Review: Godzilla Vs. Kong

This movie is a tour de force – an intricate and sensitive tapestry of thought-provoking questions and exquisite metaphors, which forces the viewer to reexamine their relationship with the world at large. It is a story that questions our humanity in the face of natural disaster, our place in the universe, and the uncertainty of life in a modern context…

… just kidding. It’s a movie about a giant lizard and a giant monkey punching each other.

And that really is all you need to know about “Godzilla Vs. Kong,” the long-awaited fourth entry in the Monsterverse franchise. This is the long-awaited, official meeting of Japan’s greatest kaiju with his American counterpart – and while some parts of the movie don’t make a lot of sense (where is the sunlight in the Hollow Earth coming from?) or exist just for exposition, the monstrous beasts themselves keep us invested.

The movie opens with conspiracy podcaster Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry) infiltrating the obviously-evil megacorporation, Apex. Coincidentally, Godzilla decides to attack the facility during Bernie’s time there, which baffles the humans. Why has Godzilla, generally a benevolent figure, attacked humanity unprovoked? Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) is convinced that Godzilla had a reason for attacking, and sets out to find Bernie in order to find answers.

Meanwhile, Apex is funding an expedition into the Hollow Earth, and they want Kong – imprisoned by Monarch on Skull Island – to lead them down there. The problem is, venturing onto the ocean puts him on Godzilla’s turf, and the big lizard will naturally attack any rival for the role of alpha Titan. So not only do they have to chain Kong up and transport him from the tropical Pacific to Antarctica, they have to deal with Godzilla attacking — which he does.

But getting Kong to Antarctica is only the first step, as the humans now need to follow him into a realm dominated by vast beasts – and some kind of power that Apex wants to get their hands on. And on the surface, Bernie, Madison and Madison’s friend Josh uncover the reason that Apex was attacked by Godzilla – and the horrifying possibilities if it’s ever used.

It has plot holes. It has inconsistencies with previous films. It has stuff that doesn’t make much sense. Yet there’s a refreshing kind of purity in “Godzilla Vs. Kong” that comes from knowing exactly what it is, and being happy with being just a popcorn blockbuster about two kaiju beating each other up. If that is what you expect – a sci-fi tale about giant monsters – then it’s likely to be an entertaining watch.

So there’s plenty of spectacle – boats explode or are overturned, buildings are smashed or blasted into glassy splinters, and the city of Hong Kong is more or less flattened for our amusement. Perhaps the only area where spectacle falls short is in the Hollow Earth itself – what we see is pretty spectacular, but we don’t see enough of it. The movie could have used another half hour of Kong’s adventures in the center of the Earth, the ancient civilization there, and the many monsters.

And make no mistake – despite an infestation of human characters, Kong himself is the main character here, a vast melancholy ape who occasionally bursts into chest-thumping, teeth-bearing rage. The CGI is exemplary, causing you to feel Kong’s isolation, his homesickness, his triumph and his pain. Godzilla is more of an antagonistic presence looming throughout most of the film. He has the power of a force of nature in the opening scenes, but up against someone as big as he is, he snarls and claws in a far more down-to-earth, personal manner.

The various actors in it do a decent job serving as side-characters to the CGI stars of the show – Alexander Skarsgard, Rebecca Hall and Brian Tyree Henry all do good jobs, Eiza Gonzalez and Demian Bichir are solid as smugly corporate overlords, and Julian Dennison steals the show as Madison’s hapless yet street-smart sidekick… and who ultimately turns out to be more plot-essential than she is.

Yeah, Millie Bobbie Brown’s character doesn’t really have a good reason to be in the story, and she’s so obnoxious and condescending that you end up wishing she hadn’t been. Kaylee Hottle’s character at least serves as an interpreter for Kong, even if children in kaiju movies are generally a bad sign.

If you expect “Godzilla Vs. Kong” to provide exactly what the title suggests, then you won’t be disappointed – it’s a big, robust movie that revolves around kaiju hitting each other. And in troubled times, don’t we need more of that?

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