Godzilla vs. Kong knows the audience wants giant monsters smacking the bejesus out of each other. On that front it certainly delivers, repeatedly and often. This confrontation has been teased since 2014’s Godzilla, 2017’s Kong: Skull Island and 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters as each installment has realized the human characters are filler. However, Godzilla vs. Kong often drags down to the point of view of the little people who remain steadfastly uninteresting. But when the movie goes for Titans delivering multiple punches to the face, and stirring things up with an unexpected new element, it’s gloriously stupid.
Godzilla, the king of the monsters who has been mostly a friend to humanity, has inexplicably broke bad and started attacking human settlements as the last remaining Alpha Titan, Kong, is growing restless on Skull Island. A rich industrialist, Walter (Demian Bichir), finds a disgraced scientist, Nathan (Alexander Skarsgard) to bring Kong to the hollow Earth and find a source of power that will stop Godzilla’s rampage. Kong’s caretaker, Ilene (Rebecca Hall) and her daughter, Jia (Kaylee Hottle), want to keep Kong protected from the big lizard but Walter’s daughter, Maya (Eiza Gonzalez) is pushing forward. Meanwhile, Godzilla fan Maddie (Millie Bobby Brown) brings her friend, Josh (Julian Dennison) to find a conspiracy theorist, Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry) and investigate what is happening. What they discover has horrible ramifications for humanity and the two battling Titans.
The FX of Kong and Godzilla and the candy coloured apocalyptic landscape looks great. When Kong first punches Godzilla in the face on the deck of an aircraft carrier, it’s a hugely ridiculous yet awesome moment. The tone of the Monsterverse movies has shifted each flick. Godzilla has a “You are there” immediacy. Kong: Skull Island has some decent human moments, Samuel L. Jackson as the bad guy helps a lot, but its best bits is the giant monster ape beating up acidic spewing lizards. King of the Monsters went fully loopy with a huge roster of classic Godzilla monsters like King Ghidorah and Rodan while the human stuff got even more tedious. Godzilla vs. Kong is the most extreme installment, bending stuff in a sci-fi direction. However, bending things gradually in a sci-fi direction is where the original Godzilla series went so it is true to the source. This leads to a new monster appearing and the character is an awesome pull from Godzilla continuity that creates a different tone of chaos. There’s definitely a winner and a loser as Kong and Godzilla go multiple rounds. Even though a nuclear lizard should immediately curb stomp the giant ape there’s multiple ways Kong manages to fight back. Godzilla was basically the hero of his last two movies so to see him be intentionally homicidal towards humans is jarring and makes Kong the heroic under-ape.
The humans have been relegated to mere supporting roles, which is good by giant monster movie standards. A monster having a connection with a unique kid is a legitimate monster movie trope although kind of tedious. Jia communicates with Kong via sign language gives makes their connection an attempt at emotional payoff. Madison has gone full conspiracy theory loon, a plot point which is slightly less amusing today, as she runs around and hollers there’s a reason that Godzilla has gone bad.
Bernie, Josh and Madison on the hunt is basically a chance for Henry to spew stream of consciousness nonsense. Josh has sensible points that everything they’re doing is terrible and dangerous and naturally nobody listens to him. The billionaire tech industrialist with unsurprisingly evil intentions is standard but Bichir gets a decent exit from the movie. At least the subplot of humans on Team Godzilla is more compelling character stuff than Team Kong who are relegated to staring until Kong does something cool. Skarsgard seems the most wasted here, meekly tagging along after Kong. Hall’s Ilene and her daughter basically just look somewhat sad when Kong gets beaten down. Gonzalez as Maya provides a third act twist that delivers some fun moments. Lance Reddick, who is named is in the opening credits implying a big role, just says random lines about people hiding and that’s it.
There’re a few pieces of the previous series continuity that are picked up, the post-credit teaser in King of the Monsters that had the baddies acquiring King Ghidorah’s head is used to create a bigger, nastier monster. The hollow Earth, often mentioned in the series, is explored so Kong can get a giant axe he can use to take down Godzilla. A few bits of old continuity are unceremonious discarded, like the monsters bowing to Godzilla in the last film are inexplicably gone. The entirety of Skull Island’s native population is killed in off screen genocide which seems unreasonably harsh. Madison’s father (Kyle Chandler), who the emotional core of the last film, returns to just look befuddled about where his kid ran off to.
Even though the attempt to make the humans essential is a failure in Godzilla vs. Kong, the giant monster battles are plentiful and satisfying. Kong getting a power up like a magic axe is inherently stupid but gleefully so. Combine that with a decent third act surprise new player, this makes for a fun bit of knowingly corny yet epic monster nonsense.
Godzilla vs Kong
Director: Adam Wingard
Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown and Rebecca Hall