Title: Godzilla vs Kong
Release Date: March 24, 2021 (International), March 31, 2021 (United States)
Studio: Legendary Pictures
Director: Adam Wingard
Release Format: Theatrical (International)/HBO Max (United States)
The worst thing about Godzilla vs Kong is the feeling you’ll never reclaim the 1 hour 53 minutes spent watching it. It is a rather nihilistic film with nothing to say. Almost two hours’ worth of CGI monster battles, lazy (sometimes absent) writing and cookie-cutter characters that leave you with one question – what the hell just happened?
The story doesn’t even pretend to not be a thinly-veiled excuse to get the two monsters locking horns. The set-up amounts to this: Godzilla appears once again, obviously-conniving Apex industrialist Walter Simmons (Damian Bichir) enlists Dr. Nathan Lind to find a power source from Hollow Earth that can help defeat the beast. Lind in turn thinks Kong is the key to finding the source and defeating Godzilla. Meanwhile, Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) is convinced Godzilla is a good dinosaur, so she, alongside nerdy Kiwi sidekick Josh Valentine (Julian Dennison) join forces with conspiracy nut Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry) to investigate Apex, the stereotypically evil company they think are behind Godzilla’s sudden return…
‘Till Kingdom Kong
Whether you enjoy Godzilla vs. Kong depends entirely on your expectations. Are you looking for a series of brainless CGI anime battles between two speechless beasts (and a surprise third)? Well, maybe this is the movie for you. Are you looking for a deep story and themes served alongside this grandiose main meal? Well, you’re out of luck. You won’t find the latter anywhere to be found here.
True enough, there’s the usual serving of human characters for us mere mortals to relate to, but they don’t offer much apart from the exposition. Action hero-handsome genius Dr. Nathan Lind is on hand to explain to the audience the concept of ‘Hollow Earth’ and even helps design a machine that leads him, anthropological linguist Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall), and an expedition of Apex thugs led by Maia Simmons (Emma Gonzalez) to this monster-laden world. The problem is this – is the average moviegoer patient enough to sit through Lind’s tedious prattle? Half the time, he doesn’t make any sense and what occurs on-screen doesn’t help to understand.
At one point, King Kong and his tagalong humans are in Hollow Earth, and then next minute, with seemingly no explanation, they appear in Hong Kong! In previous MonsterVerse movies, it’s explained this is the manner of transportation that Godzilla uses to access different parts of the planet. But for those only just jumping on-board the good ship MonsterVerse, they’ll have no clue what’s going on. But one theorizes that the screenwriters and director didn’t care – because, hey, the whole thing looks pretty. And, in the end, that’s apparently what matters.
Godzilla vs. Kong (& Co.)
Whatever story and sense Godzilla vs Kong lacks, it somewhat makes up for with its CGI. Now, the battles are a macho snore-fest but one can’t help but admire the details. Kong’s fur is an especially good demonstration of the visual artistry employed in this film, with every strand of hair painstakingly created and the big ape’s simian movements powerfully imposing. The emotions expressed in his eyes and face are gorgeous and, at the very least, make up for Godzilla’s lack of these traits, whose range covers a lot of roaring alongside an expressionless face.
And yes, to some extent, seeing the two beasts go head-to-head on both land and water is visually impressive. The problem is, the fights are numerous and eventually morph into a meaningless cartoon. As the seemingly invincible creatures pummel each other, you quickly lose interest. Since you don’t feel as though either monster is in grave danger, the stakes are low and the fights lack tension. Given these two icons of cinema are the main draw, you’d think the filmmakers would help us care more for these CGI show-offs. Apparently not. As the nonsense unfolded on-screen before me, I fondly recalled Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake of King Kong and wished I was watching that instead.
But alas, in the film’s final act, the film introduces a third monster, MechaGodzilla, to the mix. This forces King Kong and Godzilla to join forces to defeat the beast (who is, of course, a product of evil corporation Apex). More tiresome pummeling ensues, and you’re left with one glaring question – when will this film end, already? Again,. neither Godzilla nor King Kong feel vulnerable and the winner is rather obvious from the outset.
It doesn’t help the film that it features a cast of boring, uninspired characters. Teenager Maddie is a brave and passionate young Godzilla fangirl but her character is brooding and plain despite Brown’s best attempt at performance. Maddie’s reluctant Kiwi sidekick Joshua is at least there to provide comic relief and, admittedly, has some chuckle-worthy lines in the film which help raise the levity in this dull picture. Otherwise, he serves little purpose apart from christening MechaGodzilla.
Special mention has to go to Bernie Hayes though, an Alex Jones-level conspiracy theorist and podcast host. It’s intriguing to see conspiracy internet culture integrated into a modern-day Hollywood film and Henry’s energy makes the character entertaining. His role is to lead us deep into the Apex secret web and to the cliched evil industrialist, Walter Simmons. The industrialist in question, played by Damian Bichir, was played by producer Alex Garcia as a “complex character” who isn’t necessarily a villain. But let’s be frank here – that’s what he is, and the movie doesn’t pretend otherwise in its simple nature.
But hey, clichéd evil industrialists aside, surely Dr. Andrews’ adorable, adoptive deaf daughter Ren Serizawa (Shen Oguri) can help give Godzilla vs. Kong some warmth? After all, it turns out she can communicate with Kong via sign language (they even develop a soundless connection due to this very fact)! Well, no. Props to Oguri for attempting to add heart to this meaningless film, but the fact that Kong can understand sign language comes across more like satire than anything else. Oh well, who cares – the writers didn’t, given the relationship is rushed and unexplored and there are monster slug-fests to get on with…
Holy Mother of Godzilla
All in all, Godzilla vs Kong is the McDonalds of movies. It is filled with sugar and fat, is easy to consume, and you feel shameful for doing so afterward. The confusing science babble won’t even faze you if you enjoy soulless CGI monster battles. Because you won’t find much else on offer here. 2017’s King Kong: Skull Island had mixed response, but at least it had likable characters and an interesting underlying mythology. Godzilla vs. Kong doesn’t even have that.
Alas, if you want a good movie to watch, you won’t find it in this one. If you want CGI boss battles, you may as well switch on a Marvel film. At least there are actual morals to the stories because there’s nothing to be found here. There’s just one for the filmmakers to learn: don’t insult your audience with this kind of groan-worthy monster smash – add some extra ingredients to the meal that make it tastier. Otherwise, all you get is a ton of lifeless fat.
If you’ve already seen Godzilla vs Kong, what are your thoughts on the movie? Did you enjoy it? Or did you hate it? Let us know in the comments below!
- Impressive CGI
- Bernie and Joshua provide some levity to the brooding monster action.
- Shallow uninspired story
- Overall uninteresting human characters
- Fight scenes get tedious quickly