Review: 'Godzilla vs. Kong' Unleashes More Epic Monster Mayhem
by Alex Billington
March 30, 2021
"There can't be two alpha titans." Everyone's favorite big cuddlelizard is back with another smash & tumble adventure around the world. Godzilla vs. Kong is finally here! You're Next and The Guest director Adam Wingard picks up where Mike Dougherty left off with Godzilla: King of the Monsters just a few years ago. And Wingard also picks up where Jordan Vogt-Roberts left off with his Kong: Skull Island movie. This is a very American franchise now, focusing more on the epic destruction and CGI-filled fights than any humans, because that's what we want! Let them fight! And ohhh, do they fight. And tons of humans get squished, but that's what happens when these two titans battle. This is nature vs nature and we just need to get far enough back so we can watch without getting caught up in all the destruction. Does it pack a punch? YES IT DOES.
By now, everyone should expect that any Godzilla movie made by Hollywood is going to feature tons of CGI and fight scenes. The script must still have human characters, of course, but they are mostly irrelevant. They are important only because it moves things along and allows these two mega-monsters to battle once they've emerged from containment. Pesky humans. Rebecca Hall plays a scientist, sort of the "Jane Goodall of Kong", who has been studying the beast for years and keeping him locked inside a facility on Skull Island. Alexander Skarsgård plays another kooky scientist, who becomes one of the main characters because he wrote the books on "Hollow Earth" that no one cared about… until now. Demián Bichir plays a heartless corporate CEO, and Shun Oguri plays the token "one Japanese guy in the American Godzilla movie" who ultimately has a key role later on. The only interesting character is Jia, played by Kaylee Hottle, a young girl from Skull Island who is friends with Kong and calls out the adults on their bullshit (most of the time).
My biggest issue with this movie is the same one that many monster movie-lovers have – all the scenes with human beings are a bit boring. Godzilla vs. Kong pretty much is one epic VFX/CGI showcase, with endless scenes full of entirely computer-generated imagery making us believe these two mega-monsters are fighting. And you know what? It looks awesome. I love it. This is one of those cinematic experiences that is a must watch on the big screen because you really need that draw-you-into-its-world grandiosity along with the enveloping boom of the sound and score. (Unfortunately I'm still stuck at home and had to watch a screener on my TV, and I felt like I was missing that boom, but it is there in the movie even if my TV couldn't deliver like a cinema could.) However, the best part about the movie is the filmmaker's understanding of the two mega-monsters and their psyche - not only how destructive and protective they are, but their complex sides including their desire for peace as long as there's nothing to fight about. Honestly, it is their movie anyway.
If the ole "these monsters represent nature" metaphor remains, then this is another reminder that Godzilla and/or Kong aren't purposefully trying to harm humans, per se, as is often feared. Instead it is reminding us that if humans step out of line, nature will put them back in line. So, yes, don't mess with these monsters or nature. Don't try to become more powerful than mother nature, you idiots. Humans are always the ones that ruin everything, not these big ole lovable lugs of cuddly monster goodness. Of course, the Godzilla subgenre of cinema has its own tropes, including that humans will always respond aggressively to Godzilla the first time he appears, and they'll always be afraid of him at the start (especially the military), until some low-down-in-the-chain-of-command person reminds them "he's just trying to save" or "protect" something else.
One of the other good things about this script for Godzilla vs. Kong is that it explores how much adults lie, and how often they deceive everyone else with ulterior motives. From the Apex corporation to Dr. Andrews, everyone is lying and aside from the monsters obviously not believing any of it (or not giving a shit anyway), it's only the girl Jia who seems to really care about the truth. Along with Millie Bobby Brown's Madison from the previous film, though she doesn't have much more to add this time. All because they actually care about the lives of these monsters. Ultimately it is a human being who takes control of the worst enemy that the two must team up to take out to save the world. The lesson seems to be – humans will never be the Apex species, and any time they try it just causes more chaos and destruction, so stop trying and just accept your place in the universe. Honestly, sounds about right. The craziest part about this is that it's a not-so-subtle "F you" to humanity, as so many lives are tossed aside in the epic battles. Godzilla swaps fighter jets like flies and we cheer him on, because let's not forget, they the ones shooting heavy weapons at and attacking him.
I don't know how anyone could expect there to be any one victor by the end of this "Godzilla vs. Kong" fight, each of these guys represents a whole franchise of its own. And you can't kill off or even completely destroy one or the other, because each one will live on no matter what. So be it. Nothing to gripe about. Instead, we get a good mix of "this time Kong wins" and then "this time Godzilla" wins, though I've always felt it's pretty obvious that Godzilla has the advantage due to his size and weight and, uh, frickin' atomic breath. But Kong only gets a chance to match him when he gets back to his "home" and collects an extra tool that comes with extra powers. And then, of course, we get to the "they must team up to take out a much greater threat" final showdown. As expected, yet it's still glorious to witness. Thanks to the thousands of people working at VFX studios around the world perfecting every little detail. We owe as much to them as any actor or set builder.
While I can't say this movie smashed its way onto my list of monster favorites, it is an exhilarating and epic experience nonetheless. And it is totally entertaining to watch these two mega-monsters fight and cause jaw-dropping destruction that we don't have to worry about (that's a topic for another day). At least there's some clever ideas about humanity worked into the script, but it's really about watching Kong and 'Zilla fight it out, then watching them team up and save the world from something much more evil and dangerous. Yet again.