To put it simply, “Godzilla vs Kong” is simultaneously a thrilling epic and a dumb mess. As the fourth, and possibly final, film in Warner Brothers’ “Monterverse” franchise, “Godzilla vs Kong” earnestly presents a showdown between the two most famous movie monsters in history.
This is not the first time these two monsters faced off. The original “King Kong vs Godzilla” from 1962 was one of the most successful Japanese movies of all time. The original, while having very cheap special effects, embraced the inherent silliness of its premise and was more of a satirical comedy. The new “Godzilla vs Kong” lacks the wit and humor of the original but makes up for it with thrilling spectacle.
The film sees Godzilla mysteriously attacking a facility of the cybernetics company Apex. This prompts humanity to see Godzilla as a dangerous threat again pursuing a mission to the Hollow Earth, the fictional homeland for all giant monsters that exists inside the Earth’s core, in order to retrieve a power source to create a weapon capable of stopping Godzilla. However, only King Kong can lead the humans to the mythic power source. Along the way, Godzilla challenges Kong for dominance. Now, that is an absolutely ridiculous and dumb plot setup. However, it only functions to move the movie along from one monster fight to another, so logical consistency shouldn’t be what one expects going into the movie.
The fights are what people pay to see, and they do not disappoint. Each big monster fight has great cinematography, pacing and tension. The action is fast paced without sacrificing the monsters’ sheer size and weight. Godzilla and Kong’s battle is basically a high-profile wrestling match. The entire “Monsterverse” series is almost one big tournament, with this movie being the championship match.
The movie smartly focuses on Kong as the main character. Audiences going to see this are here for the monsters, so it’s about time the studio gave characterization to them. Kong goes through an actual arc of finding a new home and taking up the mantle left by his ancestors. There are many beautifully subtle scenes with Kong when the film is able to convey his thoughts even without any dialogue. We get to understand how Kong feels alone and desperately wants to be amongst his kind again.
Because Godzilla is so overpowered, it’s often boring when he’s the good guy. So, the movie wisely makes him the antagonist. He’s the one initiating the fights because he is determined to take out any potential rival. Godzilla is the second main character of the movie, undergoing his own development of learning to respect Kong. While it’s no Oscar Winning character arc, it’s suitable enough for what it is.
The human cast of characters is as bare bones as you can get. Hardly any of them have anything resembling development or an arc. They merely exist to move the plot forward. However, that does work in the favor. The main characters are the monsters, and the human cast is just a point of view for the audience to understand the story. Of course, every character in a movie should be written with motivation and depth and not just to be a vehicle for the plot. However, if the human characters aren’t going to be as interesting as the monsters to begin with, it’s best to keep their screen time limited to what is absolutely necessary. In a way, “Godzilla vs Kong” succeeds more by putting less effort.
The one standout in the otherwise irrelevant human cast is the character of Jia, a deaf child who can communicate to Kong with sign language. Her relationship with Kong is the emotional heart of the movie. By being the bridge between the monster and human stories, she is made relevant and interesting.
Frankly, the film is great whenever characters aren’t talking. When things like Kong’s journey are conveyed visually, the movie can be breathtaking. When characters are moving the plot, it’s basically filler material. Still, it achieves what it sets out to be: a high-profile wrestling match between two famous monsters that doesn’t take itself too seriously.