Review: Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)

Of all of the cinematic universes that have been emerged over the last decade, the one that I was most interested in and doubtful that it would ever come to fruition was Legendary Pictures and Warner Brother’s Monsterverse. The films had been pretty well regarded but they didn’t seem to be making the box office that would guarantee a sequel. Still, they persevered and we finally got to the movie that was hinted at long ago–GODZILLA VS. KONG. In doing so, they’ve given us one of the best entries yet and also some of the most exciting monster fights ever put to screen.

The movie takes place several years after the events of GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS. King Kong is being kept in a biodome on Skull Island, the rest of his home having been ravaged by a storm that constantly rages over it. He can never leave there lest he attract the ire of Godzilla, who will not appreciate the existence of another alpha predator and thus have them fight until one of them submits or dies. While in captivity, he is studied by Dr. Andrews (Rebecca Hall) and her adopted daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle), a deaf native of the island who has a friendship with the giant monster. Meanwhile, Godzilla–who hasn’t been seen since defeating the alien King Ghidorah, finally shows up once more to lay waste to a company named Apex and doing quite a bit of damage in the process. Most see him as just becoming the threat he’s always been, but Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) thinks that something is driving Godzilla to attack in this way and begins an investigation into it with the help of a conspiracy theorist podcaster named Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry).

In addition to the plight of the two monsters, there’s a third storyline featuring Dr. Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgard), a geologist and hollow earth researcher who is approached by the CEO of Apex to chart a course into the hollow earth to look for a brand new fuel source that is needed for undisclosed and clearly nefarious reasons. To do this, he needs Kong to lead them into it as it is postulated that this region is where all of the monsters actually came from and thus he will be able to help them locate the energy source. However, taking Kong off of the island brings the attention of Godzilla, who moves to intercept and begin a clash of the titans to determine who really is the King of the Monsters.

As a big Godzilla fan, I am always excited for a new movie and so far the Legendary Godzilla movies have been pretty good. G:KOTM was a bit of a letdown due to some of the floaty fights and an overall reliance on nods to the Toho films instead of trying to do its own thing. GvsK succeeds in throwing in homages to the 1962 battle of the monsters but in a subtle way instead of winking at the camera the entire time. The fights are done in a much better and brutal fashion as well. The feel more akin to the action in KONG: SKULL ISLAND and has great choreography that really lends some weight to the battles. Both monsters are treated with respect as instead of one being a chosen villain, they are both heroes of the story in their own way and are brought together to fight by nature rather than a battle of good against evil. Then, once that is settled, they must team up against a greater threat. In a way, it’s like a homage to some of the buddy cop movies of the 80s, where the two have to put aside their differences to work together. Kong is even framed as a John McClane-style hero at times along with a little bit of Murtaugh’s “I’m getting too old for this shit” attitude which only helps the comparison.

The human story is decent too. After reading online that it was terrible and a slog, I found it fun and charming, sort of a throwback to old adventure films, especially with the element of heading to the center of the Earth. It’s not going to win any awards but the cast is talented and helps sell it to us despite some elements of ridiculousness. The fact that it is a little more light-hearted and as dour as G:KOTM makes it more entertaining to go along for the ride as well. The story is regularly interspersed with monster action so if you don’t enjoy watching humans breaking up the monster fights, there isn’t much time to make it through until the next round.

As one might expect, the special effects are well done. Kong looks appropriately like an old and grizzled war vet after defending Skull Island for so long and Godzilla looks sufficiently monstrous and menacing. And when they fight, it really does showcase what the latest technology can do for selling the action. The battle on the aircraft carrier is a stunning example of that and really one of the best set pieces the film has to offer. The battle in Hong Kong is another, with the lurid neon colors bringing to mind the cityscapes of Pacific Rim and proving that the fights don’t always have to be in sterile cities of concrete and glass.

All in all, GODZILLA VS. KONG is a fun time and a worth capstone to the Monsterverse if no more movies are made. However, I for one am hoping we get to see more adventures of this incarnation of Godzilla as well as Kong and the foes that they might face. You know who would make a great foe for hollow earth? Megalon. Just saying. A shame I didn’t get to see this one in theaters but I’m playing it safe since we are still in the middle of the pandemic. Definitely worth checking out on HBO Max if you feel the same and don’t have your shots yet either.

Until next time, Go Go Godzilla!

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