He teams up with Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall), the so-called “Kong Whisperer” as per a magazine cover, and Jia (Kaylee Hottle), a mute orphan child of Skull Island who has an emotional and personal connection to Kong. The movie devotes a good chunk of its runtime to these characters, who must figure out what to do with Kong all while being propositioned by a mysterious company, who may allow Lind to prove his most outlandish scientific theory.
While all that is going on, there’s a more investigative story arc featuring Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry), a humorous conspiracy theorist podcaster, who teams up with Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown, reprising her role from the previous film) and Josh (Julian Dennison). Madison is convinced there’s a reason as to why Godzilla is suddenly attacking and begins to think that the King of Monster’s attacks may not be random. To prove her theory, she teams up with Bernie, who was on-site when Godzilla attacked and also thinks that there’s something else afoot. Rounding out the cast is Kyle Chandler as Madison’s father, who is underutilized in the film, unfortunately. Chandler is a great actor and was the lead in the previous film so to see him for such a small amount of screen time in Godzilla vs. Kong was unfortunate, especially considering his field of study from the last entry.
That said, the human characters are much more enjoyable to watch this time around. They’re not having any personal crisis; their objectives and arcs are solely focused around the titans and they’re merely a way for us to learn about why everything is going on and what can be done about it. It’s not particularly deep, but they don’t come with unneeded baggage, which helps keep Godzilla vs. Kong clipping along nicely, ushering us to the next action set-piece that the title of the movie promises us.
One thing I wish Godzilla vs. Kong did a bit better, however, was to show off the sense of scale these beings have. Often, we have shots where the titans take up most of the screen, but we rarely get shots from our perspective that showcase just how big they really are. Edwards’ film in 2014, for all its faults, understood this and had some truly memorable moments where the humans are dwarfed by the sheer size of Godzilla. Sometimes, in this movie, that scale is obscured by keeping the camera locked on the creatures. Tall buildings are simply there as set dressing, but what wonderful set dressing they are.
Overall, Godzilla vs. Kong is a fun time at the movies and I really wish I could’ve watched it on an IMAX screen like I have the previous two Godzilla films. Despite not having that sense of scale, this is the kind of movie that warrants a large screen with the best sound system. It’s not a particularly deep movie, but it shouldn’t have to be. This is a movie called Godzilla vs. Kong, and the movie never loses sight of that. Let them fight.