Godzilla Vs Kong, the highly anticipated finale to Legendary’s Monsters Cinematic Universe hit the screens on March 24, 2021. Following up two Godzilla films and a Kong film, it’s a grand cinematic spectacle wherein the two titans finally clash. The film stars Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Shun Oguri, Eiza González, Julian Dennison, Kyle Chandler, and Demián Bichir. Much like the previous MonsterVerse films, this one also follows the titans clashing as humans try and meddle with them.
Godzilla Vs Kong saw an earlier international release on March 24, 2021, followed by a US release on March 31. It followed the trend of the Warner Bros movies hitting the theatres and HBO Max simultaneously. So far, the film has received generally positive reviews for the great visual effects and high-octane action sequences.
Godzilla Vs Kong — Synopsis and Plot Details
The film takes place after 5 years after the events of Godzilla: King of the Monsters. The movie opens with Kong who’s enjoying his life on Skull Island. However, it’s not actually the Skull Island, as Kong shaves off an entire tree and throws it like a javelin at the sky. The tree log hits the sky, which starts to glitch as it’s revealed that Kong is contained inside a Dome. It is Monarch that is watching over Kong, keeping him within the gigantic hi-tech The Truman Show-like dome. Kong lives inside the dome, begrudgingly and increasingly irritated. We then see Jia, a young orphan deaf Iwi native. She has a special connection with Kong who she communicates through sign language. She’s adopted by Ilene Andrews, a Monarch anthropological linguist.
We then meet Bernie Hayes, a former Apex Cybernetics technician turned conspiracy theorist. He also runs a conspiracy theory podcast where he broadcasts all the inside intel he’s pried from the Apex facility. Godzilla attacks the facility and drying the mayhem, Bernie finds a suspicious device. Madison Russell (Millie) is a fan of the podcast and decides to find out the cause of Godzilla’s rampage. She, along with her friend Josh, embark on the investigation and find Bernie. The trio starts investigating and their shenanigans lead them to a secret underground facility. Trying to hide, they end up getting trapped in a container carrying Skullcrawler eggs. They are then transported to Hong Kong through an underground tunnel.
Hollow Earth, Mechagodzilla, and Godzilla Vs Kong Rematch
Reaching Hong Kong, the trio inadvertently ends up amidst a test of Mechagodzilla. They soon find out that the Mechagodzilla is being controlled telepathically by Ren Serizawa. Ren can do that with the help of neural networks of Ghidorah, through one of his severed heads they salvaged. But the test is not a success as there’s a shortage of power supply. Walter Simmons wants a new energy source found in Hollow Earth. For this reason, he recruits Nathan Lind as the guide for the search mission of finding the energy source in the Holmes Earth. Nathan is a former Monarch scientist and so he seeks help from Ilene Andrews and Kong. She agrees and the team is formed. On their way to Antarctica, the Hollow Earth entry point, the convoy carrying Kong is attacked by Godzilla.
As the fight ends indecisively, Kong is airlifted through the rest of the journey. Jia convinces Kong to enter the tunnel, saying that his family might be there. Kong enters the tunnel, followed by Apex’s vehicles called HEAVs that are compatible with the chaotic gravity field. Reaching the Hollow Earth, Kong leads them to his ancestral throne room. He also finds an ax made from the dorsal spine of a long-dead Godzilla. The team finds the power source and sends the signature back to Hong Kong. Meanwhile, Godzilla senses the energy and tears a hole through to the Hollow Earth with his atomic breath. Godzilla and Jia, Nathan, and Ilene travel back to the too through his new hole. There’s another showdown between Godzilla and Kong, which Godzilla eventually wins.
The Final Battle with Mechagodzilla
Back at the Apex base, Bernie, Madison, and Josh are caught and brought to Walters, who orders to activate Mechagodzilla. As he delivers the villain speech, Mechagodzilla is over-ridden by Ghidora’s consciousness. Ren Serizawa dies due to electrocution caused by the unfinished energy source tests. Mechagodzilla is overcome and run by Ghidora’s consciousness now and he kills Walters. Then he breaks out of the facility and attracts Godzilla’s attention. The two engage in a brawl and Godzilla gets overwhelmed. Meanwhile, Nathan revives Kong and Jia convinces him to help Godzilla, who’s not his enemy. Kong gets back up, helps Godzilla but the two still get overwhelmed by Mechagodzilla. That’s when Josh short-circuits Mechagodzilla’s controls, causing him to shut down. Taking advantage, King finally defeats him. The two titans then acknowledge each other and go their separate ways. The film ends with Kong living the Hollow Earth life.
The Expectations from a Godzilla Vs Kong Film
There’s a certain expectation that the audiences have come to have with the action blockbusters nowadays. The critique towards the mindless action vehicles of Hollywood has shifted a bit over the years. If you’re going to make a senseless action movie, the audience wants nothing less than that — a senseless high octane extravaganza. Unfortunately, there are more misses than hits when it comes to this lucrative genre. Action movies are analogous to theme park rides, and they should feel like them. You don’t expect a theme park ride to give you a lesson in philosophy or challenging your moral view or make you reflect on the human condition. You go into a theme park ride because you want to be flipped, splashed, rotated, and thrown. Value for money is to be moved around wildly and violently, raising your adrenaline and oxytocins. Action movies should be no different.
When I walk into the theatre to watch a Godzilla Vs Kong movie, all I expect from it is its competency. I want the mindless action sequences, no matter how ridiculous or nonsensical, to be competently shot. There must be self-awareness in what the filmmakers are doing. A movie like that shouldn’t take itself seriously. It should embrace its implausible physics and roll with it. Dial it up to 11 if you want, but make it with a self-aware and competent attitude. If it has to be an escape derived from sheer dumbness, every stone ought to be turned. It should be the equivalent of chugging an energy drink can, vigorously. It should be like WWE — self-aware, determined, unfazed, and true to their seemingly dumb art form. Does Godzilla Vs Kong deliver on these requirements? Yeah, I think it does.
Embracing the Silly and Going Full Throttle
Godzilla Vs Kong knows what it wants to be and wants to do. It is a film about a colossal monkey fighting an equally humongous ocean lizard that breathes nuclear beam. While there may not be much room for a philosophical subtext here, it does make for a thrilling premise. Expectations for this movie have been sky-high ever since the monster-verse was announced. It kicked off with Godzilla (2014), followed by Kong: Skull Island (2017) and then Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019). Godzilla Vs Kong is an Avengers: Endgame-type culmination of the monsters cinematic universe. These films have been aiming to be more serious than they needed to be really. Except for Godzilla (2014), the rest fail to be serious or good. Fortunately, Godzilla Vs Kong doesn’t carry that baggage. It embraces the fact that people want to watch the titans throw down and blow shit up.
Since it embraces the fact that it needn’t be weighed down by being unnecessarily mature, it’s all the better for it. The Godzilla of 2014 that kicked off the monster-verse, is an oddball of the franchise. It approached the monsters in a more suspenseful manner that gave the film a sense of dread. There’s a huge difference between the tone of that film and this one. Actually, the films that followed Godzilla (2014) have all been comparatively very serious. I feel they all got progressively lighter in tone and grander in scope. Godzilla Vs Kong is a true culmination in that it is truly epic in proportion. It does away with the serious stuff, keeping it at the minimum which actually makes the emotional moments effective.
The Icky Camera Movements and the Sense of Scale
However, an argument can be made for the contrary. And it would stem from the fact that the camera movements and positions are much more dynamic. In Godzilla (2014), the camera remains almost always at the humans’ level. The monsters are shot from below most of the time, making them look like the towering giants they are. Even the wide shots don’t undermine their size, of anything, the scale seems to only increase. This approach made Godzilla and the other monsters look hopelessly huge and godly. And that’s what the movie was going for, to add the mystery, which builds up to an overwhelming reveal. As the monster verse evolved, the focus shifted from being more serious to go the crowd-pleasing route. It became more and more about the big monster battle sequences. And the only way to keep audiences flocking to the theatres is to one-up the last installment.
As far as the one-upping part goes, Godzilla Vs Kong has all the predecessors beat. But let’s talk about one of the biggest weaknesses of the monster-verse movies — the human characters. Even Godzilla (2014), which I feel had the best character development among all, got dragged down by the human characters. But for a movie with the Godzilla appearing for only like 12-13 minutes, it’s a fairly decent job. Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla: King of the Monsters both irritated me with their human characters. I think it’s necessary to have human characters, to not just have a substitute, but to also contextualize the behemoth titans. But it can be done way more effectively than what these movies have been able to.
The Appeal of a Godzilla Vs Kong Film
The safest option, for this film, is to decrease the screentime for human characters as much as possible. In fact, I’d say that filmmakers and studios have missed the opportunity to make these movies the action blockbusters that haul in the big bucks while simultaneously having a deeper artistic value. Now hear me out! You could make a Godzilla Vs Kong film without having a human character at all. Or at least barely, just there to establish dread and horror of such a situation. The titans are these sentient beings that are shown to be fairly intelligent. Kong can communicate with humans through sign language. Godzilla can communicate with humans through some sort of telepathy. I believe a film with just these Intelligent titans can be made that doesn’t warrant any human dialogue at all. Now that’s a picture I’d like to watch.
A film like that would work because the appeal of Godzilla Vs Kong is the same that the wild animals have. It’s the primal instinct in us that finds it intriguing when two beasts are ravaging each other. Add to that appeal, the enormous destruction of explosions, buildings getting crumbled, and ships getting sunk — you’ve got a blockbuster. Godzilla Vs Kong is a good summer blockbuster that was released in the spring. The fights between Godzilla and Kong are absolutely wild and expectedly fun. Both of the beasts are very agile and dynamic despite their mountainous stature which sometimes works, sometimes not. But it can also decrease the enormity and the grandeur of these monsters. During the second fight between the two titans, Godzilla’s agility was a bit difficult to digest for me. This also led to his win that didn’t quite sit right with me.
How Does it Compare to its Predecessors?
The camera positions and movements don’t help to convey the behemoth scale either. Again, comparing this film to Godzilla (2014) is like comparing Pacific Rim to its sequel. Pacific Rim was a meticulous film where you felt the immense size of the Kaijus and Jaegers. Whereas the sequel lost all credulity in how the Jaegers move about so easily and effortlessly. Similarly, Godzilla (2014) is much more realistic in terms of how a behemoth titan will move. Godzilla is nowhere as agile in the 2014 flick as he is in this film. That can make it difficult to suspend your disbelief. And I know for a film with anti-gravity cars, suspending your disbelief is the foremost requirement. But if you’re going for ludicrous, it should be at least somewhat plausible. An action film doesn’t need to follow real-life laws of physics, but it should be consistent with its in-world rules.
Godzilla Vs Kong’s Spectacular CGI and Striking Cinematography
One of its best features is the CGI. And you can’t help but appreciate how far the special-effects technology has come. I talked about the believability being affected but the camera movements. But when it comes to how the titans look, it’s almost unbelievable how real they feel. The way the fur on Kong ruffles by the winds is pure artistry. It’s almost inspiring in a way. Godzilla Vs Kong utilizes its grand budget most appropriately as far as the CGI is concerned. The buildings getting wrecked with the rubble flying off simulations is very good. The “Hollow Earth” where Kong finds his home looks beautifully grandiose. Other than that, the anti-gravity “HEAVs” do look good too. The battle that takes place underwater as well as the second one, later on, are executed brilliantly.
Minus the instances where camera work isn’t quite congruent with the scale of what’s going, overall action is on point. Adam Wingard has directed the crap out of the action scenes. It is gratifying, watching the two titans brawling it out in Hong Kong’s neon-drenched concrete landscape. The cinematography also adds a lot to the visual spectacle here. And it has been one of the aspects that have been consistently good throughout these movies. All of the movies in the monster verse have succeeded in providing an exhilarating visual spectacle. Godzilla has all the visual flair the previous entries have had plus the scrapping of that self-serious tone. Godzilla Vs Kong is visually striking in all of its settings. CGI effects are usually trickier and more difficult to nail in well-lit scenes than the darker ones. But Godzilla Vs Kong’s CGI is uniformly excellent.
The Human Characters
Coming to the human characters, the film takes the safest and best route by cutting their screentime to a minimum. Still, I couldn’t help but think that the whole Millie Bobby Brown team could have been easily cut down entirely. The only purpose that this team serves is to provide comic-relief and dump exposition. I found the exposition and the way it was delivered, funnier than the “jokes”. The exposition is what tells you that the film is self-aware. It’s delivered mostly by Brian Tyree’s Bernie, a loveable engineer turned full-blown conspiracy theorist. However, he’s a conspiracy theorist who’s actually banged on about all the ridiculous stuff he rattles on and on about. At one point he says something like “he’s communicating through psionic transfer through neural networks” or something, and I was unfazed. I laughed out loud and went, “Yep! This is a Godzilla Vs Kong movie.”
Godzilla Vs Kong is filled with tropes and clichés of the genre. The human characters meaninglessly meddling with gigantic monsters and having a human connection with one or more of them. The villains are also true to the formula, being hilariously irrational and instantly disposable. In fact, the two antagonists — Walter Simmons and his daughter, Maya Simmons for off in the same way. It’s one of those instances where the villain is delivering an evil speech or has done a villainous act, only to realize an even greater threat looming behind them, eventually getting brutalized to death in one big sweep. There are all the usual beats you’d expect from a monster movie and then some. Godzilla Vs Kong feels like an explosive ode to the classic monster movies that are packed with peak action entertainment.
My rating for Godzilla Vs Kong is a 3.5 out of 5. Highly recommended, watch it on the biggest screen if possible, taking appropriate COVID-19 pandemic measures, of course.
Godzilla Vs Kong is currently playing in theatres as well as on HBO Max.