Godzilla vs. Kong Movie Review

Thomas Farrell, Contributor

Godzilla vs. Kong is the latest film in a long series of attempts to adapt the “kaiju” mythos for American audiences. Previous attempts have mostly failed at this in a spectacular fashion. Most notably, the much-maligned 90s incarnation. 2014’s Godzilla failed as a monster movie because it focused on dull drama while deemphasizing the film’s main star, Godzilla himself. While still by no means a fantastic movie, Godzilla vs. Kong appears to have learned much from its predecessors by being a fun, albeit shallow, action movie.

Formerly humanity’s protector against giant monsters called “Titans,” Godzilla has turned against mankind, and no one knows why. Our intrepid cast of heroes, including Millie Bobby Brown, Brian Tyree Henry, and Julian Dennison, think it has something to do with the mysterious Apex company. In the meantime, Alexander Skarsgård and Rebecca Hall try to wrangle Kong to deal with the new Godzilla threat while also exploring the possibility of a “hollow earth” where Titans like Kong and Godzilla may have come from. But who cares about all that? No one ever watches these movies for the story. Instead, we all want to see giant CGI monsters beat each other up!

I’m happy to say that the action on display here is fantastic. While the movie takes itself seriously, the action is fun, colorful, and creative. The two main set-piece battles are a fight in the open ocean on top of battleships and aircraft carriers and one set in the neon-encrusted streets of Hong Kong. The film injects plenty of personality into the two combatants, and it’s easy to get engaged and excited whenever they’re on screen.

With his previous efforts, including the Blair Witch reboot, director Adam Wingard proved he was adept at using the camera. Thankfully, that’s also the case here. For a movie about two giant CGI monsters beating each other to death, the camera work is shockingly intimate. There are several sequences where the camera is so close to the action it feels more akin to a boxing movie than anything else.

Additionally, Wingard had the clever idea to brighten things up with an outstanding color palette. Rather than the other recent American Godzilla films, there’s nothing dull or dreary here. It almost has more in common with Kong: Skull Island, which took a similar approach to its cinematography.

Unfortunately, the movie can’t just be a series of big, dumb action sequences; there has to be a story as well. While the prior synopsis may sound slightly interesting, the execution is dreadful. The characters are all one-note and annoying, and the story is silly and nonsensical, but not in a good way. While I’m happy they chose to put the most effort into the action, the script needed another solid round of edits to become enjoyable.

Similarly poor are the performances. The whole cast has done much better work elsewhere, and it’s clear they did not care that much. Brian Tyree Henry is by far the most annoying of the bunch. His character is already forgettable and poorly written, but he plays it in such a grating fashion it hurts every scene he’s in. Everyone else is simply forgettable, especially Skarsgård, who might as well not be there for how little screen presence he commands.

Overall, for something included in an HBO Max subscription, it’s worth a watch. These kinds of spectacle films are fun to watch with friends or in the background while doing something else. The fights are a pure treat, even if the script is lacking.

Overall, for something included in an HBO Max subscription, it’s worth a watch

If you are interested in a Godzilla movie with a good script, 2016’s Shin Godzilla fits the bill perfectly. This is the most recent Japanese effort, and it takes an interesting approach in adapting the monster for the 21st century.

Following the appearance of a giant, continually evolving monster that destroys everything in his path, Japan descends into a state of absolute panic. Rather than focusing on family drama, Shin Godzilla attempts to answer how a modern government would actually respond to a situation like this. However, it doesn’t leave out fun action sequences either, making it one of the best monster movies I’ve seen in a long while.