Godzilla vs Kong stars Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, and Rebecca Hall
Written by Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein
Directed by Adam Wingard
I’ve seen all of Legendary’s MonsterVerse movies (Godzilla, released in 2014; Kong: Skull Island, released in 2017; Godzilla: King of the Monsters, released in 2019) and can say with absolute conviction that Godzilla vs Kong, the fourth installment (set for release in US theaters and on HBO Max on March 31st) is the best of the bunch.
Not only is it the biggest spectacle with the best pacing and special effects, but director Adam Wingard and his crew also seem to have learned valuable lessons from the past three films’ successes and failures. In 2014, everyone complained that Godzilla took too long to appear and didn’t get enough screen-time. Then in 2021, both Godzilla and Kong make appearances early and often. In 2019, everyone complained that the humans in King of the Monsters were too melodramatic and distracting. In 2021, the human characters are refined and used sparingly.
Wingard can thank previous MonsterVerse directors Gareth Edwards (Godzilla), Jordan Vogt-Roberts (Kong: Skull Island), and Michael Dougherty (Godzilla: King of the Monsters) for testing the waters, but also deserves credit for concocting his own secret sauce, one that gives Godzilla vs Kong a unique flavor, making it the most entertaining MonsterVerse installment from start to finish. As a horror fan, I’d like to believe it’s Wingard’s genre sensibilities (honed crafting films like You’re Next, The Guest, and Blair Witch) that helped him craft a trim, two-hour tale of fierce rivals reigning mass destruction on a global scale.
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Before I continue, let me take you back in time a decade or two… When I got my first apartment out of college, I bought myself a pet snake–a ball python. Every week, it was my responsibility to feed the beast a live rat. Now, at first, I didn’t think this would be a problem. Nature can be brutal and it’s not like I was a practicing vegetarian at the time. Still, every time I had to drop a live critter into the snake’s terrarium, something strange would happen: I’d find myself identifying with the rat! Sure, the snake was my pet and the rodent was just a meal, but I saw myself in those tiny mammals–and I felt their palpable fear.
Maybe this explains why I’m on “Team Kong”, 100%. Sure, Godzilla is the cooler monster, sporting prehistoric features and incredible powers. But I see myself in Kong, and the effects used to bring the King of Skull Island to life were astounding. The eyes, the facial expressions, the body movements, and mannerisms–they all communicated volumes (practically making the sign-language angle unnecessary).
Sure, we love seeing Godzilla demolish cities and aggressive Titans, but Kong represents humanity at its most primal and powerful. Without revealing who “wins” the titular conflict of Godzilla vs Kong, I don’t think the film would have been as impactful were it not for the relationship audiences can establish with Kong. Godzilla is awesome but, like a pet ball python, there’s something about his reptilian brain that makes him too much of an “other” to truly understand or bond with. Of course. others will disagree; in fact, it seems like most moviegoers have pre-decided to align with “Team Godzilla”.
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Let’s be frank: The main draw of seeing a film like Godzilla vs Kong is watching the titular titans fight. And they do so with frequency and ferocity. Whether on an ocean flotilla or in downtown Hong Kong, they go all out in a series of sequences that will have you cheering out loud. And yes, there are other Titans who pop up from time to time, like the Warbats of Hollow Earth and You-Know-Who (one of cinema’s worst kept secrets), who makes the climax truly outstanding.
Okay, it’s not a perfect film. And this review would probably be suspicious if I didn’t at least acknowledge a few of them). If you’re looking for a film based on hard-science, look elsewhere. The Hollow Earth aspects are cartoonish; it’s the previously mentioned attachment we form with Kong that makes these scenes bearable, even wonderful, as opposed to laughable. You may also find yourself rolling your eyes during what I’ll call a “defibrillation scene”. And another scene I can’t even mention without spoiling–but you’ll know it when you see it.
And while the human characters are used sparingly, they aren’t all splendid. Rebecca Hall and Alexander Skarsgård have great chemistry as cooperating scientists with hints of romantic inclinations. But Millie Bobby Brown and her crew comprised of Brian Tyree Henry and Julian Dennison are rather dismissable. They serve as adequate plot motivators. But never eliciting much entertainment value as individual characters (each coming off as rather two-dimensional).
Related Article: Exclusive: GODZILLA VS KONG Director Adam Wingard Explains Why No Post-Credits Scene
If you’re hoping for a post-credits scene setting up the next chapter of the MonsterVerse–don’t. In our exclusive interview (link below) Wingard explains why they decided against including a post-credits scene in Godzilla vs Kong. But it also represents a very real crossroads for the franchise. The licensing deal between Legendary and Toho for Godzilla and other established kaiju expires after this film. It’s been implied that Godzilla vs Kong‘s critical and financial success (or lack thereof) will decide whether or not we get another MonsterVerse installment. So if you love the film as much as I did, it’s important to get the word out. Without a substantial outcry for more, this could be the final outing for Legendary’s incarnation of Godzilla.
But here’s what you really need to know: Godzilla vs Kong is outstanding entertainment on an epic scale. The fights are massive, the special effects are mind-blowing, and the climax will likely have you cheering out loud. With many Americans now vaccinated against COVID-19, this is the perfect film to go back to the theaters for.
Godzilla vs Kong delivers what it promises: Kaiju mayhem on a massive scale!