Godzilla VS Kong Review – An Epic Battle of Two Kaiju Titans That Absolutely Delivers

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For just over five years, I have been looking forward to seeing Godzilla from the 2014 reboot meet King Kong from Kong: Skull Island (2017).

I was already swept up in the hype and intense mystery of Godzilla (2014), so anything else from Warner Bros. set in the world of monsters and kaiju was greatly appreciated by this fan of such things. Kong: Skull Island made the full confirmation that Kong would fight Godzilla one day, with references to how this version of the character “wasn’t fully grown yet”, and that he came from beneath the Earth’s surface, further emphasised by the kaiju onslaught in Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019). There, we saw the ultimate power of this rebooted Godzilla and what apocalyptic possibilities could eventuate by having massive creatures all over the Earth awake and recognise Godzilla as their king.

So if Godzilla is King of the Monsters, and Kong is known to us as King Kong, then who wins in a fight? Who is the real King? Director Adam Wingard and screenwriters Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein show us with a glorious spectacle that I couldn’t help but be blown all away by.

Starring another ensemble cast of top notch actors playing rather throwaway characters (this is a stable of Warner Bros. and Legendary’s “MonsterVerse” and I love it), Godzilla vs. Kong is set five years after the world-changing events of King of the Monsters, with Godzilla effectively having established himself as the Alpha Titan in a world now living with the impact and consequences of monsters of all kinds. Relative peace has been maintained, until Godzilla suddenly attacks a cybernetics base, forcing Monarch, the research organisation that investigates and protects Titans, to use Kong, now much older and 300 feet tall, as their ultimate protection. He also acts as a key into the mysterious and untouched Hollow Earth that holds an endless power source seen to be the best deterrent against Godzilla. Villains behind the scenes, of course, are simply manipulating events to get the two classic movie monsters to battle it out in epic fashion, to basically, let them fight!

It would be fair to say that all four films in the MonsterVerse have had the same criticisms against them: boring and forgettable human characters. Every film in the series has had screenwriter Max Borenstein at the helm in some capacity. Borenstein and co. deliver the serviceable “get the thing to do the thing” plots that drive these movies while creating rather basic character archetypes to follow along with as simply as possible. The human interactions are always the least likeable parts of these movies and it is a fair criticism to point this out.

However, Kong: Skull Island did a much better job as the Kong franchise has continually emphasised personal relationships between humans and the giant ape, and the Godzilla franchise has always had a problem of boring and disposable human characters that you can happily skip over in every single movie (except maybe the 1954 original). Even as someone who likes Godzilla: King of the Monsters, I know that the script called for the human characters to take everything so seriously that it drags what should be a fun extravaganza of gonzo monster action.

Godzilla vs. Kong delivers a substantial improvement on this criticism.

Adam Wingard and Godzilla vs. Kong‘s co-writer Eric Pearson, known best for writing most of the “Marvel One-Shots” short films and being, the credited screenwriter for Thor: Ragnarok, know exactly what people want from Godzilla vs. Kong, but they know that people want to have fun with the movie. So the solution is simple: make the human characters have fun with what’s going on. The tone here is lighter and less ultra-serious, which helps everything flow along so much easier. Rarely do these characters sit down to have heart-to-heart conversations, most of which take place before the plot really kicks into its high gear. 

Wingard and his writers were also smart to split off the characters into Team Godzilla and Team Kong. Team Godzilla has Millie Bobby Brown, Julian Dennison and Brian Tyree Henry finding out why Godzilla attacked the HQ of Apex Cybernetics, headed up by Demián Bichir’s shady Walter Simmons. This leads to an epic twist that I won’t reveal because it’s just the coolest damn thing I’ve ever seen.

Team Kong has Alexander Skarsgård and Rebecca Hall transporting Kong from Skull Island to an entrance into the Hollow Earth, while Kong learns to trust humanity more through his connection with deaf Skull Island native girl Jia, played by newcomer Kaylee Hottle. The team is overseen by the deceptive eyes of Eiza Gonzalez playing the daughter to Bichir’s Apex CEO.

By having these two teams, you can focus more on their separate relationships with these massive characters without having to remember who is where and doing what. It’s simple and effective and it makes the movie flow so much better.

Anyway, I’ve been rambling on for way too long about human characters that while they are quite funny and are having more fun with the story than we’ve seen before, they are inconsequential. You didn’t come for them. You came to watch monkey punchy-punch dinosaur.

And oh boy…. do they get it on.

Kong gets more screentime than Godzilla, which I don’t attribute to any bias or preference by the filmmaker, but more because Godzilla has already had two movies and because Kong is a giant ape, we can recognise far more emotions on his face than we can with the classic Japanese kaiju. Kong’s story is about rediscovery of his home and he feels like a real character with thoughts and emotions beyond unrelenting anger and violence. He is forced into these situations by small creatures he could crush like ants. When he gets the chance to prove himself, he does just that. We know that Godzilla is a walking nuclear bomb capable of immense power, so we are just naturally on Kong’s side because he’s the underdog in this fight.

What I cannot stress enough to you, the reader, is how stupendously awesome these fights are. I have cheered and been utterly delighted by the fights we’ve had before in all the other MonsterVerse movies, but they all total up mere minutes. Godzilla vs. Kong has more on-screen monster fights than all the other movies combined. Godzilla and Kong face-off twice, with the first being an attack that completely catches Kong off-guard, leaving him beaten senseless. Wingard smartly places a fair chunk of the action underwater so the physics of this fight are excellently unbalanced, and the threat is heightened. 

Kong gets to train himself back Rocky-style, smacking out a couple nasty beasties hidden beneath the Earths surface, something that delightfully calls back to classic monster movies featuring flying legless-lizard creatures made of goo and snarling teeth. I won’t spoil how the big climactic battle comes about, but just know that Wingard keeps you hyped and excited the whole way through.

Both classic movie monsters find each other smack bang in the middle of Hong Kong, locking eyes and clenching fists. Round 2 baby. Wingard and his VFX teams have obviously taken in a healthy dose of Guillermo Del Toro because this monster fight for the ages feels like the kind of well-choreographed and perfectly-framed, inner-child-delighting goodness that made Pacific Rim so much cooler than it had any right to be. Godzilla vs. Kong gives Del Toro’s kaiju love-letter a good run for its money by having every awesome trick in the book pulled out, no-holds barred. This is a rough, fast, brutal and dirty fight that has a clear winner, despite some excellent opposition. You feel the might and sheer terror of these monsters as they roar in each other’s faces and keep fighting until they might just kill each other.

Godzilla vs. Kong is everything I was hoping for and more. Kong: Skull Island is my personal favourite for how weird and unique it all feels, helmed beautifully by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, but Adam Wingard’s main-event spectacular is a close second in the MonsterVerse. The human characters are fun enough to never be completely useless, Junkie XL’s score is booming and bombastic giving every moment the perfect flavour, Ben Seresin continues the excellent trend of this series by shooting everything with intelligent compositions and effective light, and the visual effects throughout the entire film are the absolute best I’ve seen from all of these new monster movies. I did miss Zhang Ziyi as the best person to speak the names “Mothra”, “Rodan” and “Ghidorah” from King of the Monsters, and there are a few weird editing choices I picked up on. Is the plot all-too convenient and messy at times? Yep. Do you really care when everything looks and feels this good? Nope.

Godzilla vs. Kong is going to be one of the most deliciously over-the-top cinematic experiences you can treat yourself to this year. I’m anticipating anything that can top it. Watching Godzilla and Kong smack the living daylights out of each other made my inner 12-year-old scream with joy and my outer 25-year-old grin with endless glee. This is a neon-soaked, adrenaline-fueled extravaganza that delivered on years of anticipation and still had a few mindblowing twists that cranked everything way past 11. Go see Godzilla vs. Kong on the biggest screen you can and have the time of your life.

And ultimately: LET THEM FIGHT!!!

Director: Adam Wingard

Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Rebecca Hall, Kaylee Hottle

Writers: Eric Pearson, Max Borenstein, (based on a story by Terry Rossio, Michael Doughtery, Zach Shields)

Christopher John

Christopher John is an emerging flim critic based in Perth and primarily writes for The Curb. He is a double-degree graduate of Edith Cowan University in Communications and Arts, and creates various flim reviews and video essays on his YouTube channel "Christopher John". Christopher has published online work with ECU's Dircksey magazine, Taste of Cinema, Pelican Magazine and Heroic Hollywood. His first love in flim is Star Wars, his newest love is Akira Kurosawa, and hopes his future love will be Tarkovsky and Studio Ghibli (he's getting to it).

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