Review By John Camarena
…we get to see what it would be like for a radioactive dinosaur to throw down with a giant gorilla.
The time has finally come, and one of the most anticipated movies by a very small faction of specific fandom can finally rejoice: ‘Godzilla Vs Kong’ has arrived and it is good!
After a couple of delays and uncertainty due to the still ongoing pandemic, Warner Media and Legendary Pictures has allowed us to stream this movie from the safety and comfort of our own homes through HBO Max for 30 days after its release date, though this one would be worth watching on the biggest screen possible; it looks absolutely gorgeous and sounds fantastic. This movie is everything it sold itself as: Godzilla and Kong have a couple of showdowns and we get to see what it would be like for a radioactive dinosaur to throw down with a giant gorilla.
Spoiler alert: It’s awesome!
But not to get too ahead of ourselves, there are a few problems with this film and with this being the fourth entry in the American Godzilla series which started with ‘Godzilla’ (2014), followed by ‘Kong: Skull Island (2017)’, and ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ (2019), let’s just say that if you’re not already on this giant monster train, this movie is not going to suddenly make you love the kaiju genre.
There will be spoilers from here on out so watch it first if you do not want it ruined for you.
It is explained that both Kong and Godzilla are both alphas, so any meeting between the two would result in a fight to the death, and for some reason this would be a bad thing.
This movie picks up a couple of years after ‘King of the Monsters’; Godzilla is still the alpha monster and the world seems to be relatively at peace, though everyone is acutely aware that a monster attack could theoretically happen suddenly and without warning.
Kong, on the other hand, is now full grown on Skull Island, which has been converted into a protected habitat to keep him away from Godzilla. It is explained that Kong and Godzilla are both alphas, so any meeting between the two would result in a fight to the death, and for some reason this would be a bad thing. Then the unexpected happens expectedly; Godzilla attacks a tech company in Florida.
Meanwhile, Bernie Hayes, played by Brian Tyree Henry, a conspiracy theorist, engineer at said tech company suspects the company is doing something shady. Coincidentally, Millie Bobbie Brown’s “Madison Russell” (one of the only two returning characters from any of the previous movies), also listens to the conspiracy podcast and figures out how to find the engineer with the help of “Josh Valentine” played by ‘Deadpool 2’s’ Julian Dennison, and they investigate what the company is hiding. After the attack, the media turns on Godzilla as the savior of mankind and the CEO of the company is suggesting terminating Godzilla once and for all.
Back at Skull Island, Kong becomes aware of the artificial sky creating his prison. A MONARCH research team keeps an eye on him, and “Jia”, a mute little girl played by Kaylee Hottle, is the last living member of the indigenous people that used to inhabit the island; it’s stated the rest of the villagers were wiped out in a storm. Kong has formed a bond with the Jia, and acts as her protector.
The final piece of the plot is a disgraced scientist and proponent of the hollow Earth theory: Nathan Lind played by Alexander Skarsgård. Lind is recruited by the daughter of the company’s CEO to continue looking into his hollow Earth theory because there is evidence it may be true, and that an incredible source of power may exist there that could change mankind forever. The hollow Earth plotline becomes interconnected with Kong because they figure that is where the Titans come from and if Kong is taken there, then there would not be any danger of the two meeting and fighting. Oh how wrong they will turn out to be.
Kong is being transported to Antarctica via boat, and this is where we find out that Kong understands sign language. While Kong has been depicted as being intelligent in previous iterations, here he has full on comprehension of what is happening around him and can express his emotions very well, much to the surprise of everyone except Jia. She then acts as his interpreter for the rest of the movie. During the trip he is heavily sedated to keep him under control, and again the unexpected happens expectedly as Godzilla finds the boats and attacks Kong. Godzilla has the upper hand here as they are in his element and Kong struggles to put up a solid defense, but the military is able to send Godzilla away long enough for them to get Kong to the hollow Earth entry point in Antarctica.
Kong doesn’t want to go at first, but they pretty much force Jia to lie and tell Kong he may have family in there. Kong then bolts and they follow him into the pit, which results in a blatant copy of the hyperspace scene from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’.
…complete with a throne and battle axes made from the dorsal spines of previous Godzillas!
Now we are in the center of the Earth and there is a crazy ecosystem with more giant monsters and what appears to be temple ruins for Kong’s ancestors, complete with a throne and battle axes made from the dorsal spines of previous Godzillas! The Kongs were smart enough to fashion weapons from their enemies which also have the added bonus of absorbing the nuclear energy and becoming supercharged. At this point, Godzilla somehow senses this is happening and breathes atomic fire so hard into the ground that it bores a hole all the way down to the center of the freaking planet. Kong has had enough of all the posturing and jumps up the hole and the epic fight begins in a beautiful neon-lit Hong Kong.
During this time, the “Stranger Things” team stumbles upon what’s really been causing Godzilla to act out: the company has been using the brain of one of Ghidorah’s severed heads to control a robotic version of Godzilla; a Mechagodzilla, if you will. The company’s CEO monologues that he single-handedly wants to save the world by creating the ultimate Titan killer, and all he needed to fully power it on was an energy sample (what?) from the center of the world to do so. But when Mechagodzilla is fully powered, it kills the pilot and wreaks havoc with a mind of it’s own.
Godzilla was just strutting because he seemingly defeated Kong, but Mechagodzilla proved to be more than he can handle and gets his ass handed to him by his robotic doppelganger. The Kong crew revive Kong with a well-timed explosion and together they bring down robozilla. Kong and Godzilla seem to come to a mutual understanding and respect for one another that wouldn’t seem out of place in a “Fast and Furious” movie, and they go their separate ways. The movie ends with Kong frolicking happily in his new home within the hollow Earth as the research team keeps an eye on him.
This movie has lots for fans to love. For one, the last time these two mighty warriors exchanged blows was in the TOHO film ‘King Kong vs Godzilla’ (1962), and boy have special effects improved. Gone are the days of the man-in-suit on miniature sets, we now have CGI action in glorious 4K resolution and it looks beautiful. You can see all the individual hairs on Kong and the scaly texture of Godzilla’s face. All the action is great and the individual set pieces are creative. One nice surprise is that the cinematography went a little more experimental and showed off a lot of impressive camera angles. One particularly nice shot is from within the cockpit of a fighter jet taking off from a sinking aircraft carrier while the fight between Kong and Godzilla rages behind it. You just have to see it to understand. The lighting in the Hong Kong sequence is beautiful, it is almost like the director is calling out ‘Pacific Rim’ to say “there, that’s how it’s done.” There are lots of call backs to the history of the franchise as well; for instance, Mechagodzilla has several weapons built it like missile launchers and spinning hands, just like the original. The trope of the little girl who can communicate with a kaiju is also here, except this time it’s with Kong. One of the best things about this film is that it also seems to have learned from the previous entries and realized the movie does not need to be two and a half hours and focus on the human drama. No one watches a giant monster movie and actually cares about the family dynamic of the protagonist. Here everything is streamlined and we get to each following sequence somewhat logically, though logic does get stretched a bit, and that’s going to take us to our next bit.
If you have low tolerance for giant monster fights, characters who are only there to bridge the scenes between said fights, and some pretty substantial leaps in logic, then this is not going to be the movie for you. Again, if you weren’t already on board, there’s nothing here that will finally make you see the light. The human element has been reduced quite a bit since the studio has learned that no one actually cares about the motivations of the humans. Making the first film about a soldier who loses his father and later has to protect his wife and son from the subsequent attacks are just waste of valuable screen time. Here, the team trying to discover the conspiracy are probably the worst, as the conspiracy theorist is played as a parody and “Josh” is just plain annoying. The crew that rolls with Kong are mostly just in awe all the time and the villainous CEO and his daughter are so one-dimensionally evil that it’s not even really satisfying when they are killed. The movie also takes a hard right turn into some Jules Verne levels of science fiction with the whole hollow Earth plot point. Just like in the previous movies, there are hints of ancient advanced civilizations, and like those previous films, the hints of a greater mythology are destroyed and forgotten about rather unceremoniously. A few too many things happen purely for the sake of convenience, such as the way to get into the hollow Earth being so complicated and dangerous, but to get back out they just go through the convenient hole that Godzilla created, and the power source needed to run Mechagodzilla was just an analysis of the energy in the throne room for Kong, which they simply needed to scan and upload the data. To even get there, they needed state of the art experimental crafts and they had to fly through a gravity well that looked like they went through hyperspace, and yet they could still make phone calls and send data to the surface. OK.
The Godzilla franchise is no stranger to campy levels of science fiction, but these films had the pretense of being taken more seriously. Guess they can drop that now.
Truthfully, the whole point is just to get these two giants of classic monster cinema to duke it out with each other and you had already made up your mind whether you were going to love it or hate it as soon as that first trailer dropped.
So there you have it. If you are a fan, there’s so much to enjoy about this gorgeous looking and entertaining spectacle. If you don’t like any of the tropes from Godzilla films, there’s nothing new for you here. For being available at the same time as the theatrical release however, it’s hard to argue that this is not worth a watch. Who knows, maybe this could be the one that finally sucks you in.
Overall rating: B+