The latest installment in Legendary’s “MonsterVerse,” Godzilla vs. Kong smashed its way into theaters and onto HBO Max, shattering the record for top box office opening during quarantine. Since 2014, the series has built up to the two mightiest Titans facing off in an epic showdown. The expectations are as huge as the monsters. Does this gargantuan beat-down live up to that hype, or does it crumble under its weight? Let’s explore further to find out.
There are no punches pulled when the monsters fight. The action is absolutely insane, and there’s a lot of it. There is very little time wasted before we get to the kaiju combat. Buildings collapse, ships blow up, and Kong even rips a monster’s head off and drinks its brains. Each monster noticeably has their own fighting style and gets the chance to showcase it during the film. Kong likes to throw punches and grapples his foes while Godzilla uses his tail, claws, and nuclear breath in each fight. Even their environmental advantages come into play, like Godzilla being unbeatable in an ocean fight, or Kong being able to leap from building to building to avoid being hit. The high-octane action makes the film feel like a visual amusement park ride throughout, and it’s an absolute blast.
One of the biggest issues in the previous movies in the series is that the Titans aren’t seen as much as they should be. In 2014’s Godzilla, the titular kaiju doesn’t fully appear until toward the end of the movie (although the build-up was worth it). In Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the Titans get a fair amount of screen time, but are hidden by mist, rain, clouds, and dark lighting so it can be tough to get a good look at them. Here, Godzilla, Kong, and other monsters are perfectly visible and are on screen as much as they should be.
Not only are the Titans seen a lot, but they look amazing. Godzilla’s scales and Kong’s fur look life-like, plus minor details, like scars, add an extra layer of realism to the characters. Some of the other monsters, like in Hollow Earth, have especially fun and creative designs. The scale of the creatures is also something to marvel at. Kong kneeling down to communicate with Jia shows how intimidatingly large he is compared to us tiny humans. Godzilla swimming next to a ship or standing above buildings is the thing of nightmares for those of us who don’t wish to be crushed. The scale stays consistent, and the filmmakers ensure that we understand how massive these creatures truly are throughout.
A massive feat for the visual effects team is that the monsters’ emotions are clear despite them not speaking. Their facial expressions are incredibly lifelike. It’s easy to tell when they’re angry, scared, or even tired. Even the way they communicate with each other with their facial expressions is impressively done. It adds a new way of storytelling for these classic kaiju.
There may not be many emotional beats in the film, but they do occur and they are powerful. For instance, Kong, who lost his family previously, shares a special bond with Jia, who also lost her family. Their concern for each other is genuinely heartfelt, which pulls in the audience more. Kong seeing evidence of his species being from Hollow Earth and him wanting it to be his new home allows the viewers to relate with him despite him being a giant ape.
Fans of the classic Godzilla and King Kong movies will be happy to know that the filmmakers stayed true to the themes of each one. Neither Godzilla or Kong are presented as mindless beasts wreaking havoc for no reason like other media sometimes depicts. Kong wants to protect humans he cares about and find his true home. Godzilla wants to protect the Earth from those looking to harm it. The themes of how humans are the ones who harm the world around them are present, just like in all the classic films. It’s a relief to see modern takes on these franchises stay true to their roots.
It is very evident from the beginning that seeing the other three movies in the MonsterVerse is mandatory before watching this one. It’ll be pretty difficult to know who some people are, what is happening, or why certain things are happening without it. That being said, why wouldn’t you watch the series in order?
Because the movie is pretty short for an action blockbuster (under two hours), there are quite a few things that feel glossed over or need more time. We don’t get enough time to know much about the human characters other than which monster they like. They could have been fleshed out a lot more so we can actually care about them. There’s also quite a bit of backstory referenced, like an ancient war between the Titans, that never really gets the explanation it needs. We see the Hollow Earth, and this MIGHT be where a lot of the monsters are from, but we don’t learn a whole lot about it. If the film was a bit longer, these details could have received better explanations. Plus, more time could have meant maybe getting another short Godzilla vs. Kong fight, and let’s face it, that’s the fun part.
There are quite a few human characters in the movie, and some don’t really have a reason to be. They’re just there to exist. Josh does nothing other than follow characters who are actually important until he pours alcohol on the computer MechaGodzilla is linked to, which anyone could have done. Dr. Russell is only in the movie because he played a large role in Godzilla: King of the Monsters. He also doesn’t add much to the movie other than some quick bickering with his daughter Madison.
Ilene has been studying Kong for years, and yet she never noticed that Kong knew sign language. How does an ape that big hide the fact he’s using sign language from the person who is constantly watching him? It would be one thing to hide it for a little while, but it seems that she has been doing so for quite a while. This isn’t a huge issue, but it does break the suspension of disbelief a little.
The filmmakers knew that fans wanted more focus on the monster fights, and that’s what they gave us. Godzilla vs. Kong is a nonstop thrill ride featuring two of cinema’s greatest monsters duking it out. The action is intense, there’s enough emotion to keep one invested in why they’re fighting, the effects are impressive, and the themes from the classic movies are still present. Sure, there are some story elements that are a bit weak, but when the giant monster fights are so entertaining and take up so much of the movie, those issues can at least somewhat be ignored. Godzilla and Kong locked in epic combat with nuclear breath, heads being torn off, and axes made of bones is something that truly cannot be missed.
Rating: 8.5 / 10