Review: Godzilla Vs Kong Is A Perfect Kaiju Movie, Best Of Legendary Series
For as iconic as Godzilla is, it’s very hard to point to a universally-beloved and iconic film the varied franchise history. Typically, we fans agree with which one’s aren’t great—from 1998’s Godzilla to All Monsters Attack!—and the ones we love usually align with which ones we saw as kids. However, starting with 2014’s Godzilla (the third American-made film with that title) the Legendary Pictures Monsterverse has delivered consistently good films. However, with Godzilla Vs Kong, they may have delivered their first great one—at least, according to this review. It’s the shortest of the Legendary films, but it also has the advantage of not being forced to dive too deep to find human stories to connect the monster saga to.
The films have used a rotating cast of people, save for a few. Ken Watanabe appeared in all of the Godzilla films, but his character isn’t, uh, in this one. Yet, both Millie Bobby Brown and Kyle Chandler return as Madison and Mark Russell. Yet, the “stars” of this film are Rebecca Hall’s Ilene Andrews, Kaylee Hottle’s Jia, and Alexander Skarsgård’s Nathan Lind. It helps that they are never far from Kong’s side, meaning that we see the ape Titan most throughout the film.
Outside of some slightly expositional credits, Godzilla Vs Kong provides audiences with no review of what came before. If you’ve not watched Skull Island and Godzilla: King of the Monsters, find a YouTube video to catch up on this new mythology. It’s crucial to understanding the story, beyond a giant atomic lizard and a giant gorilla obviously wanting to fight.
Slight spoilers below.
Godzilla Vs Kong: Review of the Humans’ Story
Image via Legendary Pictures
A classic creature from Godzilla’s past has long been suspected to be a part of this film. That was confirmed with the leak of a Godzilla Vs Kong Funko Pop. The story following Madison Russell, who teams up with Deadpool 2’s Julian Dennison and Atlanta’s Brian Tyree Henry, is what leads the audience to this realization. Even knowing what we’d find, how they uncover it is nonetheless exciting. One of the critiques of Captain Marvel was that the audience had more information than the characters for over half the film. Even if you suspect the appearance of this classic man-made monster, the journey to its discovery is still a fun ride. (Henry’s character, a conspiracy theorist podcaster, is a big part of that.)
The other main group of boring-old humans Godzilla Vs. Kong follows stick pretty close to Kong throughout the film. The classic formula in these films, that some of the humans are actually the cause of the problem, remains. And the culmination of their stories is brief but very satisfying. Yet, the inclusion of Jia is the real triumph here. Through her, we are able to connect with Kong as a, well, person. Even though I went into this (as always) as part of Team Godzilla, I can’t even be mad about the decision to treat Kong as this film’s kaiju protagonist. The VFX work in animating this character is very impressive. You never forget it’s CGI (because, you know, giant monster), but it resides just far enough outside of the uncanny valley. (Though, your mileage may vary.)
The film never forgets that the VFX monsters are the stars. Yet, the human story never feels like a distraction. Its construction may be a model for American kaiju films going forward.
Godzilla Vs Kong: Review of the (Let Them) Fight
Image via Legendary Pictures
Kong starts this film in captivity. The storytellers do a very good job of explaining how this happened through the introduction of Jia. Essentially, the little girl is the Kong whisperer. Well, more accurately, Kong-ASL speaker. Kaylee Hottle, who is deaf, uses American Sign Language to communicate with Kong. It’s a nice subversion of the “It was beauty what killed the beast” trope from prior King Kong stories. Kong bonds with a child, and their relationship is protective not possessive. There are two major clashes between Godzilla and Kong. The first comes at the start of the second act, while the second fight takes up most of the third. Of course, the surprise kaiju joins the fray as well.
The fight scenes are fantastic. They are everything one wants in a story about giant beasts wrecking shit. As they have in the Kong/Godzilla matchups in the past, the tally of “wins” and “losses” is left open for interpretation. A key point in any fan-debate about this, however, needs to be how much of beating Godzilla is able to take. And he takes a lot in this movie. Still everyone gets their licks in, and the fight sequences are a lot of fun. (Well, for everyone but the citizens running in terror to “titan shelters.”)
This is not a film that works too hard to inject any larger metaphor for the monsters or the conflict. What we end up with is a well-paced monster punch-fest, from a very close perspective to one of the combatants. This is almost certainly not the last time these monsters will meet. They’ve laid the groundwork for at least two more installments in the franchise.
Godzilla Vs Kong is in theaters, streaming on HBO Max, and available on VOD outlets.
What do you think? Leave your own review of Godzilla Vs Kong below in the comments. Also, tell us who you think “won” the fight.
Featured image via Legendary Pictures
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.