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GODZILLA VS. KONG (2021) review

March 31, 2021


written by: Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein (screenplay) & Terry Rossio, Michael Dougherty and Zach Shields (story)
produced by: Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, Brian Rogers, Mary Parent, Alex Garcia & Eric McLeod
directed by: Adam Wingard
rated: PG-13 (for intense sequences of creature violence/destruction and brief language)
runtime: 113 min.
U.S. release date: March 31, 2021


The last time Godzilla and King Kong duked it out was in 1963’s “Kong vs. Godzilla”, now we have “Godzilla vs. Kong” and while the destructive kaiju has first billing here, the story is primarily Kong-centric this time around and it makes sense since the big ape is the closest to conveying genuine emotions in this movie and that’s included his human costars. Yes, it’s become common to take jabs at the flesh-and-blood characters in these recent MonsterVerse movies, but they really aren’t why these movies are made nor are they the main draw of these giant-sized blockbuster spectacles. You don’t check out these movies to see a geologist/cartographer and an anthropological linquist team-up against an egotistical CEO of a tech organization, you’re here to see monsters smash and those are indeed the best moments here.

Five years ago, Godzilla went back into hiding after he took out a handful of monsters including King Ghidorah, making him the “King of All Monsters”. Now, the creature shows up attacking a facility of Apex Cybernetics off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, where founder and CEO billionaire Walter Simmons (Demian Bichir) is secretly working on a way to rid the earth of all Titans, leaving humans as the Apex predator (hence his tech corporation’s title). Whatever is being worked on there has attracted Godzilla, which is uncovered by Apex employee Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry), who conspiracy theories about Apex have dominated his popular podcast.

Meanwhile, Kong has apparently been held in a containment dome on Skull Island since the 1970s (when we last saw him in “Kong: Skull Island”) that is meant to simulate jungle life, which is being overseen by Monarch anthropological linguist Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall), whose adopted deaf daughter, Jia (Kaylee Hottle), has secretly developed a special bond with the giant ape.

NOTE: In case you’ve forgotten, Monarch is a clandestine U.S. government organization focused on proving the existence of giant primeval creatures (or Titans), in order to track and study them and determine how humans can coexist with them. They’re supposedly the good corporation, whereas Apex (introduced in this movie) is the bad corporation, put in the simplest terms.



Kong knows he’s in captivity and wants out, but Dr. Andrews believes they have him there for his own protection because Godzilla “will come for him” if Kong is out in the wild. Apparently, it’s not that Godzilla is intent on tracking down Kong to kill Kong, it’s just that if there are two Alphas out there, one must submit to the other…and we all know how stubborn both of these dudes are! But, why didn’t Godzilla track down Kong on Skull Island decades ago? Who knows. If it was explained in one of these movies, it remains unclear or a morsel of forgotten information.

Coincidentally, guess who’s an avid listener of that aforementioned Apex conspiracy theories podcast? Why, Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown), the daughter of Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler), current director of special projects at Monarch. While he’s busy in Pensacola with Godzilla clean-up, Madison (a self-professed Godzilla advocate) recruits her friend Josh Valentine (Julian Dennison), only because he has a vehicle, it seems, in order to snoop around and find out why Godzilla is acting so aggressively (as if he’s known for behaving any other way). The pair without a plan inevitably hook up with Bernie and the three Scooby Doo it all the way to Hong Kong in a most cockamamie fashion.

At the same time, Simmons and Apex scientist/engineer Ren Serizawa (Shun Oguri, making his Hollywood debut) – apparently, the son of the late Monarch scientist Ishirō “Let them fight!” Serizawa, (but I had to look that up on my own, because if it was mentioned in this movie, it was totally lost on me) – persuade former Monarch geologist/cartographer, Dr. Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) to help them find a special energy source at the Hollow Earth, a place at the planet’s core Lind has long theorized. Dr. Lind is somehow on board and approaches Dr. Andrews and convinces her that Kong needs to lead their expedition to the Hollow Earth. Accompanied by Simmon’s daughter, Maya (Eiza González) an bossy and arrogant executive who has access to a trio of super-powered flying vehicles that will zip them in and out of their destination, the team sail their way to Antarctica supported by a handful of aircraft carriers. Who’s floating the bill for all this? These and many more questions just aren’t worth asking.



With Kong out in the open, the fleet is inevitably interrupted by an enraged Godzilla, who attacks an awakened and disturbed Kong at sea. This first battle between Godzilla and Kong is quite intense and breathtaking and it should be noted that it takes place during the day. That’s important since most of the action that occurred during the last two Godzilla movies took place at night or obstructed by buildings, making it a challenge for viewers to determine what’s going on. Thankfully, Wingard makes it easy for viewers to follow this this daytime melee, even when the fight between the two Titans submerges underwater. Kong is winded from the fight and while the humans manage to trick Godzilla into leaving, there will eventually be an unavoidable battle royale due to the movie’s title.

“Godzilla vs. Kong” has opening credits that are similar to the previous three MonsterVerse movies released by Legendary Pictures and Warner Brothers Pictures, in that there are old photos or archived files of enormous titans on display. Now we’re given a left-to-right status report of which giant monsters were destroyed in 2014’s “Godzilla”, 2017’s “Kong: Skull Island”, or 2019’s “Godzilla: Kong of All Monsters”, leading to a laughable (intentional or not) Godzilla versus King Kong graphic similar to a March Madness NBA chart, forcing viewers to determine who they’re voting for even before we see either of the two big lugs on screen.

That’s one of only a few ways in which Adam Wingard’s approach resembles what’s come before it, but the director primarily offers something of a tonal shift and thankfully an aesthetic lift for the big fight scenes. The movie oddly opens with Kong lounging in a jungle as Bobby Vinton’s “Over the Mountain, Across the Sea” plays and it closes with Kong swinging to “The Air that I Breathe” by The Hollies, which is definitely different from the vibe we’ve been given in recent previous movies. Although it does what so many other Kong movies have done in the past – and that is to humanize the big ape – these songs are quite different from the foreboding and ominous orchestrations we get from composer Tom Holkenborg throughout the rest of the score. This is also a movie that has a stronger sci-fi bent to it, with it’s fantastic flying vehicles whizzing in and around treacherous terrain and frightening creatures, not to mention a brightly lit neon glow for its climactic Hong Kong smackdown.



The tonal change in this entry of the MonsterVerse is chiefly due to screenwriters Eric Pearson (“Thor: Ragnarok”) and Max Borenstein (contributor of the last three movies), who inject more light comedic bits in the story while also ramping up the ovrall urgency with Wingard (“Blair Witch” and “Death Note”), concerned with quickly getting from point A to B in the most economic manner, despite a half dozen head-scratching moments that are ignored. Like the rest of the Godzilla movies, the supporting human characters feel inconsequential here. There is an attempt to use grief as a through line for some of them – Bernie lost his wife, Dr. Lind laments his dead brother, Madison mourns her mother (who died in “King of the Monsters”), and little Jia was orphaned – but that’s all mentioned briefly in passing and soon becomes an afterthought. Wingard and company know why you’re watching and the focus is understandably on the title characters.

There’s a certain believability that you have to buy into with “Godzilla vs. Kong”, especially once we get to the Hollow Earth and then Hong Kong. If you can’t get on board with the sci-fi fantasy of it all, it’s just not going to work for you. What seems different and successful here is how Wingard and cinematographer Ben Seresin (“World War Z” and “Chaos Walking”) manage to capture the battle between the two big beasts in such a way where it is not only easy to follow, but also balances equally between close-up shots and establishing epic cinematic action that is either shot from a distance or swirling around the creatures from above. It also helps that much of the night time Hong Kong battle is lit with colorful neon skyscraper lights. While this may not seem logical for a dense metropolis (you can’t truly be here expecting logic), it lights Godzilla and Kong and their swath of chaos in a way that’s quite tantalizing.

Like so many “versus” movies where two iconic characters are pitted against each other (cough, “Batman v Superman”), neither one is left defeated. This is less a spoiler and more of a common sense reminder. There is a villain that wedges between Godzilla and Kong, which the two team-up against and even that was a lot of fun, despite being quite dumb and silly. I was even ready to welcome a high jump high-five between the two at the end. Yes, there’s good silly and dumb here (monsters) and there’s lame silly and dumb (humans). You’ve come for the good silly and dumb.





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