Set after the events of 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters - in Godzilla vs. Kong (2021), an enraged Godzilla starts wrecking havoc, forcing the S.H.I.E.L.D-like organization MONARCH and scientists Dr. Nathan Lind (played by Alexander Skarsgard) and Dr. Ilene Andrews (played by Rebecca Hall) to use Kong (who we last saw as a gateway to an unknown side of Earth called Hollow Earth). Meanwhile, Madison Russell (played by Millie Bobby Brown) and her eccentric van driver Josh (played by Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s Julian Dennison) join forces with a podcaster (played by Brian Tyree Henry) to infiltrate a mysterious corporation connected to Godzilla’s attacks. This all culminates in Hong Kong - where to quote the Grandmaster from Thor: Ragnarok (2017): “It’s main event time.” - in which the King of the Monsters squares off against the King of Skull Island.
Originally slated for release last year before being pushed to this year because of the pandemic, Godzilla vs. Kong comes to us from the mind of director Adam Wingard, who’s track record includes the cult classic thriller The Guest as well as the abomination Death Note. As for the writing credits, we have Terry Rossio (who fun fact: in the 90s co-wrote a Godzilla script with his writing partner Ted Elliot for director Jan de Bont), Godzilla: King of the Monsters director and co-screenwriter Michael Doughtery, and Zach Shields writing the story while Godzilla (2014) and Kong: Skull Island (2017) screenwriter Max Boresentein and Thor: Ragnarok screenwriter Eric Pearson wrote the screenplay. Here Wingard and company brings exactly what you ask for: a WWE fight between a giant lizard and a giant monkey. And that’s not to talk smack about the fights, the fights between Godzilla and Kong are well-staged and choreographed with cinematographer Ben Serasin managing to balance the fluid style of cinematography presented in Skull Island with the handheld shots of Godzilla (2014) and King of the Monsters. This results in some great moments such as Kong popping his shoulder back in (or just really fighting like a protagonist from an 80s action movie) and Godzilla slamming Kong through several buildings. Along with the cinematography, the CGI effects (which were done by multiple companies including Weta Digital) are truly great with the texture and expressions on the monsters looking better than ever! And assisting with the CGI and cinematography, is the score by Tom Holkenborg, aka Junkie XL, and the editing by Josh Schaeffeur, with Schaeffer matching the fighting movements to Holkenborg as well as tightening the movie down to its 113 minute runtime, cutting out any unnecessary fat.
But, this leads us into the main downside of this movie, which is that there is little to no character development or really any meaningful characterization from any of the characters at all, outside of their respective archetypes. Now, this is not to say that any of the performances are bad. If anything, one of the best performances comes from Kaylee Hottle as Jia, who speaks to Kong via sign language. This works in the film’s favor and provides some much needed heart. With that said though, this is only provided during the Kong section of the film, which is arguably better than the Godzilla stuff. However, the film is after all called GODZILLA VERSUS KONG, thus these are the two characters (human or otherwise) we should be focusing on. To add on this point, this is the first movie that this reviewer has seen in the theaters (specifically in both IMAX and Dolby Atmos) since the theaters reopened in California and the experience watching the film was awe-inducing, instantly making up for any nitpicks or flaws with the film.
Despite the lack of character development and basic characterization, Godzilla vs Kong is a rockin’ fun time at the movies. It was loud, stupid, and fun. Wingard and company did an awesome job at essentially making one of the best WWE fights ever. While this is not my favorite entry in Legendary Pictures’ MonsterVerse franchise, this is one I won’t mind coming back to.
Score: 3.5 out of 5