“Godzilla vs Kong” Movie Review: Of Monsters and Men

Mild spoilers ahead


Photo courtesy of IMDb

King Kong and Godzilla are without a doubt the two most famous movie monsters of all time. The two colossal titans first battled on-screen in 1962’s “King Kong vs Godzilla,” but since then, fans have been clamoring for a rematch between the two kaiju with the updated visual effects of modern cinema. In October 2015 when Legendary and Warner Brothers Pictures announced plans for a shared “MonsterVerse” with the two monsters culminating in “Godzilla vs Kong,” fans were naturally met with high expectations. 

After several delays, “Godzilla vs Kong” has finally arrived in both theaters and HBO Max. Set five years after the events of “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” the film follows the attempts of Dr. Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) and Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) to use Kong to access the Hollow Earth where all Titans live, whereas Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown), Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry), and Josh Valentine (Julian Dennison) seek to explain Godzilla’s sudden rampages.

One thing this movie can certainly be commended for is living up to its promise of a titanic battle between these two colossal beasts. Both sequences in which Godzilla and Kong do battle are great spectacles to watch, with great fight choreography that makes good use of both each monster’s abilities as well as the environment. The first battle takes place in the middle of the ocean on a Navy convoy, showcasing how Godzilla’s aquatic nature gives him leverage over Kong. The second battle in Hong Kong is much more evenly matched, with Kong using his better agility to leap across the cityscape while Godzilla relies on brute force and his Atomic Breath. The destruction present within both sequences adds to the spectacle of each fight, creating a sense of scale and always drawing attention to whatever is happening on-screen.

The film’s original soundtrack also fits the tone that director Adam Wingard tries to hit. The overall tone can be best described as intense or grandiose, but the individual themes always fit alongside their accompanying scenes. The opening theme—titled “Pensacola, Florida”—has a slow, heavy beated overtone that mirrors the Godzilla films of the 80s and 90s, with a quicker-paced undertone to portray the imminent threat present. Other themes in the movie, such as “A New Language,” are quieter tones which slowly increase in volume to emphasize the revelations that occur in the film.

In spite of the spectacular battles, the plot that sets up these confrontations is less than stellar. While the basic premise of the film—Monarch researchers attempting to access the Hollow Earth ecosystem in which the monsters originate and a smaller group attempting to discover the reason behind Godzilla’s rampages—sounds all right on paper, in execution these ideas become absurd. One example is the film’s portrayal of the Hollow Earth, which feels somewhat contrary to how it’s described in “Kong: Skull Island” or shown in “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.” Instead, the Hollow Earth plot almost feels like a rejected “Journey to the Center of the Earth” script that somehow was integrated into this movie, breaking the continuity and rules established within the diegetic world of the MonsterVerse. Some of the technology in this film’s world also seems to have advanced hundreds of years since the last movie even though it’s only been five, which makes it feel difficult to connect the rules of the previous movies to this one.

This inability to establish verisimilitude in the plot is not aided by the mediocre human characters within the film. While the dynamic between Dr. Andrews and Nia (Kaylee Hottle) does have some level of intrigue, the trio of Bernie Hayes, Madison Russell and Josh Valentine is straight up annoying. The film mostly attempts to portray them in a somewhat comedic manner, though this intended effect is not achieved. Walter Simmons (Demián Bichir) and Ren Serizawa (Shun Oguri), two prominent members of the newly introduced corporation known as Apex Cybernetics, are also relatively bland. Obviously Oscar-worthy performances should not always be expected for these types of films, but a good enough human plot can help ground the film and captivate viewer attention when the monsters are not present. Other Godzilla and King Kong movies managed to portray this facet, yet in this film the non-action sequences are dreadful.

Overall, “Godzilla vs Kong” is somewhat of a mixed bag. Despite its incredible action sequences and musical scores, the set up to get to those sequences is a major drag with in-universe rules that break suspension of disbelief. If you want to watch a grand smackdown between these two iconic monsters, then this movie is worthwhile. However, “Godzilla vs Kong” is the weakest entry of the four MonsterVerse films.