The stage is set and the crowds wait with eagerness. King Ghidora is dead and Godzilla is crowned king of the monsters…until another opponent enters the ring: King Kong. At least he would if he wasn’t exploring a hollow earth that may or may not contain others of his kind. All the while, Godzilla has gone rogue attacking the corporation Apex Cybernetics for unknown reasons.
Since 2014, Legendary Pictures’ Godzilla has washed away the bad taste left by 1998’s Tristar disaster, as they put in motion plans to set up their own monsterverse that lasted longer than Universal’s Dark Universe. Two of the most legendary beasts in cinema history are given a new update for audiences with Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla: King of the Monsters building up the anticipation. Unfortunately what we got after three films of preparation is half of what was promised by focusing on the wrong elements and relegating the main event to a size that even Batman vs Superman surpassed. This will be a spoiler review, so if you have not seen Godzilla vs Kong yet, stop right now and go check it out for yourself. Otherwise, let’s go down the spoiler list:
The Hollow Earth
First, the central conflict to Godzilla vs Kong doesn’t even focus on their rivalry. Most of the running time is dedicated to the company Apex locating the Hollow Earth. The corporation enlists Kong to locate an inter dimensional landscape with new creatures and a gravity of its own. This is where it feels less like the ultimate clash we’ve been waiting for and more like a King Kong centered story, complete with creature encounters, and following the big ape’s trail. It also presented a golden opportunity to put a spin on the monster fights with the setting having a twisted sense of gravity. But they never take advantage of the situation, leaving the setting as wasted potential, which might be a running gag throughout this movie.
The Human Characters
At this point, the human characters are always expected to be the worst part of all monsterverse movies. However, upon revisiting the previous three films, they were tolerable at worst and charismatic at best. But these are worst human characters out of all four features, with the exception of one: Jia (Kaylee Hottle). A deaf child who communicates with sign language, her interactions with Kong are the only genuinely important moments in the grand scheme as she shares in his wants and desires through hand gestures. Other than that, everyone is an exposition dump waiting to talk down to the audience. The daughter from King of the Monsters (Millie Bobby Brown) is back, but she’s teamed up with a gen z stereotype and an annoying comic relief podcaster. This group gets too much attention that should’ve been spent on more fight sequences.
Speaking of which, there are of course the battles between our two kaijus that are supposed to be the main events. And the movie fires on all cylinders when Godzilla and Kong are throwing down the gauntlet on land or sea. In fact, these are the best monster fights in the entire saga, no longer hiding the creatures behind snow, rain and other elements, like in King of the Monsters. The shots are clear in both day and night settings as the camera cuts to different perspectives on the ground and in the air. Aided by the special effects, you feel the weight behind every move each opponent makes when trying to outsmart the other. But in total, there are only two fights between the titans because of all the unimportant human characters trying to justify their own existence. And in a movie titled Godzilla vs Kong, that’s a huge problem. Three fights would’ve at least balanced the scale between the action and the downtime. And yes, even as a Kong fan, Godzilla still came out as the victor for all the scratches he left on Kong’s chest.
Finally, it’s revealed that Apex has actually built their own titan knock-off to combat future challengers: MechaGodzilla. Using the skull of King Gidorah they are able to control the robot until they receive a power source from within the hollow earth. Afterwards, MechaGodzilla grows a mind of its own, kills the head of Apex (Demián Bichir), and starts destroying the city. Because of this, the king of the monsters takes it as a threat, which is why he attacks the corporation in the first place.
The idea behind rebooting this infamous mechanical beast is sound, but because he comes in at the end, it feels shoe-horned into a battle that’s already taking a backseat to pointless human characters and a giant ape hogging all the attention. It fits more into something like the previous King of the Monsters rather than this concentrated title. How cool would it have been to see this go against Rodan, or Giagan, or that new mammoth behemoth? The battle itself is a sight to behold as the two titans team up to take it down, but it’s when Nia tells Kong that Godzilla is not the enemy when the entire point of this comes crashing down. If Godzilla isn’t the enemy, then what was the point of all the background set up during the opening credits? Centuries of fighting is suddenly halted just because one human says so? Where does this leave the future of the franchise then? There are so many questions left unanswered for this climactic entry.
Godzilla vs Kong feels less of a culmination we’ve all been waiting for and more like a sequel to Kong: Skull Island. This wouldn’t be a problem if there weren’t already three films building up this epic clash. The human characters are at their worst taking time away from the leads, the story is unfocused on who gets the most attention, and worst of all there are only two battles between Godzilla and Kong. But those well shot monster battles are still worth checking out at least once. As for where to watch it, that’s up to the viewer. Movie theaters are starting to open up again, and while HBO Max is tempting for convenience, something like this is meant to be seen on the big screen. Whatever you do, keep your mask on standby at all times and savor the few moments that the last seven years were hyping up.